Talk Back

Talk Back: John Lewis is A Legend

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Strange things start to happen around election time. What do I mean by strange? Well, I mean that only around election time would an iconic, world famous, lifelong pacifist and congressman, come out swinging against a presidential candidate in his own party.*

Now, I don’t know about you, but I was rather surprised to see Congressman John Lewis attack Senator Bernie Sanders’ record on civil rights.

A couple of weeks ago, Congressman Lewis said of Senator Sanders’ alleged involvement with the 1960s Civil Rights struggle, “I never saw him. I never met him.”

To be abundantly clear, I have no dog in this fight between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but even still, “wow” right?

I mean, I’ve heard enough people fudge the truth in my lifetime to know how the game generally goes. People lie. And people will also embellish the details of a story in order to portray themselves in a more favorable light. It is one thing for someone to privately think, “OK. Perhaps ‘so and so’ is embellishing the truth about something, but I’m not going to inject myself into it. I’ll let it go,” but to publicly question someone’s honesty, that’s pretty audacious. And to accuse someone of lying in politics—a profession where credibility and trustworthiness are everything—that’s the equivalent of going for someone’s jugular.

To see someone as dignified as John Lewis get into that sort of mudslinging just struck me as strange. Now since that time, Congressman Lewis decided to modify his remarks. The congressman said he was easing up on Senator Sander’s record “in the interest of unity.” And it may very well be that Congressman Lewis backed off of Bernie Sanders for unity’s sake. It could also be though, that Congressman Lewis eased up because he doesn’t want people to wonder where the Democratic presidential candidate he’s endorsing, Secretary Hillary Clinton, was during the Civil Rights Movement.

So, where exactly was Secretary Clinton you ask?

Well, a thorough read of her autobiography, Living History, or a quick Google search for that matter, will reveal that in 1964—in the midst of civil rights battles all across the country—Hillary was actively campaigning for Barry Goldwater, an Arizona Republican who famously voted against the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. In fact, in her autobiography, Secretary Clinton said she was drawn to Goldwater “because he was a rugged individualist who swam against the political tide.” She also spent time as a DC intern for Republican President Gerald Ford and worked on the presidential campaign of Nelson Rockefeller.

Those credentials don’t exactly read like the resume of a bleeding liberal do they?

Now, I’m not bringing those facts up to disparage Secretary Clinton, nor do I bring them up to support Senator Sanders. My point is that half a century ago is a very long time. That’s still decades before I was born (just in case you needed a different perspective). What have you done for me lately? Sure, you were out there marching in the 60s (which Sanders was, btw), but are you still down?

Just because someone marched for civil rights 50 years ago doesn’t mean he’s still on the pulse of those issues today. He could find himself very comfortably nestled in the arms of the establishment in 2016. People grow older, have more to lose and find fighting for a cause to be less important that living a comfortable life. And you know what? That’s fine because in the end we all have to do what feels right for us.

On the other hand, someone could have had no interest in social causes half a century ago and somehow, somewhere along the way, had some sort of awakening and have been on the front lines of civil rights issues ever since. Life happens that way, too.

For those reasons, it would be silly to ask us to accept what someone did 50 years ago as proof that they are in fact a friend to the community today. Heck, even an ideal past track record is no guarantee of future loyalty, especially in politics. That said, the smarter thing to do would be to evaluate the entirety of someone’s work over the past several decades and weigh that against the feasibility of what they’re proposing to do going forward, and make a determination of real community loyalty based upon those things.

Yep, that makes a whole heck of a lot more sense to me.

*Senator Sanders is a registered Independent, running for President as a Democrat

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