On the eve of this day when we honor a man I believe was one of the greatest people of modern times, I was appalled when I saw news coverage of a sitting U.S. Representative saying “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president”. This statement came from John Lewis, the Representative from Georgia’s 5th District [which includes the Atlanta area], on NBC’s Meet The Press program.
Note. … I am nearing completion of my regular weekly post, and will publish it on the usual mid-week schedule. I simply could not let this deplorable situation pass, however, without at least expressing my very negative view of it.
I know what a Civil Rights icon Congressman Lewis is, and I know that if I were a better-known commentator I’d be excoriated in the media as a racist for saying this, but this man has greatly reduced his own stature in my eyes. Clear proof that Lewis’ remark was pure politics is the fact that he took the opposite position last year when taking issue with people speaking disparagingly of President Obama — “Even if Obama’s critics don’t like him as a person, they should at least respect the position” [2016 interview on CNBC].
I grew up in the Deep South [Louisiana], and my preteen through high school years were in the late 1950s to early 1960s. That piece of information would cause many people who don’t know me to think that I’m just another white man putting down on a black man. Although the times, and to a considerable extent the region, of my upbringing exposed me to the racial divide that existed in those days, my upbringing was one that rose above all that and caused me to be just as appalled over racist activities as anybody from the North or the Midwest could possibly have been. My father was a school superintendent, and by his words, his demeanor and his actions, he was responsible for all schools in the parish, not just the white schools. In the excellent home environment that he and my mother provided, I developed an attitude of respect for people regardless of their race.
I say that simply to say that my repudiation of Congressman Lewis’ remark has absolutely nothing to do with his race. In fact, he and many other [certainly not all] black people in leadership roles these days are responsible for what, in many ways, is a worse racial divide than the one of my formative years. But maybe this scenario can end up being constructive. One way that outcome could come about would be for a considerable number of black leaders to take the high road and put their country above their politics and their sour grapes and let this inauguration be what it is supposed to be — a celebration of the peaceful transfer of power that is a bedrock of our country’s system of government [interestingly, that’s the way Democrats described this week when they were confident last November of a Clinton victory].
So in the spirit of what our country has been and hopefully has not completely lost, and in remembrance of the great man we honor today and the hope that those of his ilk will prevail over those of Representative Lewis’ ilk, let me close by saying that I hope everybody reading this has had a happy Martin Luther King Day.
Charles M. Jones