While reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” I came across the immortalized words for which this post is named. In the fourth paragraph of his letter, King draws attention to the fact that although he was safe from extreme persecution, he was unable to rest with peace of mind knowing that there were plenty of others in towns like Birmingham that were suffering. King was proactive in a matter that he didn’t necessarily have to get involved in, which got me thinking about our responsibility when it comes to the matters of others.
The sect of moral thinking called deontological ethics, will say that when we have the opportunity to act right it is our duty to do so. King was so moved by his goal that he felt it was his duty to fight for civil rights for those who were unable to fight themselves. Do we always have a responsibility to fend for those who can’t fight their own battles? It’s an idea that is easier to think about than act upon. I know that I wouldn’t be quick to jail myself for the benefit of others regardless of how involved I was with any movement.
In his letter King not only makes it clear that it was not only his choice to fight for civil rights in Birmingham, but writes as if to say it was obligatory. He casually states that he is in Birmingham, “…because injustice is here.” He took up his cause with such passion and commitment that the negative consequences became irrelevant in his stand for the greater good. King felt the need to fight for others when he was able, and so many times today it’s comforting to know that he is not alone.