A man named John
Watching the television coverage of Rep. John Lewis’ return to Selma, Alabama and the bridge that helped make him an icon of the Civil Rights movement, one is struck by the idiocy of it all. People of various ages, races, and gender stood silently to honor a man that most of the viewers had never met in person. John Lewis, himself humble in life, had become larger than life and a symbol of something greater.
What would compel a person to stand in the July heat in a southern state to simply watch a flag-draped casket roll by them? What would draw millions of television viewers from around the world to tune in to watch such a spectacle? Over a half-century ago news cameras had captured a very different scene as Lewis and others marched across the same bridge to promote the cause of Civil Rights for Black Americans. At that time officials of the State tried to silence their voices with a show of force.
A man named John lifted his voice, put his body in action and continued for over fifty years to have the conversation that needed to be had; reaching the highest levels of the government. Today, the cause for which these brave marchers stood embodies more than just civil rights for black people. The rights of all Americans are on the line as hate finds a way to poison the national conversation from generation to generation. The conversation continues today in Portland and other cities and towns across America.
Not everyone can be a John Lewis and serve in a national office. However, anyone can have their eyes opened to the ways that hatred and mistrust of the “other” serve to separate Americans. Anyone can make the effort as Rep. Lewis did to “see something, say something, and do something”. By doing so, everyone can begin to cross the symbolic bridge to understanding and tolerance.
Now is a good time to begin.
Teresa R. Porter