Matt Knutson: There’s only 1 key for that double-locked door

Published 9:27 am Friday, January 13, 2017

Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.

“I need to borrow your laptop to write my column this week,” I told my wife as she was giving our daughter a bath. My not-so-trusty laptop was sitting at about 7 percent battery life, and I could see both the fiery glow from the charger and smell the unpleasant scent of the burning cord. I’ve been delaying purchasing a new one for months, perhaps years, knowing that I’ve settled into the unpredictable nature of my current laptop. Sure, a few times a week it shuts down without warning, but what’s life without a little adventure?

Today I’m writing to you on my wife’s laptop that she won from a local computer repair store. She used it quite a bit at first, but now she rarely uses a computer. Instead, she’s able to use her phone for just about everything she used her computer for in the past. We actually had to search the house for this computer’s charger just so I could log in and write these words for you.

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It is fascinating how much has much has changed with technology. In high school, I couldn’t have imagined a world where someone wouldn’t have a computer. Of course, mobile devices are essentially compact computers we’re carrying around with us, but their ability to do almost everything we need on a day-to-day basis marks tremendous progress in quite a short period of time. I honestly cannot imagine what innovation will come in the next few years, but I look forward to using it. Afterall, I grew up with a bag phone in the car that was only used for special occasions. Years later, and well after everyone else had upgraded, I treasured my parent’s brick Nokia phone and the game of Snake that it had.

If only the rest of the world progressed at the same speed as our computers and phones. Those devices are certainly helping by providing both more and deeper information than ever previously available, but sometimes it seems like those least worthy of having a voice are the most vocal and noticed. (This is the point in the article where you should be wondering why in the world I have somehow been given the opportunity to write this weekly column instead of someone more qualified.)

During this season of reflection, with resolutions and political changes, I often find myself thinking about the speed of change. Certainly the transition between two presidents, particularly with President Obama and President-Elect Trump, a lot can be altered dramatically. I wonder if that is progress or regression. It probably depends on who you ask. Other changes come slowly. Have people at the gym lost a ton of weight yet from their time on the treadmill? Probably not, but results will come if they keep at it.

Of course on Monday our nation celebrates MLK Day, where we recognize the life and accomplishments both of Martin Luther King Jr. and the progress of civil rights in this country. Can you imagine if America had made as speedy of progress with civil rights as we have with the technology in our iPhones? We probably wouldn’t have elected a president endorsed by the KKK, a man who called out to a black person at his rally by saying, “Look at my African-American over here,” and who almost always only refers to black people living in the inner cities. Had our nation progressed further towards civil rights, we likely wouldn’t be talking about police brutality towards minority groups. Black Lives Matter wouldn’t have to be the cry of activists in every major city of our country.

Before I left for holiday vacation in December, my boss gave me the book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” by MLK. It was originally published in 1967, but the words I’ve been reading have tremendous relativity to our nation today. King’s writing is particularly moving as he understands a nation divided. Our divisions may be different today, but there are many clear parallels that reveal how slowly our country’s progress has been. It’s important to note that this progress is both on a large scale, the whole of our United States, but also on an individual, personal level. He concluded the first section of the book with this profound thought: “Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot protection. There is no other answer. Constructive social change will bring certain tranquillity; evasions will merely encourage turmoil. Negroes hold only one key to the double lock of peaceful change. The other is in the hand of the white community.”

Over the last year, there have been many groups with real and perceived injustices — from people on all sides of the political spectrum. We must remember that we, whoever “we” may be, have only one key for that double-locked door. If we want to see a better America, it takes us all coming together. I invite you to check out more of MLK’s writings to better understand that.