[note: for those of you who follow this blog via email, this is a post that will show up best as a web page]
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Congressman John Lewis for the past year or so. He has become one of my personal moral heroes; you can find a brief history of his life here.
I mention him today because I own some of his books — a series of three graphic novels called March, which explores the civil rights movement in depth — and I want to show you a couple pages.
I suppose I “knew” this before, but it only became real to me while I was reading John Lewis’s books: the civil rights movement was made up of regular people.
College students. Grad students. Teachers, wives, singers, secretaries.
I bring this up because the work is not done.
[Alejandro Alvarez: independent journalist who has written for various outlets including Politico]
[Joe Heim: staff writer for the Washington Post]
[The Daily Progress: Charlottesville’s daily paper]
[Andy Campbell: senior reporter for Huffington Post]
[Matt McDermott: pollster, Associate Director at Whitman Insight Strategies]
[Joanna Robinson: senior writer for Vanity Fair]
Transcript [starts at 0:20]
Interviewer: What does today represent to you?
David Duke: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We’re gonna fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he’s going to take our country back, and that’s what we’re gonna do.
To be clear: the “blood and soil” chant that was being chanted yesterday and today in Charlottesville was literally lifted from Nazi ideology.
To be clear: David Duke is a white nationalist and former Imperial Wizard of the KKK.
Sometimes, working on this blog, I feel caught in the thrall of an obsession. My conversations with friends keeps inevitably swinging around to the current political landscape of the U.S.; I can hardly remember what used to occupy my free time. I check up on the news between lectures and tell myself this isn’t healthy.
This, right here, is why I can’t look away. These moments where it becomes clear to me that the political is personal, and that the choices we make as a nation matter, and that we are collectively going off the rails. Imagine what it feels like to be a black family in Charlottesville today; a Jewish family. Imagine what it feels like to be a child who lives downtown, or a non-white student getting ready to come back for their next year at UVA. Imagine this, and listen to that 20 second interview with David Duke again.
Lord, have mercy.
I was watching things unfold on UVA’s campus yesterday evening and thinking about how very close Charlottesville is to Harrisonburg, the city that I have called home for large chunks of the past 8 years. Thinking also of the almost-year I lived in Baltimore; the activists I met there, and the things I learned about racism and violence and community organizing. Thinking about what choices I would make under the threat of violence. What choices I will make. It feels to me as though we are standing at the edge of a national crisis; there’s still time to think about where you will stand when the hammer falls.
Another thing I learned from John Lewis’s books was the way that those on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement practiced. I’ll leave you with a few more pages of March [Book I] to think about.
p.s. There’s a useful resource with action ideas from Christian Peacemaker Teams that you can find here.