My Dear St. Katharine Drexel Parish Family,
After the insurrection at the United States Capitol building and the president led attempted coup d’état, the response of many civic and religious leaders was to put out a statement condemning the unlawful actions, insisting that “this is not who we are as a nation.” Unfortunately, this is exactly who we are as a nation. A more appropriate and truthful statement from people of good will would be, “this is not who and what we want to be as a nation.” However, wanting to be a more perfect union, a shining city on a hill, and stating that these are genuine American attributes does not make it so.
There is much that is good about our country. The stated ideals of a democratic republic to which we aspire are a part of our greatness, but only if we strive to meet these goals together. In Plato’s Republic, the allegory of the cave refers to people chained in a cave facing a wall who can only see shadows reflected by light outside the cave. They come to accept the shadows as reality because ignorance and vice keep them from an experience and knowledge of the external truths.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was very familiar with the teaching of Plato and understood the necessity of freeing the hearts and minds of Americans from the dark shadows of the cave so that we might come to experience ourselves, as individuals and as a nation, as people of the light. In his own words Dr. King states, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” All Americans must share a common desire to escape Plato’s cave if we are to grow in the light of wisdom, justice, peace, and love.
As we celebrate the life, work, and martyrdom of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., let us recommit ourselves to the efforts of unity and justice so that, in the face of seditious insurrection, we may truly say one day, “this is not who we are as Americans.”