Posted by: Dr Churchill | July 20, 2020

John Lewis on Peaceful Resistance to Racism…

Here are some of John Lewis thoughts on Love, Forgiveness, and his seedbed of Personal Strength that was exemplified in his struggle as he worked closely with Dr Martin Luther King i the American Civil Rights movement, where they both endured unimaginable hate, frequent beatings and arrests — yet remained undaunted in their nonviolent crusade for justice and equality.

In his professional life, John Lewis was the most beloved Georgia congressman for upwards of three decades, and for that reason, President Barack Obama honored John Lewis with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, back in 2011.

James Baldwin told Margaret Mead in their historic conversation about forgiveness.: “We’ve got to be as clearheaded about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.”

This is what poet and philosopher David Whyte observed a generation later in considering the measure of maturity — an observation as astute on the scale of individuals as it is on the scale of society:

“To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.”

Yet we all know, how few of us are capable of such largess when we are deeply hurt, and when we reflexively clench our fists at the moment that we are faced with institutional racial and injustice.

And yet it is a conscious choice to unclench our fists, to unfetter our hearts and to unclasp our hands because this is not only the measure of our courage and our strength, not only the wellspring of compassion for others, but the wellspring of compassion for ourselves and for the supreme triumph of personhood.

Because as Anne Lamott wrote as she contemplated the relationship between brokenness and joy: “As we develop love, appreciation, and forgiveness for others over time — we may accidentally develop those things toward ourselves, too.”

And maybe once in a generation, (if we are lucky) along comes someone who in every aspect of their being, models for us how to do that, how to be that, and how to place love at the center.

How to place Love at the center that holds solid, as all around breaks loose, because that is the solid place that becomes the “fort” of what is unbreakable in us and the fulcrum of real change.

Among those rare, miraculous and few as changemakers go — was John Lewis (February 21, 1940–July 17, 2020), who began his life by preaching to the chickens at his parents’ farm in southern Alabama and went on to teach a community, a nation and the world, how to step up into that rare vessel of courage, through acts of resistance, when refusing to stop loving this broken, beautiful world.

Because John Lewis, through every fiber of his being — upheld that stubborn, splendid refusal to accept the tedium of institutional and endemic racism, seeing it as the sin of our fathers and as the anathema to American values that aspire to be the crucible of justice, of progress, of all that is harmonious and human as found inside all of us.

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So now, if John Lewis’s legacy is to be summed up in a succinct way, if his immense and enduring gift to the future generations is to be encapsulated into a pithy chestnut — it would be the passages from his 2012 memoir “Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change” where he says:

“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become the most important principles in public life.”

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

Indeed, a whole century after Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi that: “Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills,” in their extraordinarily personal and touching, yet forgotten correspondence, about why we hurt each other, and how to stop — here is John Lewis who spoke in the same vein of thought, as a memento, as an advise and as an exhortation to the young activists and the brave community organizers and to all freedom loving Americans…:

“Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul and embed this planet with goodness. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates.”

“Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness.”

“Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”

“Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.”

“And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.”


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