‘We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Those words from Dr. King were uttered nearly 57 years ago during a speech in St. Louis. That day, he spoke of unity while addressing the racial divide in our nation during the 1960s, something which sadly still exists today on many levels.
But those words are still relevant today as we look for ways to heal our broken country.
Today’s divide is real. We saw it this summer when protests and counter-protests took hold in cities across the nation following the death of George Floyd.
We saw it in the months leading up to the election when claims of voter fraud and a distrust in the political process sullied the sanctity of our presidential election. The presence of COVID-19 and the economic fallout made it only worse.
What started as a heated election, continued for months as votes were counted and dangerous rhetoric threatened our democracy and trust in the system. Some of this reached a peak on Jan. 6 when hundreds of insurrectionists invaded the U.S. Capitol Building, seeking to overturn the election. When order was restored, some members of Congress still attempted to block the election results from being affirmed. An event that should have been a formality turned into political theater that continued to fuel the division.
Many Americans no longer see eye to eye. Friends have become enemies and families are fractured over differences of opinion.
Where do we go from here?
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found the vast majority of Americans — nearly 9 in 10 — oppose the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, but there is still a large number of Americans who feel there is evidence of widespread fraud during the election. There is still a divide over whether the actions of the president led to the violence.
We cannot let this continue, but how do we change? We must look back at what King said and promoted, and turn to our leaders for hope, healing and a sense of unity. Our leaders on the local, state and national levels must find ways to put aside their differences to find common ground and move our nation off of this dark path.
We are encouraged by those on both sides of the political aisle who stood up and vowed to unite — who have said enough is enough. We know these waters will never completely calm, but it is time for our nation to steady the ship and return to democracy and the vision of our Founding Fathers.
For those who doubt this could happen, we once again turn to King with words that are etched into the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. In his revered “I Have a Dream” speech, he spoke about how even from our lowest points, we can find hope.
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
As we honor King today, we hope his words continue to strike a chord within the hearts of us all.