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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/29/15

Black Lives Matter: The Citizenship Ideal

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My favorite quote from The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., comes from an address he gave entitled "The American Dream." In that speech he said in part:

All life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way the world is made. I didn't make it that way, but this is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it a few centuries ago and could cry out, "No man is an island entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." If we are to realize the American dream we must cultivate this world perspective.

The Obligations and Expectations of Citizenship

In a very real sense, being a good citizen is the same as being a good teammate. In his writings Coach John Wooden is known for teaching his teams that :

True success can be attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing that you did everything within the limits of your ability to become the very best that you are capable of becoming...

It is impossible to attain perfection, but that should be the goal. Less than 100 percent of your effort in every respect toward attaining your objective is not success...

Coach Wooden's meaning is clear for team members/community. But why should this sort of social obligation be limited to sports? Why shouldn't this obligation be the essence of our conduct as citizens of the American nation/community?

Conversely, each and every citizen should then have a basic expectation of WHAT THEY ARE ENTITLED TO RECEIVE from our nation/community. On this point, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said:

...Our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men...

And because we are members of this community no one is insignificant. As such, each citizen has the right to expect their society to nurture and develop them because of this inherent community interrelationship. No one should be treated as insignificant. No one should be treated as a throwaway. To do so violates the very tenets of community.

Citizenship as Service

In everyday life, every single person has the power to bless or curse the world. This fact is proof of mutuality, interrelatedness and community.

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Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public (more...)
 

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