Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lost at The Very End of the World

Last December, I traveled on a fairly spur-of-the-moment trip (very unlike me) to Paris, with just my good friend Erin. Erin lives in Ohio and we had just met a few months earlier at our orientation for UCC. In that time, however, we had become best friends; we stay in touch often, and in August I was able to travel to Ohio for her wedding.

When we first arrived in Paris, speaking no French between the two of us and with only a map and an address to guide us, we excitedly set out to find our hostel. Our excitement faded to slight confusion, then frustration, and finally genuine concern: that we had no idea where we were, that we had potentially been tricked into paying for a hostel that did not actually exist, that we were tired and hungry and had been walking around Paris in circles. We had yet to ask for directions because we did not see anyone, and honestly, we were completely intimidated by the language barrier. Eventually we looked at each other and knew that we had to find someone to ask for directions. As soon as we scanned the street, we saw about a dozen people going about their business on that Saturday morning. While we had been so focused on reaching our destination, we had not noticed a single person or detail of the city, and as soon as we opened ourselves up to being vulnerable and interacting with someone, difficult though it may be, we saw the people, and the city, more clearly. After many fragmented sentences and much gesturing, we realized that we were on the right street, but that at an intersection, the street jumped about five blocks, and continued on from there. We made it to the hostel in no time from there; who knows how long we would have been wandering had we not decided to reach out to the young woman running her Saturday errands.

Later on our trip, we stood at the entrance to the elevator that would take us to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I am terrified of heights, and Erin was lightheartedly chatting with me in an effort to help me forget that I was about to board an elevator that was somehow suspended on the outside (the outside!) of a huge monument. Someone heard us talking, and recognized our American accents, and instead of giving us the usual “loud American” look, he excitedly proclaimed that he was from New Jersey and did we live anywhere near there. I live approximately twenty minutes from him in New Jersey. Justin is a flight attendant who was on a layover in Paris, looking to enjoy the sights while he was in the city. He and Erin commentated the entire trip up for me, creating backstories for the other passengers and spinning elaborate tales that kept me occupied until we stepped off the elevator and onto the deck.

In both of these instances, I had to rely on strangers to make it through anxiety-inducing situations. Not being one to admit I need help from others, I was humbled by this experience, and feel I experienced the city in an entirely different way than I would have if I was traveling with someone who knew the city well. I was forced to be vulnerable and open and attentive to every inch of my surroundings. I soaked in not only the sights and sounds of the city, but the minor details like the street signs, which were usually posted on the sides of buildings, something in which I found an immense and unexpected beauty.

What I really found beautiful in Paris, though, was the fact that I relied on these strangers to get me through. I connected with people who I knew I would most likely never see again. And that did not deter me from connecting with them, laughing with them, fumbling over an airport map and nodding wildly at even wilder gestures in place of a shared language. In “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Lucy sees a sea-girl from the ship, and they have a similar connection. Lewis says that, “the girl looked up and stared straight into Lucy’s face. Neither could speak to the other … but Lucy will never forget her face,” that “in that one moment they had somehow become friends,” and that even though “there does not seem to be much chance of their meeting again … if they ever do they will rush together with their hands held out” (197). These details of the moment between Lucy and the sea-girl somehow perfectly explain my encounters with the strangers I met in Paris. The fleeting nature of our meetings, instead of deterring a connection, solidified one. I have heard a quote that says you can tell the true character of someone based on how he treats someone who can do nothing for him. I would revise this statement, however, to say that you can tell the true character of someone by how he treats someone who he could easily ignore, though those you can easily ignore are often those who can do nothing for you. The woman on the street and Justin could have easily avoided an interaction with me, and gone about their days. However, they both chose to engage with me while I was in difficult positions, and I am grateful for the conversations with both of them, and the lessons they taught me about getting out of my comfort zone. 

It would have been easy enough for Caspian and his crew to avoid many of the situations they found themselves in had they only been concerned with their own adventure. However, they went out of their way to unenchant the men who were in the enchanted sleep, to help Eustace during his difficult time as a dragon, to make visible again the invisible creatures, and to ensure the freedom of the slaves they encountered on one of the islands. And not only were they technically lost the entire time, as they did not know their precise location, they did not have a known final destination either. I think that traveling, and getting lost, is absolutely what you make of it. My trip to Paris reminded me to take time to interact with the people I pass by every day, be they strangers or friends, and to engage with my surroundings in such a way that even though I may become physically lost, I will always know that I am traveling a purposeful path. The passengers of the Dawn Treader were lost at the very end of the world; though I was only lost in France, I, like Caspian and his crew, am unsure of my final destination, but I am confident that my trip to Paris, and all of the other traveling I have done thus far, is bringing me nearer to it still.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letter from a Couch in One World Cafe

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Much to my roommates’ surprise (“I’ve read this for at least six classes!”) I have never read Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, but I have heard the above quote. As someone who grew up for three months out of the year in the toil of Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” I’ve heard my dad use this quote in his defense of Irish Catholics – though, to be fair, it applies to both sides. Dr. King’s famous letter and Kolvenbach’s discourse on the Jesuit commitment to service and justice both hit home and made me consider the nature of justice and my own obligation to uphold it. Before reading Dr. King’s letter, I read the statement which had originally prompted it. The pastors who opposed Dr. King’s tactics, though they were the impetus for one of the most famous retaliatory responses of all time, are not necessarily bad people. However, because they are unaffected (or at least less affected, as they were white) by segregation, they cannot see the necessity of Dr. King’s and his follower’s tactics. Despite the fact that King championed civil disobedience and passive resistance – both non-violent approaches to an often violent problem – they fear his actions are too inflammatory and feel instead that issues related to civil rights should be kept within the confines of the courtroom.
            Fr. Kolvenbach, likewise, reflects on the problem of a commitment to service and distance from the actual issue;“Dogmatism or ideaology sometimes led us to treat each other more as adversaries than as companions.” When one is so far removed from a situation, as the white clergymen and the Jesuit clergy were, the issue becomes more academic and less personal. It becomes about rhetoric rather than the well-being of the oppressed people in question, leading even those who are supposed to be united in the name of justice to bicker amongst themselves. Both King and Kolvenbach seem to solve the problem by taking another step back rather than attempting to involve themselves further. They consider all opions, address all approaches, and finally do rely to a point on their own personal experiences to bring their readers back to what is important: not how justice is achieved, but that one way or another, it is achieved.

            As I mentioned, I grew up with the turmoil of the Troubles in Northern Ireland as an important part of my life. My dad was heavily involved in amnesty programs and Irish political movements throughout the 80s and 90s, thus making it an important issue for me. I realized, however, that when I left Ireland’s incongruously luscious fields and morbid TV clips of bombs exploding, I largely forgot about the issue altogether. Now and then I would see a clip on American TV regarding violence in the North or overhear a distressed phone call between my dad and a friend or family member “back home.” Yet, while I was devastated when such events transpired minutes away from me in Ireland, I was merely bemused thousands of miles away safe in my Rhode Island home. Some time in my teens, I realized this discrepancy , though by that point it was largely too late – the Troubles had ended though tension still existed in the North. Though it was too late to make any real impact, I did realize on thing; the ability to argue over tactics used in the face of injustice is a privilege held by those least affected by it. Just as the clergy in both cases dug themselves into arguments over theoretical solutions, I argued with my family over the correct approaches to peace in Northern Ireland. While such discussions are pertinent to these kind of problems, I know now that what is most important is a personal and empathetic connection to injustice. When this connection is lost, as it was in both King’s and Kolvenbach’s cases, the real drive behind achieving a just society is lost.

A Journey With Christian Personalism

There is a philosophic theory known as personalism that identifies the human person as the central element within ethical, legal, moral, and even ontological discussion. Personalism engages subjects as disparate as freedom of the will and recidivistic justice, but at its core this is a theory that demands the treatment of human beings as subjects, and never as objects. A person possesses a vibrant and self-conscious psychic inner-life that necessitates treatment as an end or a telos of action, and never as the means to an end. Personalism in various forms exists in the texts of ancient philosophy and into the writings of some early modern philosophers, but it was in the twentieth century that the concept experienced a resurgence of relevance. Emmanuel Mounier and Dorothy Day were advocates, and a young Karol Wojtyla wrote extensively on personalism prior to his election as Pope John Paul II. 

Through the writings of John Paul II, personalism adopts a centrally Christian attitude rooted in the book of Genesis, and it is here that we find Dr. King and Fr. Kolvenbach adopt personalism into the heart of their respective Christian messages. When Fr. Kolvenbach writes that "Jesuit education has sought to educate 'the whole person' intellectually, professionally, psychologically, morally and spiritually", he writes as a Christian personalist. Dr. King references Martin Buber, and warns of the wrongness of "relegating persons to the status of things". King speaks of "personality" in places where we might typically expect the word "dignity" to appear. Fr. Kolvenbach writes of the plight of persons the world over in need of aid; the exposure of the student's inner-life to the realities of injustice through "contact" will engage the whole person in reflection and action. Dr. King argues that even the worst of his enemies--and of his movement's enemies--deserve the respect befitting persons, and must be treated as ends regardless of their hatred. 

For both Kolvenbach and King, the person is a subject and must be treated as an end. For both Kolvenbach and King, persons are multidimensional and innately spiritual and self-aware. The construction of an educational rubric for Kolvenbach, and of a legal system for King, demands that justice done to the whole person is the most critical of requirements. 

Both Fr. Kolvenbach and Dr. King discuss the person's place in the temporal order, and the appeal to time intimates a strong sense of travel and personal journey. There are differences, however, between the two. Fr. Kolvenbach writes that the whole person of the 21st century is quite distinct from the whole person of centuries past. Dr. King references Aquinas, and argues that the concept of a person is finds a strict foundation in divine and natural law. So for Kolvenbach, the Christian person is a dynamic and ever-changing notion; the concept of a person will adjust to contemporary cultural norms and practices. But for Dr. King, the concept of a person is atemporal; the person is a constant that cuts across epochs and defies cultural norms. Both of these men describe the person as a traveler in the world, but for Kolvenbach the person journeys through time and necessarily adapts, and for King the person engages time but watches it pass, unchanged. 

The difference between these two messages deserves a little context. Fr. Kolvenbach addresses the community at Santa Clara University to discuss Jesuit higher education. He does so a few decades removed the near-revolutionary Second Vatican Council and a decade removed from the challenges posed to Catholic universities by the encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Kolvenbach demonstrates that the identity of a Catholic university and the Jesuit identity itself might adjust through time without the loss of its central precepts, because the concept of a person does so as well. Dr. King, on the other hand, was engaged in a great struggle for justice. There was a need to relate that the moral and ethical status of a person is a quality unchanged by culture or creed. Both men succeeded in their tasks. 

What NOT to Do

What not to do:
            Try not to wear sweatpants or sweatshirts.  It’s very American.  Oh yes, also, try not to wear sneakers either.  They will immediately think you’re a tourist.  No one wears sneakers there.  I’d say wear dresses maybe.  They don’t really wear jeans.  Dresses and a nice pair of pants with sweaters that can cover your shoulders.  You MUST make sure your shoulders are covered for every class because we visit a lot of churches for day trips.  So, let’s see.  Dresses, nice slacks, dressy tops, lots of sweaters, and no baseball caps. NO FLIP FLOPS! But, make sure you pack light.
            We understand that you want to remember the trip, but we recommend not taking a lot of pictures; it labels you as a tourist and an easy target.  Also, try not to wear too much jewelry either, you know, incase it gets lost in your travels or someone steals it.  Always carry your backpack or pocketbook on the front of you, especially on the Metro.  
            But whatever you do, do NOT—and I repeat—do not talk loudly or obnoxiously!  They label Americans as loud and obnoxious people, so don’t let them think that about us.  No calling out to your friends in a public place or wave your hands too much.  Also, the Europeans wave differently from us, so don’t flail your hands like you usually do.  Oh, and don’t be that stupid drunk American! They’ll stare and laugh at you and try to take advantage of you.
            We know the food will be delicious, but one of the most common mistakes we see you people make is that you dip your bread into the olive oil.  No, Europeans don’t do that; instead, they pour it on their bread, so try to do that instead.  Also, they will get insulted if you put salt or pepper on the food that they serve you, so don’t season your food.  Also, do not bother asking for ice in your drinks because they don’t have it; only Americans put ice in their drinks. 

            When we travel, is it really best to take on the new culture that we are experiencing? Should we put aside our culture and pretend to be someone we are not? If we are pretending, do you think the natives of the country will buy our act?  The excerpt above was a general overview of a talk that my abroad program directors gave my group before we left for Rome; it essentially is a list of “do not’s.”  Some of it was accurate, and some of it was not.  However, my main contention is whether one should try to blend into a new culture or keep their own culture intact?  And further, can one do both?  In this case, I feel that this travel restricts our experiences; it becomes a journey of “do not’s.” 

"If you have come here to help me...

you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together," said Lilla Watson—echoed, I believe, in the words of Dr. King and Fr. Kolvenbach.

This is an answer to the most basic question: How are we going to do this thing called "living"?

We are going to do it with the honesty, vulnerability and equality of human beings who have recognized the mutuality of their existence—the "single garment of destiny" (1)—the universal wound of injustice. No one is capable of truly shaking responsibility for the liberation of his/her fellow sisters and brothers, but more often than not, we certainly do a good job pretending we can.

As Dr. King said, "superficial social analysis" (1) is the kind in which you look at the effects without first examining the causes. You say "wait" because you have not felt the string of injustice, you have not taken up the cause of another because by chance you were not born into it as your own. Dr. King said, "freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed" (3), and I believe this is the theory Fr. Kolvenbach rallies predominantly against in his address at Santa Clara. 

According to the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, those of the privileged class (including those who are able to afford a pricey Jesuit education) are innately responsible for responding to the needs of those whom they are privileged to interact with. Inequality is not inevitable; it is caused by humans and it must be eradicated by humans. Through our education, we are given the opportunity to see the "gritty reality" of the world, to reach deep into it and find ourselves reflected back in it. We don't engage in service to help people, we don't learn in order to better ourselves, we don't study to receive a diploma. That would be too simple, and that would devalue our mission as a Jesuit university. 

We serve because we need to be served—because we are broken, because we are threads in the garment, because none of us are outsiders, because we're tired of waiting. We learn because there is a reality that some find easy to ignore, and we need to know why; because "For whom?" and "For what?" are not always easy to answer, but if we can't answer them, we have no business putting our knowledge into action. To receive a Jesuit education is to incur responsibility for what we have seen and what has been revealed to us. To truly be who we are, there is no other way to do it. 

Peace Is Where the Heart Is

Peace Is Where the Heart Is
In Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s essay, The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, Kolvenbach explains that, “We can no longer pretend that the inequalities and injustices of our world must be…part of the inevitable order of things,”(32) but rather suggests that we confront these issues in order to resolve them. Kolvenbach asserts that society must eliminate this mindset and refuse to accept social injustice and inequality as a constant or stagnant entity within our global sphere. This lack of progression within society is attributed to man’s “selfishness;”(32) Kolvenbach believes society is behaving too passively on an issue that, “requires an action-oriented commitment”(27) in order to be effective. However, despite his societal critique, Kolvenbach calls attention to the “enormous talent”(31) that the United States currently possesses. In highlighting society’s ability, Kolvenbach is acknowledging that he believes that resolution is attainable; he believes that what has been perceived as “seemingly impossible” for many years, now has the potential to become “the possible”.
Kolvenbach identifies the “root” of injustice as being in a “spiritual problem,”(33) he explains: “Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one’s heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structure afflicting our world”(33). Kolvenbach’s vision-- although immense--now becomes a rather simple concept.
Kolvenbach brilliantly outlines the “composition of our time,”(32) highlighting the, “remarkable ethnic, cultural and class diversity”(31) that separates the world’s population; However, in contrast to explaining this separation, he points out that despite an individual’s age, socio-economic condition, or race--despite difference--all individuals are actually very similar. He writes: “Each one a unique individual, they all aspire to live life, to use their talents, to support their families and care for their children and elders, to enjoy peace and security, and to make tomorrow better”(32). Here, Kolvenbach is establishing the common ground that exists between individuals; he is working to remind his audience that all humans are interconnected through their sharing of these same needs, wants, and desires. Simultaneously, Kolvenbach is working to inform his audience that in order to inspire change within our world, that it must be a collective and unified effort among its inhabitants. Kolvenbach can now introduce his solution—one that requires extreme intimacy, cooperation, and acceptance between members of humanity. First, Kolvenbach carefully clarifies the Ignatian tradition; he explains that their purpose is, “…not to impose [their] religion on others, but rather to propose Jesus and his message of God’s Kingdom in a spirit of love to everyone”(26). This spirit of love exits both within religion, while also existing outside of a religious context—inviting and at the same time obliging individuals who may not affiliate with religion to also take part in this worldly effort.
Through identifying the heart as a vehicle for change, Kolvenbach is urging his audience to embark on an internal journey: to travel deep within themselves in order to find the capacity and willingness to generate universal love. Although this type of love proves challenging at times-- if it is properly harvested and when possessed, has the ability to transcend any negativity that exists within our world today. This love exists at the core of humanity—acting as the essential catalyst in driving necessary change: change that serves as our only hope to achieve universal peace. 

Inter-community Travel

One of the main things I noticed in this document was how Kolvenbach emphasizes the Jesuit institution’s emphasis on students’ participation in community service. He writes that students at Jesuit universities are encouraged to go out into the community, whether they are tutoring drop-out students, working in soup kitchens, or participating in social demonstrations (35). Through this kind of service, students hopefully will become adults who more aware of their communities. What I noticed here was that going out into the surrounding community becomes a kind of travel for students at Jesuit universities. It is easy to live in a community and only see one part of it. By going out and doing service, students learn about parts of their communities that they have never seen before. As Kolvenbach says, “the students need the poor in order to learn” (37). This idea is especially significant, because it emphasizes that the purpose of community service is not to make the student feel more righteous or morally superior. Kolvenbach says that community service is about creating symbiotic relationships between the student and the community; the student performs a service for their community, and the community gives back by giving the student new experiences.
Community service can also be a form of travel simply in that students may travel to areas or neighborhoods in their communities that they have never been before. Although these areas may be geographically close, they can still be completely foreign to students. For example, at the Tunbridge service learning prep session, we talked about how the school is only a few minute walk away, but most of the Loyola students had never been in the areas in which many the Tunbridge students live. We also learned how this is not completely accidental, as the city government uses one way streets to avoid common traffic flow in these areas. Despite this, these areas are near to the institution, and therefore form part of our community. Service learning encourages us to learn about those areas in our own communities that might be otherwise hidden from us.

                This idea in particular made me think of community service as a form of travel. When someone travels to a place, they pick up parts of that place, and carry them with them as they journey throughout life. By performing community service, students gain experiences that will help shape them into the adults they will become once they leave the university. And as Kolvenbach says, the experience that students gain by reaching out to the parts of their community that may have been hidden to them before will help shape them into “adults of solidarity in the future” (35).

Best Way to Proceed: Erase History or Embrace History?

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” focuses on the injustices that the “Negro community” were facing in Birmingham, Alabama and across the country (6). King has physically traveled to Birmingham, yes, and this is the major inciting incident of his letter to the white clergy of Birmingham, but the travel that King is hoping to inspire with this letter is the travel of America into a desegregated and non-discriminatory period. King is also writing from the confinement of a jail cell, which restricts his freedom to travel through physical spaces.

King is writing from the perspective of an African American in the segregated south, and this perspective informs almost the entirety of his argument, and even when other aspects of King’s person are used to strengthen his argument, his identity as an African American influences those other identities. For example, King uses biblical references, but distinguishes himself from the white clergymen to whom he is writing.
King’s continued reference to his being African American and his history show a pride for and an embracing of his history, though he is attempting to set the present onto a new course moving forward. He says that, “we have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights,” acknowledging the long and difficult fight for equal rights (3). He also writes a vivid passage in which he describes having to tell his children that they are considered to be inferior to the white children of their area, and are not allowed to go to the same places, and in that same passage says, “when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro … forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’” (3). Throughout the entire letter is this same depiction of King as an individual in the present, but as someone with ties to his past and the history of African Americans in America.

King’s writing about his past brings up interesting questions of history and its implications for the future. In Wendt’s Black Rainbow, Eric Mailei Foster’s history keeps cropping up, even when he does not even believe it happened, as is the case with his former identities. This de-historization seems to be the government’s way of keeping things peaceful among the people. King’s complete acknowledgement of America’s history is his way of trying to get America to move forward into a more peaceful future. I wonder, then, if we are expected to believe that either of these approaches is completely effective, as there is still much racial discrimination and disparity in America today, and Foster was unable to completely forget his own history. Is it possible to move forward by erasing history, and in America’s case, erasing race to become a post-racial society? Or must there be a frank acknowledgement of the history? Or will that acknowledgement allow us to move forward into the more peaceful society that King imagines?

Language in Christian Rhetoric

In their respective texts “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach postulate heavily on institutional justice. Kolvenbach, for one, addresses ministry within institutions of higher education and a university’s function and vocation as a bastion of solidarity between faith and justice, religion and education. On the other hand, Martin Luther King addresses, with a poignant directness and urgency, the paternalistic institutions of government and Church, delineating both their present shortcomings and their wished-for reparations. Both men, at the conclusions of their respective texts, propound a methodology by which this salient injustice can be countered and supplanted with justice, a justice that is proactive, faith-minded, and borne out through “’travel and toil’” (Kolvenbach 41).
Evidently, the two texts are positive reinforcements of one another, complementary pieces authored by like-minded social reformers who espouse a common agenda. However, though the ultimate agendas and objectives of the texts are comparative, the way in which each author conveys these agendas and objectives is distinctly unique. More specifically, the language that pervades each text is ruled by certain personal effectuations in technique, effect, and musicality that prove definitive qualities for both the author and the text.
Kolvenbach’s The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education is an orderly, prosaic address to an exclusive audience of Jesuit educators and students. Logically and ethically, the writing is sound, a perfect embodiment of the Greek statutes of logos and ethos. The text follows a didactic back-and-forth. It asks, “How can the Jesuit colleges and universities in the United states express faith-filled concern for justice in what they are as Christian academies of higher learning, in what their faculty do, and in what their students become?” (22). Then, it answers, with enumerated sections I-IV and a punctual allusion to GC 32 to tie things up nicely (41). In proverbial, predictable rhetorical fashion, it dots its “i”s and crosses its “t”s, thus making   Kolvenbach an orderly, learned, believable, and not in the least sentimental text, for it espouses logos and ethos but eschews pathos, or emotional appeal, the last third of the Greek rhetorical trinity. The final product is limpid, urbane prose and a summary, well-defined call to go forth and make "'contact'" (34) and “to live in a social reality” (40).
Dr. King’s language is radically different. It is potent, provocative, imagistic, a conduit for social justice rhetoric that not only speaks of  “social reality” but invokes “social reality.” That is to say, Dr. King’s language integrates societies of all types, becoming a language of countless men - men of countless creeds, colors, statuses, and eras. His language speaks for Lincoln and Jefferson and Amos, exhorting, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (King). But King does not solely echo history’s dynamos. King stoops down to the stature of a young boy of the 20th century South and assumes his voice and asks his question, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” (King). Through the whole text, these voices harmonize; the mighty and the meek are collated under a single letter, which King presents as an open address not only to the clergymen (the formal addressees) but to a comprehensive readership.

This inclusivity, it seems, is central to King’s letter and, in turn, King’s mission. Furthermore, inclusivity, is what triggers an emotional, deeply spiritual reaction. A reader may feel , having read the letter, more motivated to act, more emphatic to the downtrodden and  that little girl who has seen “ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky” (King). And, now being unified with those marginalized, the reader may begin to see only two colors, the antithetical colors of justice and injustice. Thus, as King channels pathos to supplement the logos and ethos of his letter, the reader becomes absorbed and wholly included into King’s emotions and speech, and the reader, word by word, becomes a traveler in the rhapsody of injustice, justice, history, and present.

King and Kolvenbach -- The Need for Solidarity

King’s and Kolvenbach’s articles both depict the evolution of justice.  Both articles are published during a time of change: King’s letter is published during the heart of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s while Kolvenbach’s address is given at the beginning of the new millennium.  While King’s open letter argues that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws, Kolvenbach’s address at Santa Clara University calls for a commitment to justice in Jesuit higher education.  Kolvenbach states that if students learn about and see the reality of injustice firsthand, they will be better equipped to fight against injustice in the future.
Both men attempt to give voices to the oppressed.  While King works on breaking down the walls of racism, Kolvenbach emphasizes the need for students to possess “a well-educated solidarity” with the world.  In his address, Kolvenbach quotes Father Ignacio Ellacuria: “…the university should be present intellectually where it is needed: to provide science for those who have no science; to provide skills for the unskilled; to be a voice for those who do not possess the academic qualifications to promote and legitimate their rights” (30).  Kolvenbach continues to say “…they all aspire to live life, to use their talents, to support their families and to care for their children and elders, to enjoy peace and security, and to make tomorrow better” (32).  Intellectual inquiry and moral reflection are the results of solidarity after personal involvement with the innocent suffering and injustice of others.  Kolvenbach emphasizes the importance of formation, learning, research, and teaching for students to build solidarity and that every Jesuit university “ called to live in a social reality…and to live for that social reality, to shed university intelligence upon it and to use university influence to transform it” (40).  Kolvenbach believes that these are the necessary steps to create well-rounded individuals.
Both King and Kolvenbach emphasize the need for solidarity to bring about change.  Kolvenbach stresses the importance of education, not only for the oppressed, but for everyone, to bring a general understanding of reality to all people.  Through a commitment to justice in Jesuit higher education,  Kolvenbach believes that a well-educated solidarity can be achieved, it is now our duty to work towards achieving it.

The Illusion of Distance

I had heard it so many times before. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  It was not until I knew the context in which these words were written that they really took root with me. I understood the meaning of the words of course, but I never really understood how this applied to my life. It is incredibly easy to feel distant from unjust acts in the world. My sphere of awareness can, if I want it to, be limited to only the just actions that I personally witness. In my ignorance and inaction I can be blissfully unaware. This mentality, however, is exactly what both Martin Luther King Jr. and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J. warn against.
In “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” Kolvenbach explains how inherently love for God and the promotion of justice are related. If you love God, you must, too, love your neighbor. If you love your neighbor, then you know that you are obligated to work to make sure that justice is done unto them. It is, however, easy to forget this. Though there may not be a physical distance between you and the injustice being done, the mental distance is also a factor. The easiest route to take is to think that someone else will promote justice or reason that justice will eventually come to people. These are the wrongs that King charges the “moderate whites” with in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” They had mentally distanced themselves enough from the racial problems that they could easily justify to themselves and others why they were not getting involved.

Both King and Kolvenbach, however, argue that this distance, whether physical or mental, is illusory. As long as there is injustice in the world, every single person should be held accountable for promoting justice in its place. There is no way to separate being human from the responsibility to be aware of injustice and working to end it. As Dr. King said, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”

A Just Crown

              When King writes, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality,” he illustrates the traveling of law (Letter From Birmingham Jail).  Law has the power to adjust and alter life.  King believes that an unjust law “degrades,” while a just law “uplifts” (LFBJ).  To degrade is to treat someone with contempt and disrespect; the unjust law reduces someone to a lower rank.  In many cases, reducing them to a sub-human form.  This degradation illustrates the profound nature of an unjust law; King suggests that the law acts as a vehicle of a traveling fate.  One that can be abysmal, unjust laws that degrades, or on the other hand “uplift” (LFBJ).  This vehicle of law can also take people to just heights, to uplift means stimulating or elevating someone’s spirit or morals. A just law, the type of law any man deserves, eludes King.  He searches for answers for justice and injustice in a time of travel for the law.  What does the vehicle of law govern?  It governs “human personality,” the quality of characteristics, which define each individual (LFBJ).  “Human personality” echoes redundancy because we usually associate personality with being human.  His rhetoric and diction suggest that “human personality” is the very distinction that separates us from animals; meaning, he believes that injustice has reduced blacks to animals, beings that cease to have personality (LFBJ).  The vehicle of law “distorts the soul and damages the personality,” because it is unjust.  The law can help people elevate to new heights or experience elevation of spirit.  But conversely, it distorts and damages the human fabric.  Law is a vehicle of travel because it governs the human spirit, whether it uplifts you to a beautiful feeling of justice or if it degrades you with injustice; you journey with its governance.