All For One and One For All
The other day upon leaving the library, I passed a car with a bumper sticker on it that read “No One is Free When Others are Oppressed”. I immediately thought of the discussions we had about Martin Luther King Jr. and his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. This bumper sticker reminded me of his sharp words: “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.
We have studied MLK’s views on equality and justice, along with his stressed importance of the interrelatedness that we as members of society have, as well as the responsibility we have of making sure that all people live freely under the laws of the land. King taught us that injustice anywhere results in justice nowhere because there is an “interrelatedness of communities and states”. This feeds off his motives of why he could not sit self-righteously in Atlanta, when there were issues affecting other African Americans in Birmingham. He was quoted saying that “anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds”, and therefore set out to carry the gospel of equality, freedom, and justice for all. Personally, I agree with this interrelatedness that we have as one nation. While it may not be as evident during times of peace, I feel that in times of war it is very obvious of our connectedness we have towards each other. After the attacks on 9/11, for example, the signs of “United We Stand” and overwhelming support towards victims and respect towards the troops showed our passion for the same goal. It is true that we are all part of different communities in which we feel understood, comfortable, and related to. Sometimes we feel that the only people we have to stick up for are our close friends, family members, or even just ourselves. However, these communities and people are all connected and guided under the same set of laws that keep us protected and free to express our personal beliefs and ideas. If someone were to feel oppressed, who says that you deserve better than them, or even worse, won’t have your freedoms taken away soon after?
So why this bumper sticker? What did this person expect from those who would see it? A clearer picture could come from noticing the other stickers he also had on his car. If for example, you could imagine that there was a “Free Tibet” sticker, or a co-exist image, or a gay rights flag as well, would you agree with “No One is Free When Others are Oppressed”? If you knew which of these stickers were also on their car, would that sway whether or not you agreed with this initial bumper sticker?
While I won’t tell you what other bumper stickers were on the car, I will ask you to think for yourself – do you find any issues in today’s society that keep certain people repressed while others bask in a freedom that they might even take for granted? Or do you agree with Dr. King that, even decades after he fought for human rights, if we haven’t all reached equality together then we haven’t reached it at all?