I‘m one of those who never was really aware of John Lewis until more recently. While he was a primary actor in the civil rights movement, he was still always in the shadows and on the fringe. I certainly had heard his name and saw him and the others on the tv news reels from “Bloody Sunday.” But I wasn’t even really aware that the Congressman from Georgia was from Alabama originally until after his passing.
Even still, about two years ago, prompted by his public appearances related to BLM and other civil rights issues, I had started following him on Twitter. I was flabbergasted. At this point I was also unaware of his so-called “good trouble” rhetoric and simply could not find a favorable context to place his strident and belligerent tweets. He was worse than Louis Farrakhan who I had followed, and subsequently unfollowed, on Twitter for awhile sometime before that.
Like Farrakhan, I eventually unfollowed the Congressman because I found his antagonisms to be unreasonable and without appropriate compromise. As it happened, I left a few choice words of my own for Mr. Lewis before I stopped following him just a couple of months prior to the announcement of his cancer.
I was saddened to hear that his condition would likely bring about his passing in an untimely fashion and payed attention to the occasional reports as his life journey neared it’s end. And, my memory jogged just a bit as I relearned his role early on fighting for justice. Of course, I learned so much more after his passing as the life and accolades of this heroic civil rights icon were celebrated across this nation and throughout the world.
There is no doubt that early on Mr. Lewis played a couragrous, important, honorable and neccesary role in advancing civil rights and justice. His courage earned him the honor of election to congress. But, it’s impossible for me to respect his rhetoric later on which I firmly believe caused more harm than good.
It is my understanding that Mr. Lewis based his “good trouble” protocol on his belief that vigilance would always be required to ensure the agency of black people. On that point he may have been correct, but I wonder if he was aware or could even understand that projecting belligerence and even injury onto people acting in good faith would disenfranchise their interest in justice for black people.
As the “last of the big six,” the passing of John Lewis is said to be the end of an era, but it begs the point. I’m an old white guy with hair turning gray and yet I remember nothing from the sixties about the civil rights movement – I was too young. My generation was the first to grow up in a very different world than the one on our heals nevertheless to be left behind. We had no segregated anything, I graduated from high school as Senior Class president alongside a black SGA president who was no shoeshine boy drinking from blacks only water fountains – at S.R. Butler High School.
We all know racism persists, that most folks (black and white elephant) ascribe to some variation of Sunday morning socializing and law enforcement is corrupt. The problems are never as black and white, however, as BLM might like to imply. Cops wrongly violate the civil rights of white people everyday, some are even killed. The percentages may be skewed but the numbers are not irrelevant and are more likely explained by cultural inequities than deliberate racism by cops. Bad cops are an epidemic and bad cops are bad cops. Cultural inequities are not irrelevant but it is a different conversation.
As it boils down, the struggles with civil rights today don’t really look much like what happened in the sixties – and haven’t for a long time. And in truth, the fight for civil rights today more and more looks like an attempt to impose socialism – the nanny state – than a legitimate quest for constitutional rights. Maybe that’s what John Lewis was really after but, in my book socialism does not equal civil rights, just the opposite in fact – and I very much resent the insinuation that I’m racist for not supporting a socialist nanny state.
I’m sure John Lewis has some honorable epitaph on his tombstone, I haven’t heard. But by my reckoning, it probably ought to go something like this: “You set your own cause back by twenty years and sold a generation into the tyranny of delusional socialism.”
Rest in Peace John Lewis, God knows we all deserve some peace – and finally that means you too.
©2020 – Jim Casey