Moving Forward Apart Or Together?

It just doesn’t feel like 54 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, but this week marked that milestone. It was on April 4, 1968 that the civil rights leader was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

That single act of cowardice and violence by James Early Ray sparked riots in more than 100 cities around our country. Some of the biggest riots took place in Washington, Chicago, Baltimore and Kansas City.

One place that did not see such violence was just down the road from us, Indianapolis.

Why? As many of you already know, Robert F. Kennedy was on the campaign trail in his presidential candidacy for the Democratic Party’s nomination. RFK could speak from a place few others could since his own brother had been assassinated a few years earlier.

Kennedy’s speech that night at the corner of 17th and Broadway in the heart of the African-American community touched hearts. In part, he said “what we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another . . . ”

Of course he wasn’t able to truly follow through on those words because two months later he too was senselessly shot to death.

And here we are, more than half a century later, and if anything, the division in this country is worse. Some of it is racial, but not all. Some of it is ideology, but not all. Some of it is political, but not all.

Let’s take the issue of gay rights. According to a Gallup poll released in February, 7.1 percent of U.S. adults identify as something other than heterosexual.

Let me be very clear on two points that are just my opinion.

I think their lifestyle is a sin.

I think they have every right to choose it.

OK, can’t stop there . . .

And I think folks like me who disagree should respect their choice.

It’s kind of like smoking or any number of things. I can agree or disagree, but my opinion only travels to the point where it meets yours and no farther. We can see eye to eye, or we can be polar opposites. But we don’t have to be ugly about it.

And therein lies the problem. The gay community can legitimately say they are persecuted for their stance. The straight community can legitimately say they are tired of getting something rammed down their throats they disagree with.

And think about this.

If 7 people in a crowd of 100 think one way, where else in life does that mean the other 93 either have to go along with it, or are constantly bombarded with the message? You don’t think that causes problems? Of course it does.

Of. Course. It. Does.

Both sides have valid points and both sides have every right to those. What both sides don’t have, at least shouldn’t have, is the ability to force their opinion on others. Should we be teaching gay lifestyle in schools? I don’t think so. A good sex education program might include a section on alternative lifestyles, but at this point it sure feels like the LGBTQ movements gets a lot more than 7.1 percent of the attention for young people.

Look, it’s a big country. It’s a country that got started because not everyone wanted to be singing from the same pew as King George. We made room for everyone, even if we didn’t always live up to it. Maybe we ought to recommit to doing so again?

Kennedy said it best that night in Indianapolis.

“We can move (toward division) as a country, in great polarization – black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at [email protected]