This should be an interesting year in politics. The most common theme seems to be: How can our population be broken up and segmented even more, leading to more friction rather than greater unification?
In a time of nationwide alerts and increased security measures, you'd think that people would seek areas of commonality that make us so strong as a nation. Instead, divisiveness appears to be the rule of thumb, and anyone who is foreign raises suspicions and prejudices.
This all seems out of sync, especially in light of the upcoming holiday recognizing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In his speech at the civil rights march on Washington, D.C., in August 1963, Dr. King said: "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' "
Why, after 40 years, can we not find ways to communicate with each other without using labels? Why don't we seek to find the worth of each person?
King again had wise words. On Dec. 11th, 1964, addressing the issue of human relationships in his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, he said:
"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.
"Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
Can we honestly look at our current state of affairs in this country and say we've achieved this lofty goal?
Maybe we should adopt the ideas in The Song of Solomon 11:6:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."
Monday has been designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service; nearly 100 volunteers will work at 12 sites in Missoula, and many organizations are coordinating volunteer efforts to spotlight the day.
Several school groups have signed up to work at different agencies, and these young people are truly a hope for the future. If our society is to become what King envisioned, today's children must learn to treat everyone equally, and to respect all people no matter what their age, gender, race, sexual orientation or social status.
It is my hope that the children will lead us into a better and more just world.
Joseph Bischof is the executive director of Missoula's Poverello Center Inc. Reach him by calling 728-1809 or e-mailing email@example.com.