Toward MLK’s “beloved community”


By Alex DiBlasi

This last week, the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to hold extra impact as our country — and truly, the world — observed his birthday the same week of the presidential inauguration.

Regardless of her politics, however, I find much more to be celebrated with Kamala Devi Harris becoming vice president. She represents many historic firsts, and regardless of her political history or record as a prosecutor, representation matters. For little girls around the country, for Black women, for women of South Asian descent (Mrs. Harris is of Jamaican and Indian ancestry), the new madame vice president is a partial fulfillment of MLK’s dream.

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, my father said he didn’t think it could have happened in his lifetime for a Black man, and he was so glad to be wrong.

The same goes for Mrs. Harris but with the added consideration of her gender and the history of women’s rights. This is a win for women. There truly is strength in diversity, and for me, that is something that really does make America great. I hope others can join me in setting aside politics to pause just long enough to celebrate this moment. We can get back to holding them accountable and offering criticism next week.

Now, MLK’s birthday and the holiday have both passed, but that is the point. It is a frequent point made by ministers after the Christmas season to “keep the spirit alive” year-round. King envisioned a world where people were judged by the content of their character, not their outward appearance.

As a Christian minister, MLK believed in the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and this is a universal truth held by all of the world’s greatest faith traditions. MLK took direct inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu holy man who used nonviolent means of protest to free his country from British occupation. Like MLK, Gandhi was able to lead a nationwide movement of millions without firing a single shot.

Tragically, Gandhi and King were both assassinated — by people who professed to be of their same religions — for promoting peace for all. But so was Jesus Christ. He, too, loved, served and welcomed all who came to him in search of truth.

The Bhagavad Gita, a beloved Hindu scripture, teaches that we are not our bodies. Our bodies come and go, but our souls — truly the content of our character — remain eternal in this lifetime and in the next.

The Lord says, “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (BG 2.12)

It’s easy to see a spark of the divine in those we love. We may even see it in the eyes of our pets, but now, I challenge you to find that same spark in someone you consider your enemy. Truly, this is the greatest commandment for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, all followers of the Dharmic faith traditions, but is this not the Golden Rule from a different angle?

King spoke of the “beloved community.” This went beyond his campaign for civil rights. Indeed, his push for racial equality was just part of this broader mission. He rallied for communities to unite through faith and common ground to tackle hunger, poverty, homelessness — and for good measure, I’ll add mental illness and addiction to the list — together.

I issue the same call to our community and others to strive to keep MLK’s dream alive.

Alex DiBlasi is a writer, civil rights advocate and Hindu minister based in Seymour.

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