Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

America a Community

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

America a Community

Article excerpt

FACED with Los Angeles on fire, with shooting, looting, and unprecedented conflict between Hispanics, blacks, whites, Koreans, police, and storekeepers, a shaken Rodney King told the world media: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? ... Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids? ... It's just not right. It's not right."

The question is ancient: Can we all get along? America may be the richest and freest country in the world, but the LA riots were a wake-up to the gaping fault lines in US cities and to tears in the social fabric that must not widen.

It would be a mistake to write off Los Angeles as a temporary urban problem. If not challenged by the kinds of efforts partly illustrated in today's Monitor special on urban community, the inequities and injustices felt in inner cities and by minorities after the King verdict will harden hearts and minds and lead to a more divided future.

Specific proposals - enterprise zones, improved police presence, more uniform justice, or job requirements in the welfare system - must emerge from, yes, a heartfelt desire to see America whole. To treat urban problems as another crisis to be managed, a wound to be hidden unhealed, would be to disserve the inner cities and to undercut America's development as a civilization.

Federal troops on Wilshire Boulevard remind us that America as a civil community is still an experiment. America is changing. It is clearly more multicultural. An earlier Protestant ethos is waning. Aggressive consumerism and corporate Darwinism contribute to greater disparities of wealth between haves and have-nots. A curious new blend of apathy and cynicism about institutions of government is forming. It is not too dramatic to say: The basic sense of America as a civil society is in trouble - the complex web of visible and invisible trusts and understandings that allow people to live together and "all get along," as King puts it.

The vision of another King - Martin Luther King - rises above race and class. Citizens are not first black or white; they are Americans, protected by laws, hard-earned rights, and a spirit of brotherhood that has religious roots. …

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