I’m about at the end of my several years’ rage over what the GOP has done to this country.
So let me make this brief.
On the day the worst economic data in THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY is released, this jackass, charlatan, idiot of a President, he who has successfully hijacked a once proud and effective political party, he who ignored science and God-given intellect, suggests that we should suspend the upcoming election for the first time in the long history of our great nation, because it’s “not safe” to go to the polls.
Normally, I’d be incensed. I’d be moved to violence and protest and depression. But no. Not today. Not for the likes of Donald Trump.
However, today, a mile from my house, I saw the very best side of America, that side that comes together in tough times, that unites to mourn a fallen hero. Today, the good part of this country buried my Congressman. The good part of this country put down their differences, donned masks to protect each other. The good side forgave a brother gone astray and honored him with a voice. The good side stood up in front of his adversaries and paid his respects. The good side selflessly honored each other, our culture as Americans and a truly remarkable man.
I choose the high road. I choose hope and unity over divisiveness and willful ignorance.
In the words of so many, We Shall Overcome.
I live in perhaps the most racially dynamic city in America. The birthplace and home of Martin Luther King, Jr. The economic capital of the Confederacy. A most prosperous, progressive city where race alone doesn’t seem to matter. Our state is second in the country in lynchings. It has produced such leaders as King and James Earl Carter and Sam Nunn and Ralph David Abernathy. Lester Maddox met potential customers, Black ones, at the door of his restaurant with a baseball bat. The current Georgia Governor pulled every dirty trick in the book to fend off his electoral competitor, a black woman on a mission, to secure his office.
And so today, on the occasion of US Representative John R. Lewis’ memorial, Kiesha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta’s mayor, an African-American woman with deep family roots in Atlanta, paid respects to her Congressman in the historied rotunda of the Georgia capitol.
Never mind that she, recently diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, received the remains alongside Brian Kemp, the governor who has, at every turn, shirked the hard responsibilities of leadership during this pandemic and has famously made masks optional, among other things. Never mind that Kemp called out the National Guard a couple weeks ago due to “continued violence” in Atlanta’s streets. (There was none, only idiots partying on Saturday night and questionable vandalism at the DMV). Never mind that he sued her to stop her measures to require masks and protect her fellow Atlantans.
Anyway, Kemp spoke first. He delivered a generous speech, keeping his remarks safe, acknowledging Lewis’ commitment to equality and justice and solution and bipartisanship. I give Kemp high marks, considering that just Sunday he extended the National Guard’s stay in Atlanta, siting “unrest.”
But then Kiesha spoke. She based her short remarks on Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again,” about the false promise of America, the missed potential of this country. The “what could have beens.” The particular “what could have beens” for a for an intellectual, closeted, gay, Black poet. A Negro in the era of Jim Crow. A Harlem radical more comfortable in Paris than pre-War New York City.
And the Mayor, in a most pointedly political speech, brought forward the true nature of our divisive times and squarely laid the blame for our current condition on those that govern the state and the nation. She called for change. She admonished the deception used by those in the hallowed room in which she spoke. She used Lewis’ example to insist on dogged determination, protest and resistance. Yet, she cloaked her pleas in the rich poetry of Hughes and the lush feelings of hope and reflection and aspiration the funerals of great men inspire. She did it decisively and eloquently.
I listened on the radio, in a parking lot, imagining the Governor smiling and nodding politely, his mind elsewhere.
And then, mere feet from him, she closed with this:
“…I was deeply moved when a couple of days ago, Lewis’ Chief of Staff shared with me that the Congressman was intently watching the news of Atlanta and was proud of the leadership that’s been shown.”
“And so, Governor, when the good trouble continues,” she concluded. “It is with the blessings of Congressman Lewis.”
Well done, Madame Mayor. Well done, whomever writes your speeches.
I suspect, though, that it’s you.
Such a strange, laborious, confusing Spring has given way to a hot, weary, festering Summer.
When we passed the halfway point of this treacherous year, somewhere in my depleted reserve of hope I thought, good, the hard part is over.
I guess it is. I don’t know. But Friday, my Congressman died. He died of pancreatic cancer, the same disease that took my best friend just 3 months ago.
Sometimes I wonder if I have the strength to go on. Jobs, friends, opportunities, leaders, hope and pretty much everything that’s mattered disappears. Rational thought, self preservation. Humanity. Gone. Vanished.
Yet, we still live. We still wake up in the morning. The birds sing and the grass grows and things become more simple and clear. I still get angry and I still create. I love more strongly than ever, despite this distance. Summer boils on.
Strangely, I’m OK with it all.
I looked around tonight. The sadness was palpable. The anger only slightly less so.
Peace, John Lewis. You were an icon. You never stood on your bruises or your concussions or your scars.
You stood on principle and hope and promise. And love.
But always Hope.
Thank you, Sir.