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Reflect & Comment

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor

In January we honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We can never read his Letter from Birmingham Jail too many times:


We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.


Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.


What meaning do the themes presented in Letter from Birmingham Jail, written in August 1963, have for you in January 2022?


Which chapters and scenes in A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest present experiences of legalized oppression and social injustice?  


What do you think about how these experiences are presented in the narrative of the story?

Are they expressed with authenticity and historical accuracy?


In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King also asserted:


To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. 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. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I - it" relationship for the "I - thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?


What relevance does this passage have for our current social and political realities?


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