Changing gun laws vs. changing hearts
What would a modern-day Martin Luther King say about last week’s Senate vote on gun-control legislation? In the 1960s, African-Americans could not vote in many cities and states. Remember what King did about that law?
He did not lobby Congress. He did not demand a vote in the Senate. He did not use social media to spread his message. No.
King and his colleagues targeted one city where blacks could not vote and where they had been invited to get involved. That was Selma, Alabama.
In 1964, Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference committed themselves mind, spirit, and body to writing a voting rights bill in the streets of Selma. Their plan was simple, inexpensive, and dangerous. They planned a series of marches to dramatize the injustice of unequal voting rights.
Marchers were threatened, attacked with tear gas, and beaten by police. Several died in the process. But their courage, their wisdom, and their humility moved the nation. Within a year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Today everybody has the right to vote, but not everybody has the right to love and compassion. What do love and compassion have to do with violence? Mass murderers have no love and feel no compassion.
The young men who commit suicide-massacres believe nobody loves them. And they may be right. Feeling alone, unwanted, and desperate for love, these young men become sick with hate. They see violence as the only way to exact revenge and end their torment.
So a modern-day King would tell us to change the laws, but he would tell us to start by changing our hearts. He would tell us that as long as individuals in our communities have no love and feel no compassion, we violate the moral law of the universe by making things more important than people. And as long as we do not love the people in our cities and towns, we break the law written on our hearts: love Truth with all your mind, all your spirit, and all your body; and love your neighbor as yourself.
In the fight against violence, laws are only part of the answer. Laws cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. A modern-day King would tell us to write a bill of love and compassion in the streets of our cities and towns. And he would tell us to march.
He would tell us to march to the community center with neighbors and city officials to design after-school programs for children who come home to an empty house and learn their values from television, video games, and the Internet.
He would tell us to march to a mentoring program and volunteer to mentor a child, teaching children by our own example that people serve each other for reasons other than money.
He would tell us to march to the vacant lots in our cities and towns and to build community gardens, showing that people can work together for purposes other than profit.
Suicide-massacres are symptoms of a deadly disease within the American spirit. If we ignore this disease we will find ourselves changing gun laws for the next generation.
As Leo Tolstoy said, everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to start with themselves. For us to change, our way of life must change. And for our way of life to change, our hearts must change. We must change our hearts.
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