While reading this letter, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau’s theories on Social Contracts and Communities. MLK Jr. indirectly outlines the unspoken rules of society in relation to the racial injustices in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dr. King talks of citizenship in America as membership to a society reminiscent of Hobbes’ commonwealth. Dr. King says, “we readily consented, and when the hour cam we lived up to our promise.” This is what being a part, member, active, or citizen of a community is all about: making and keeping our promises.
As a student, I promised to go to class, do my work and take exams. As a member of a sorority, I promised to be a loyal, helpful, and dependable friend to all of my sisters. In a marriage, both promise to be faithful, devoted and honest “as long as [they] both shall live.” In each of these situations promises are made and (hopefully) kept. Promises are the foundation of our society and the relationships we keep. No matter what, everyone is a part of some sort of relationship, community or contract.
As American citizens we promise to be devoted to our nation, respectful to our environment and fair to our fellow compatriots. In the wise words of Dr. King, “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”