Yesterday was not a good day in the overall progress of my convalescence. I was tired, listless and the reason was not necessarily my healing process, but a series of bad choices with regards to my diet. I chose what was easy and that resulted in a number of miserable hours. Too often, easy is only easy in the short run…too often in the long run, it’s hard. However, there was a bright spot and that was being able to sit, watch and listen to the funeral of the honorable John Robert Lewis. It was an opportunity to learn more about this great man of history and the future, as well as being another opportunity to hear former President Barak Obama speak. Any time he gives a speech, I always feel honored to be able to hear it real time.
Harmony plus honesty really…
Now, I want to preface the coming thoughts with some of my own history. As a young adult, I had a habit of expressing my political thoughts, quite liberally to anyone who would listen. Many of my school friends thought that I would become a politician, although I am not sure how appealing that would be today. As is evident in my social media feeds lately, that opinion streak is showing itself much more often. Perhaps too many years in the corporate world beat it out of me because of the finesse required when trying to create a sense of harmony and cooperation – my assumed modus operandi when getting things done. Also, as the political climate has become quite polarized over the years, I found myself tamping down my opinions to match the room versus the topic – in hindsight, bad decision. The reason: I like harmony. It is who I am and for the most part, it’s not a bad quality to have. I chose a more passive approach to my politics, not wanting to disrupt the room, or the holiday dinner table. As I reflect during this period of healing, it strikes me that, more often than not, a passive approach will not bring me or others around me anything close to harmonic. Now, some will consider this a certain level of arrogance when it comes to me thinking that my opinion matters. I did opine on this for a bit, then it came to me: I have the respect and courtesy to honor anyone else’s right to their opinion and free speech, why wouldn’t I expect the same…so, off come the suppressors.
I don’t like Donald Trump. I don’t trust him, I don’t respect him and in fact, given the opportunity, I don’t think I could even stand to be in the same room with him – the thought just makes me itchy. I can sincerely and honestly say it is not because he is a Republican (now, he used to be a Dem). Some of my beliefs are definitely more Republican than Democrat and I am ok with that. As a resident of the United States of America, I am in awe of this country, always have been. Whether it’s the country’s promise or its problems, I believe it would be naïve to think that any one ideology would ever be enough to get it to a more perfect Union. But I digress…
I began this by being grateful to witness Barak Obama’s eulogy for the late Representative John Lewis. It was inspiring in many ways as Obama’s ability to express his thoughts as he does is far superior to many who claim to be true orators, those who use the best words. There were four main highlights to his speech that I was grateful to hear. First, Obama’s ability to bring to life the soul and character of Rep. Lewis was admirable. He captured the essence of a man who was driven by a cause and truth beyond anything imaginable. Overall, everyone who spoke did a great job of this, which only speaks to the veracity of Lewis’ character, resolve and sincerity.
The second highlight: Obama’s expression of awe. In a raw, sincere display he described Rep. Lewis’ willingness to get on a bus, with only a friend and be willing to sit at the front of it, withstand any possible punishment that may have been administered, which at that period in history could have meant his horrible demise in possibly the most brutal of methods, exacted upon him by violent aggressors. Obama’s awe as he read these words aloud, could not have been more honest. It was as if the gravity of the words were striking him as they came out of his mouth. President Obama, this nation’s first black president, a man who coordinated the United States out of one of the worst financial crisis and countless other challenges, marveled about this other human being who gave of himself with total disregard for his safety and his life, for the good of his brothers and sisters. John Lewis lived his truth and would not ignore what he believed he needed to do for any reason.
The third highlight was a gauntlet thrown down to not only the citizenry of this country, but to its current Chief Executive, without having to mention his name. An executive to whom division and a malevolent willingness to undermine a country for his own gain has never given a second thought to those actions or words. Obama’s commentary on the evils of voter suppression as they are being played out in this country was very specific and requires a response from the constituents he once led, and many he still leads:
“We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot. But even as we sit here, there are those in power that are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting — by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
He also raised the harrowing specifics regarding the violent treatment of people of color and peaceful protestors:
“Bull Connor may be gone. But today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans,”
“George Wallace may be gone. But we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators,”
Both of these mentions should be considered a direct salvo at the policies and opinions of this want-to-be-fascist leader currently in power. Again, he did not have to mention Trump’s name and whether you are a democrat or Republican, you cannot disagree with the thoughts Obama laid out. In his most polite but honest way, Obama is screaming for the rest of this country to wake up. These are the words he used to remind us of what is necessary to drive forward. Some additional thoughts…
And so it begins…
On the morning of the funeral, what I believe was Trump’s first tweet of the day (I’m up real early lately) he hinted that perhaps delaying the election would be necessary. This is something he has no power to do directly, but he can salt the opinions of his many sycophants to raise the mantra of election problems that could be used to drive the call for postponement; something not even done during the Civil War. Trump has condoned unmarked, federal officers in the streets, enabled them to beat and gas protestors and has escalated the level of violence and destruction (my opinion). One can only come to the conclusion that creating a combative environment will only raise the level of hostility on both sides in a space where fear, frustration and a thirst for justice is extremely high. I believe that the majority of protestors’ main intention is one of finding peace, hope and progress towards greater equal justice amidst oppression and tyranny. I wonder if Trump, a self-proclaimed expert Christian, knows this quote.
Matthew 5:38-39. You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth…but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
Do not become what we are beholding
Since coming down that escalator in Trump Tower what seems like a thousand years ago, this ‘leader’ has had many an opportunity to bring this country together. Even if a tightly woven knot of agreement could not have been achieved, the opportunity to reduce racism, economic inequality, understand and improve climate change, address endless wars, legislative reform, government corruption, immigration, globalization and automation have provided him many opportunities to shine. Instead, from his language, to his actions Trump has chosen to be truculent, ignorant, arrogant and offensive to make his points. Each opportunity to make the US and the world a better place can be argued have been made worse by his leadership. He has chosen to destroy progress, taking us back to a devolutionary place. He has poured salt on old wounds, alienated global partners, those in his own party and so many within his own country. He is vested in the past instead of even exploring the opportunities of the future. Trump sides closely with those who bestow upon him false praise and bloviate about him while the very character of those others would be questionable when compared to American values or ideals. Tyrants, liars, murderers, suppressors are their character – very fine people according to Trump.
The current president’s character has been questioned and proven soiled on every level. He is not a good person. Sexual misconduct, misogyny, cheating business practices – he is banned from having a charity because he misappropriated funds. Do I need to mention Trump University? This list can go on. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone or something like that, I get it. He only has to answer to himself and his maker. However, based on the character evidence available in the public record, he does not represent me. He is not sorry for his mistakes, past or present. He has shown no ability to even recognize his shortcomings, or transgressions which is exemplified in his inability to surround himself with those that can make him better.
He is not the root cause of all of our issues, but he is the virus, much like COVID-19, that is exacerbating all of the faults in our world. Morbidities, inequities, inconsistencies and inabilities have all brought forward this man, and his inability to lead and to truly rise to the occasion of any challenge. We do have a choice in that if we do not do what we have to do to rid ourselves of this virus and the underlying conditions which allow it to thrive, we are committed to repeat and fall into this great abyss again and again. We must come to terms with history, admit those inequities that exist and fight for their removal or we will be doomed to keep repeating them…
1865 Civil War ends
1877 Jim Crow laws (voter suppression and limitless injustice)
Race Riots / Massacres
1921 Tulsa massacre
1965 Los Angeles race riot
1967 Newark, Detroit race riot
1968 The murder of Dr. King
1980 Miami race riot
1992 Los Angeles race riot
2001 Cincinnati race riot
2014 Ferguson race riot
2015 Baltimore race riot
2016 Charlotte race riot
2017 St. Louis race riot
2019 Memphis race riot
2020 Minnesota, Atlanta, Phoenix, and a lot of other places.
This is not a comprehensive list…but when does it end?
Truth be told, I believe we are at a point of reckoning, a serious inflection point in our present that will have a significant impact on our future. Our actions today and the vote on November 3rd. are important and their impact will be profound. My only hope and prayer is that we encourage progress in the direction of hope, healing and true change.
Be in awe of the giants before us…
I loved President Obama’s eulogy for John Lewis, but he was criticized for getting political. I believe Mr. Lewis would be nothing less than appreciative with his approach. Mr. Obama pointed out what I believe are three key strategies that can lead us on the path to heal the wounds that are festering after the past four years of Mr. Trump’s leadership; strategies to dig us out of the mire of inequity, corruption, and inevitable hopelessness.
First, VOTE…we must vote every chance we can at every level of government, and we must be informed about our history as well as where we want to be and the progress we want to achieve. Getting out there is not the only responsibility we bear. Being informed and taking action to ensure the issues are addressed must be a priority. We must never allow the right to vote to be suppressed and we must insist that access is only ever expanded and never marginalized.
Second, we are blessed with the First Amendment and we must commit to use it whenever possible, necessary or required to ensure our voices are heard, recognized and responded to in an acceptable manner. That doesn’t mean our opinion will always win over others, but it has to be accounted for just like we must account for the other opinion. We must promote real solutions, speak words of hope and equality for all, above all else and drive positive change at every turn…let us truly be great, be exceptional and restore the world’s faith in our resolve.
Third, throughout all of this, we must reflect and embrace with awe, all those giants who walked before us, on whose shoulders we stand; those that knew their lives were but a vessel for the messages of hope, healing, truth and justice. We must learn about and respect those that did whatever they needed to do to promote peace, progress, harmony and respect for life.
I believe in peaceful protest, the equality of ALL people and most importantly, the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I believe in an engaged and attentive citizenry, a responsible and accountable government and most importantly, the audacity of hope that will bring us all together to continuously improve and create a more perfect union. I look forward to the next leader that can take us there. I am grateful for leaders like John Lewis and Barack Obama and countless others who show us the way and I will not be discouraged for those that lead but are lost and cannot possibly see the opportunity and a more perfect Union before them. Thanks for reading.
Photo from the Barak Obama Presidential Library website.
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You are right, you always respect and honor the opinions and free speech of others. Why shouldn’t you expect the same in return! Your talents as a writer are undeniable but what you have written in “Do not become what we are beholding” is unmatched. I’ve not read or heard it so accurately or elegantly stated. I could read it a million times over and still be in awe. Well done!
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Beautifully written, a brilliant call to awareness of what morals and ethics should be in a leader. I will certainly share this with my children. Claudio