“Though I am Gone, I Urge You to Answer the Highest Calling of Your Heart and Stand Up for What You Truly Believe”

John Lewis’s last message:

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

My Old Friend John

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In case you were wondering, Edmund Pettus was a general in the Confederate Army, and, according to one historian, “followed with conspicuous bravery every forlorn hope which the Confederacy offered.” After the Civil War, he resumed his law practice, while serving as Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan—a position he leveraged to get himself elected to the United States Senate in 1897.

The bridge was built and named in his “honor” in 1940.

 

Take the Cheese, Donald! Take the Cheese!

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A propos of l’affaire Lewis, many pundits of a progressive bent have made these points:

  1. President Elect Birther lacks standing to complain of attacks on the legitimacy of his presidency.
  2. If anyone does have standing to make such an attack, that person would be John Lewis.
  3. Trump is a lout to attack a civil rights hero on MLK day.

Aardvark agrees, though his agreement is bootless.

What strikes me about this affair is that Congressman Lewis played Trump like a violin. Mixing the metaphor, the good congressman put a large and smelly piece of cheese on a large and lethal mousetrap. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew why he was doing it and when he was doing it. Rep. Lewis exhibited no particular subtlety or finesse, nor, plainly, did he need any subtlety. He just put the cheese on the trap and the mouse pounced, right on time, utterly heedless of the consequences.

To follow up on the previous post, if my name were Vladimir Putin, I would be scared shitless to have a guy this childish as my agent.

Did the Russians Elect Trump? Or, We have Met the Enemy, and He is Us

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It is January 14. As we count down toward Doomsday, the public conversation is dominated by two questions:

  1. Is it true, as Rep. John Lewis has claimed, that Trump would not have been elected but for Russian interference, and is his presidency therefore illegitimate?
  2. Why is Trump so publicly in love with Putin?

This post addresses the first of these two questions. By the way, Trump attacked Lewis this morning and Lewis has just responded by emailing the Aardvarks to ask for a monetary contribution. Dr. Aardvark and I are considering whether to click the $50 button or one of the others.

That said, Aardvark agrees with Kathleen Parker, who wrote today that we will probably never know whether Russian influence actually tipped the scale.

The fundamental question about the election is not does not involve the source of supply of fake news, it involves the source of demand for fake news. Think of it like this. Just up the road from Happy Acres, conveniently located, lies the Humongous Booze Barn, which offers a wide selection and highly competitive pricing to complement its geographic convenience.

Does the convenient location of the Humongous Booze Barn contribute to Aardvark’s consumption of strong drink? Yes, maybe a little. But despite the enticing selection of alcohol they offer, no one at the store forces Aardvark to buy the stuff. He buys it because some evenings sobriety is too painful to endure.

For many millions of our fellow citizens, reality itself has become too painful to bear. I suspect that a lot of them are aware, at least dimly, and in the back of the mind, that they are consuming fake news. But they go on pouring it down their gullets because it makes them feel good. And if they can’t get it from one source, they will get it from another.

What would happen if the Humongous Booze Barn ran out of Jack Daniels? Won’t happen, but what if it did? Would Aardvark be disappointed by the temporary absence of his favorite tipple? Yes, he would. Would he say to himself, “It’s Jack Daniels or nothing,” and leave the store? Or would he buy another brand? You know the answer.

If the National Enquirer runs out of fake news from Pravda it will get fake news somewhere else, and its customer base will keep on consuming the product.

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