Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King

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In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the “appalling silence” of those who are innately good, yet refuse to take any action, expressing that nonexpression is a greater evil than any radical viewpoint. To this group, you, who may not vote, who may not speak out against injustice, who may not express any opinions, I ask of you: does this silent portion of the population still exist, quietly living its lives and creating minimal impact on the world around it, or are King’s messages antiquated and outdated in modern society? Are you the modern-day representatives of this unfortunate group? These “good people” do exist in large numbers in the United States, and the nation has to pay for their inactivity. Laws not supported by a majority opinion, the lack of an influence in politics from the majority…society cannot benefit in any way from the silence of these people. Assuming that they are left out and forgotten by the system, these nonparticipants feel resentment for the isolation, and perpetuate the vicious circle. The “silent majority” of the American people is now accepted as the status quo, the way things always have been and will be. Voter turnout continues to hover around a low 60% in general elections, and even lower for primaries. In the recent November 7, 2013 midterm election, a mere 4% of voters in Gwinnett County, Georgia turned out for a policy referendum, a bill which would affect how millions of dollars were spent in the coming years. Just as lemmings supposedly suicidally follow each other over cliffs to their doom, so, too, do we blindly follow our countries’ policies, letting others decide for us, though those may not be the best decisions. But why is this majority hiding? What... ... middle of paper ... ...ails miserably, as he underestimates the inertial force of complacency and resignation to one’s fate. Since literature is a window into society’s values, it follows that society accepts its role as passive bystander, resigning itself to watching others attempt to solve problems and express opinions, yet silently ridiculing and undermining their every step. As a whole, we do not act: we are complacent. We do not take a stand: we are afraid of failure and humiliation. We do not lead: we are followers. Society has ever-increasingly grown passive, tired, and complacent. Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea of the “appalling silence of the good people” is as poignant now as it ever was in the 1960s. If every person today would stand up for what they believed in, rather than what they believe other people want, then perhaps the world could be drastically changed for the better.
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