John Lewis

“Donald Trump is not my president,” said John Lewis. I rejoiced because that is how I felt. I felt validated hearing it from a person of unquestioned integrity—John Lewis. The words “president” and “Trump” do not fit together as one phrase; the office is respectable; the current holder is not. I hate saying or writing “President Trump.” It seems wrong.

Some years ago I turned on the radio to an interview that struck me as unusually fine and wondered who the inspiring speaker was. Ever after, I have recognized John Lewis’s voice after hearing only a few words.

Lewis preached love and forgiveness. Nothing remarkable about that, but John Lewis modeled them in remarkable ways. Elwin Wilson physically attacked Lewis when Lewis was marching for civil rights. Wilson was gleeful in his frequent attacks on Negroes. Lewis forgave him. Trent Lott declared that civil rights turmoil could have been avoided if racist Senator Strom Thurmond had become president. Lewis forgave him.

The death of this giant in moral courage has greater significance for its timing at this moment, when the country is reckoning with our sordid history of white supremacy. The nobility of John Lewis contrasts with the stoking of racial resentment by Donald Trump. “I’m the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” he lies.

Refreshing are the words of John Lewis: “My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, stand up. Say something. Speak up and speak out." When you do that, he says, “you get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” He motivates me to keep working for justice.

After listening to John Lewis on NPR being interviewed by Gwen Ifill, I feel weepy and think, “Wouldn’t it be great if Pope Francis declared John R. Lewis a saint. It would be a super-courageous thing, canonizing someone outside of the Catholic Church. St. John Lewis.  Hmmm.


Kathleen said…
Jeanette, thanks for your astute reflections. I think it’s a commendable idea to canonize John Lewis, a man of integrity, courage, compassion and peace.

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