Sunday, July 19, 2020

John Lewis

John Lewis, the civil rights veteran, and a man often called “the conscience of the Congress”, died July 17 (USA time) of pancreatic cancer. Those are the basic facts that many news outlets reported, and many people have also made eloquent tributes to the man. There’s really nothing I can add to what’s already been said, so I thought I’d share a few of the things I ran across over the past couple days.

The video above is Lewis speaking at the time he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the video is available through the Obama White House archives). Lewis was one of several people announced as recipients on November 17, 2010. President Obama awarded the medal in February, 2011. [Related: Wikepedia has a complete list of recipients of the medal].

Those, too, are news items. But I thought the video, and hearing Lews’ own words, was more meaningful than anything I could say.

There’s a movement to rename the Edmund Pettis Bridge for Lewis. The bridge is currently named for a Confederate general and leader of the Alabama KKK—in other words, a traitor and violent racist and white supremacist. It’s appropriate to rename the bridge for Lewis, especially because that’s where Lewis and others were attacked by “law enforcement” and national guard men because they dared to protest for the civil rights of Black Americans. Lewis’ skull was fractured in that attack; he’s lucky they didn’t murder him, as many of the attackers almost certainly would have preferred.

Such things still happen in the USA as we’ve seen recently when “law enforcement” has used brutal repression against peaceful protesters who, surely just coincidentally, were protesting to justice for Black Americans, or to snatch people off the streets of Portland, Oregon.

Much work remains to be done. Lewis would want everyone to stay focused on that work, to register to vote, and then to actually vote in defiance of the forces of darkness that trying to suppress voter turnout any way they can. This is all hard work. John Lewis knew that because he lived it. His work needs to be finished so that no one has to keep fighting these same battles over and over again.

Re-naming a bridge after John Lewis, a true American hero, would the good and right thing to do. But to really honour the man, the country should rededicate itself to finishing Lewis’ life’s work. That’s not just the good and right thing to do, but a moral imperative, too.


Roger Owen Green said...

link used in someone's most recent blog post. I can't tell you whose

Arthur Schenck said...

Darn, I like being in the know!