Monday, January 16, 2017

John Lewis

The current mantra among people who voted for the president elect is that we folks who object to his ascension to the highest office in the land are "sore losers". Other less than complimentary epithets thrown our way are whiners, babies, snowflakes, and hypocrites, among other names, many of them unmentionable. "We lived through eight years of Barack Obama,.." a recurring theme in their arsenal of parental admonishments goes, " you can live through this." 

Well you know what? In a sense, they're right. During the election, supporters of Hillary Clinton, including myself, were aghast by our opponents' claim that the election was somehow rigged. We chastised them for saying that if their man lost, they would not accept the outcome of the election.

More than once in this space I wrote about how our democracy depends upon the minority accepting the will of the majority in an election, and in return, the majority accepts the constitutional rights of the minority.

Of course I didn't account for the Electoral College which this year determined that the candidate with the fewest popular votes, almost three million of them, in other words, the minority, would win.

I also didn't take into account the truly bizarre behavior of the director of the FBI who just days before the election stated publicly that his department was re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton, even though he had to admit, after the damage was done, that there was no new evidence against her.

Nor did I know at the time that the Russian government was committing serious hanky panky, hacking into the election, and doing everything they could to ensure that the Republican candidate, whom they appear to have some control over, would win the election.

Since I have absolutely no evidence that the outcome of the election would have been different had it not been for James Comey and Vladimir Putin, and since I accept the Electoral College, at least on principal, despite its idiosyncrasies, I believe the man who is about to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, will be the legitimate president.

In respect to semantics, and in that respect only, do I disagree with John Lewis, the Congressman from the 5th District in Georgia.

Representative Lewis you may recall, in response to an interviewer's question about why he plans not to attend the inauguration ceremony this coming Friday in Washington, answered that he did not accept the man to be inaugurated, as the legitimate president. The reasons he gave were the same ones I stated above, and a few others.

As you can imagine, our soon-to-be tweeter-in-chief was none too pleased by Rep. Lewis's remarks and had some choice words for him via his Twitter account. So upset was he that his comments exceeded the 140 character tweet limit, and required two tweets to do the job. Here's what he said tweet by tweet:

Tweet one:
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to......
Tweet two:
mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!
I didn't think it was possible, but in those two tweets, our next president may have outdone even his own extraordinary capacity for pettiness, indiscretion, and sheer stupidity. Of course it should come as no surprise that his legendary thin skin would lead him to the safe zone of his Twitter account to express his hurt feelings over even the slightest of slights, just ask Meryl Streep. Despite being admired by millions as one of this country's finest actors, Streep is still merely an entertainer who it turns out, was reamed mercilessly by right wing fanatics for the audacity of expressing her opinion of our future president in a public forum, a televised awards show.

John Lewis is another matter. If anyone alive has the credentials to be called an icon of the American Civil Rights movement and a true American hero, it is he. Lewis was a participant, often a leader at many of the pivotal events in the movement since the early sixties. As one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,  in 1961, he was one of the original Freedom Riders, a harrowing journey of civil rights activists, targeting the illegal segregation of public conveyances in the South. The bus that Lewis boarded in Washington DC was bound for New Orleans where a major civil rights rally was to be held. The passengers were comprised of seven whites and six blacks who sat side by side as the bus made its way through the Deep South, where white folks didn't take too kindly in those days to white and black folks sitting together on a bus. Lewis was attacked in Rock Hill, SC. while entering a Whites Only waiting room. During subsequent rides, Lewis and his fellow riders endured beatings, firebombings, and arrest. Despite dreadful atrocities committed against them by local residents, the Klan, and the police who looked the other way when they weren't taking part in the beatings, the indifference of the Federal Government, and the abandonment of the organization that sponsored the rides, Lewis and a handful of others persevered, and saw them through to their successful conclusion. 

Because of his remaining steadfast in his commitment to non-violence and reconciliation, not to mention his exceptional courage, Lewis at age 23 was named the head of the SNCC, and in that capacity he was invited to address a crowd of 100,000 at a watershed moment in civil rights history, the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs in August of 1963. Fifty years to the day, I was present at another gathering on the same spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial at an event that commemorated the march, known by all as the setting for Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. It was my privilege to have been present as John Lewis, the only surviving speaker from the original event, addressed the crowd.

Perhaps most famously, Lewis is known as one of the leaders of the Selma to Mongtomery marches, promoting voting rights for African American people in the South. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Lewis who was leading the march along with local activists, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama where they were met by state troopers. Holding their ground, the marchers began to pray. Incensed by their refusal to disperse, Alabama State Troopers tear gassed the marchers, then beat them with their night sticks. Local activist Amelia Boynton was beaten unconscious, while Lewis remained conscious despite a fractured skull, and managed to appear on television to appeal to President Johnson to intervene, before heading to the hospital.

Lewis's political career began in the mid-seventies and he was first elected to his current position, representing the district that includes much of the city of Atlanta and its environs, in 1986. In that role he has held true to his convictions and to this day remains a strong advocate for human rights and racial reconciliation.

Despite holding a role in the political establishment for thirty years, Lewis isn't afraid to mix it up and get into trouble, most recently leading a sit in on the floor of the House of Representatives, demanding the Republican leadership allow a vote on gun safety legislation after the shooting at a Orlando nightclub where 49 people were murdered by a lone gunman. As congressman, he was arrested at least three times for his role in various protests.

Say what you will about Lewis and his politics and tactics, but anyone who knows the facts would be hard pressed to say that John Lewis is only "talk, talk, talk, - no action" As for the assertion that his district is in "horrible shape, falling apart, and crime infested", well I'm guessing that would be quite surprising news to the people who live in a city with several major corporations including Coca-Cola and CNN calling it home, and a metropolis that has a very diverse community including a thriving African American upper middle and upper class.

Oh and yes, Mr. Tweet chose to put down the most important living figure in the American Civil Rights movement coming at all times during the weekend when we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King.

Could this guy possibly be serious about being president for "all Americans"? 

If so, legitimate or not. he's got to be the most clueless person who has ever been elected to any office, ever, in the United States.

That's just one of many reasons why so many of us object to his becoming president this Friday.

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