“Can we all get along?” These words, spoken by Rodney King in 1992, seem to have as much relevance today as they did nearly 30 years ago. King uttered these words on television May 1, 1992, during riots in Los Angeles. The LA riots followed the acquittal of four police officers charged with using excessive force in King’s arrest two months earlier.
Seeing the riotous destruction around him, King continued: “We all can get along. We just gotta. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s work it out. Let’s try to beat it, you know.”
Following two very contentious presidential elections and a global pandemic that continues to divide and conquer, we, the citizens of the United States, must find a way to heed King’s plea. But how?
In his 2020 encyclical letter, “Fratelli tutti,” Pope Francis shared his ideas and hopes for a more civilized world.
“I invite everyone to renewed hope,” he wrote, “for hope ‘speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart.’”
Pope Francis shared the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan, who came to the aid of a stranger left for dead.
“Today we have a great opportunity to express our innate sense of fraternity, to be Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment,” said Pope Francis. “Others may continue to view politics or the economy as an arena for their own power plays. For our part, let us foster what is good and place ourselves at its service.”
We have witnessed how current events and political controversies have become arenas for power plays. Sadly, even as Christians, we have chosen our sides and sown divisions.
To remove barriers and end divisions, we are called to imitate Jesus. We are called to love as Jesus loved.
“For Christians, the words of Jesus have an even deeper meaning,” Pope Francis reminded us. “They compel us to recognize Christ himself in each of our abandoned or excluded brothers and sisters. … In the depths of every heart, love creates bonds and expands existence, for it draws people out of themselves and towards others.”
What happens when we are open to dialogue, to friendship with others? We are moved towards a universal communion, according to Pope Francis. “As Jesus told us: ‘You are all brothers,’” he said, quoting Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 23. The adage that “love is blind” holds true for us as children of God.
“The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity,” said Pope Francis. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.”
Seeing the world and the people around us through the lens of faith makes acceptance of others more realistic.
“If we want to encounter and help one another, we have to dialogue,” said Pope Francis. Openness to dialogue can lead to kindness and compassion, he added. It’s what Rodney King suggested when he asked, “Can we all get along?”
“Often nowadays we find neither the time nor the energy to stop and be kind to others, to say ‘excuse me,’ ‘pardon me,’ ‘thank you.’ Yet, every now and then, miraculously, a kind person appears and is willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference,” Pope Francis stated. “If we make a daily effort to do exactly this, we can create a healthy social atmosphere in which misunderstandings can be overcome and conflict forestalled. Kindness ought to be cultivated; it is no superficial bourgeois virtue.”
May we all strive for dialogue, compassion and kindness. As Christians, these are moral imperatives required not only to “get along” in this world, but to be happy with God in the next.