Rep. John Lewis spent his career in Congress "fighting against the tendency of this country to revert back to its worst habits." The GOP spends their careers gutting the Voting Rights Act.
July 19, 2020

Joy Reid spent one of her last weekend shows memorializing Rep. John Lewis by speaking to those who knew him, studied him, learned from him, and revered him. All of her guests spoke to different aspects of his greatness, kindness, brilliance, and leadership, but when Reid spoke to Jelani Cobb of New Yorker magazine, she brought up the very subversive nature of his simply having grown old.

REID: I was watching yesterday, "I Am Not Your Negro," the James Baldwin-based documentary, and it talked about these martyred men, you know, Malcolm, Martin and Medgar Evers, and the fact they never got to be old. The thing about a John Lewis or a C.T. Vivian is they actually got to mature into senior citizens and in a way, that is almost the most subversive thing they did, which was to survive and to live to old age. And so in a way, I don't know if that strikes you the same way. I'm so sad that he is gone. You know, that Elijah Cummings is gone, but these are young civil rights leaders who actually got to age.

COBB: Yeah. And I would add Reverend Joseph Lowery to that group as well. And so I think it's a very different burden, you know, for people who were working in Reverend's — excuse me, Ambassador Young talked about how they made light of the possibility of death and that was, you know, a profound burden for them to have to bear at that point in their lives. But it's a very different burden to have to do the grinding work of fighting against the tendency of this country to revert back to its worst habits year after year after year after decade after decade for the entirety of your life. And I think, to your earlier question, I think that's what makes it so obscene. You know, one of the worst disrespects is for your enemies to praise you. And so for people who have gutted the Voting Rights Act, who have overseen the re-orchestration of a regime in which African-Americans have disproportionate difficulty in registering their voices within the democracy, for those people to have the temerity to praise John Lewis is just unconscionable.

It's one thing to be a young person, laughing in the face of death. It's quite another to stay hopeful, peaceful, even, in the face of a nation who, as Cobb so incisively states, seems determined to walk back every step towards progress and equality for our Black and brown citizens. For decades Rep. Lewis remained so in the face of his colleagues, who were determined to destroy all he had achieved in the past, and hoped to achieve in the future.

How are we going to honor him in November, and beyond?

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