Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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.”

No comments:

Post a Comment