This post was in my head and keeping me awake all night, so I had to get out of bed and get it out
I was just about to let the late John Lewis go, when a Facebook friend inflicted the late Congressman’s so-called “final words” on me with a post in Facebook that garnered bushels of likes and teary faces, immediately putting me into a quandary. The guy’s a lawyer, and should know better than to extol such transparent grandstanding, varnished over with dishonesty.
I almost—almost—wrote a searing rebuttal and reprimand. I didn’t, and it’s keeping me awake tonight. More on that in a moment.
First, regarding Lewis: I didn’t want to read his op-ed in the Times, knowing, as I knew Lewis’s routine well, that it would either make my head explode or make me want to blow it up. Writing such a thing itself is pure narcissism: Lewis was shuffling off this mortal coil with words designed to make those who do not know him, except by the dated accolades with which he has been celebrated by the fawning media, think he was a better man than he was, while making his detractors face being called racists if they call his piece out for what it is. This, for example, was nauseating:
In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
This is the same John Lewis who told NBC audiences the day before Martin Luther King Day and less than a week before the Inauguration that President-elect Donald J. Trump was “an illegitimate President.” In 2017, Ethics Alarms pronounced this “an unprecedented act of vicious partisanship and unethical public service.” I understated it. Lewis deliberately triggered the perpetual anti-democratic unrest that has led directly to today’s riots, toppled statues, and self-righteous hate. He isn’t the only public figure accountable for this, but he is the only one who assisted in tearing the nation apart while patting himself on the back as someone who has “done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love.”
“All,” Congressman? How about serving as an honorable example for citizens by accepting the leader chosen by our system as it has done for more than two centuries, and not deliberately encouraging an insurrection? How about that? How does creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that requires citizens and businesses to support a Marxist movement or risk being “cancelled” let freedom ring?
I had to wrestle my rebellious gorge to the ground and place my violently rolling eyes back in their sockets when I read this at the start of Lewis’ screed:
While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. …
What inspired John Lewis is pure anti-white racism and creeping totalitarianism, cloaked in human rights rhetoric. Who, at this point, believes that the demonstrations/riots/vandalism in cities across the nation, calls to abolish police departments, prisons, and merit-based standards for everything from licensing lawyers to choosing symphony orchestra programs, and petitions to fire dissenting professors and business leaders are based on a concern for “human rights” rather than a thirst for power? Lewis’ original crusade, with Martin Luther King, was about human rights, but that was before Lewis was corrupted by access to power, perks, and people treating him like saint regardless of what he said or did.
“Laid down the burdens of division”? Was Lewis on the same planet as I am? The “movement” that made him so proud has been the greatest source of division in the country since the Civil War, yes, even more than Viet Nam or the civil rights movement. Authoring his own valedictory, John Lewis decided to join the current fad of wielding Rationalization 64, “It isn’t what it is.”
To be fair, he was doing it in the course of self-sanctification that could be fairly called, “I’m not who I am.”
The nadir in Lewis’s introduction should have been his pairing Black Lives Matter with the concept of “truth.” The organization is built on lies and deals in lies, the primary one being that it opposes racism when its objective is to enact policies and societal structures based on the racist assertion that all whites are racists and the United States of America keeps its knee on the throats of minorities.
Then Lewis declared George Floyd the equivalent of Emmet Till.
George Floyd’s death had virtually nothing in common with the lynching of Emmet Till, an innocent black teen whose capitol crime was being black and daring to interact with a white woman in public, in Mississippi. To begin with, there still is no evidence whatsoever that Floyd dies because he was black, or that racism was a factor in his death. “The truth goes matching on,” Lewis says, but the claim that Floyd was the victim of racism has nothing to support it except the facts that Derek Chauvin was white, Floyd was black, and Chauvin was a police officer. The “truth” according to Black Lives Matter, and apparently John Lews, is that if any black man dies at the hands of a white police officer, it’s systemic racism at work, because as that eminent BLM member Tiffany Haddish explains—I’m sure Lewis was proud of her, too—police hunt and kill blacks.
What else? Well, Till was lynched. There haven’t been any lynchings in the U.S. in more than half a century, so the strategic decision was made to characterize Floyd’s death as lynching. Till’s murder was intentional, first degree murder by any definition. Chauvin was almost certainly guilty of negligent homicide, but he was not trying to kill Floyd, if only because doing so would mean the end of his career at very least. Unlike Till, Floyd contributed to the circumstances of his death, allegedly engaging in a crime, being stoned in public, and resisting a lawful arrest. Till’s lynching in Mississippi in 1955 characterized the culture of a large swathe of the nation during the Jim Crow, era as JohnLewis knew as well as anyone. The immediate outrage over Chauvin’s brutality occurred because such conduct was not characteristic of the United States in the 21st century. There were no legal consequences for Till’s murderers, other than the routine acquittal so many racist killers received in that period.
Other than that, however, the two cases are identical.
I’m used to John Lewis’s race-baiting, dishonest rhetoric and false pose as a unifying force in our society, though his farewell op-ed was especially flagrant. I’m annoyed at my friend for endorsing Lewis’ posturing and circulating the disgusting comparison of George Floyd and Emmett Till on social media for ignoramuses to cheer.
Facts Don’t Matter to the George Floyd Freakout mob, but my friend is a lawyer. People are supposed to be able to trust lawyers, who are, in turn, supposed to be trustworthy because of their fealty to facts.
What, however, should I do? I have written here that everyone need to be proactive on social media and elsewhere, actively opposing Big Lies, false narratives and propaganda. But I know exactly what would happen if I posted some equivalent of this post on my friend’s John Lewis thread. I would embarrass an old friend of many years who did not put this garbage on my page—he knows better than that—but his own. I would be fielding endless angry replies, mostly from Deranged Facebook users I don’t know, calling me a racist, a “Trumpster” and a Fox News acolyte. Nobody would mount an intelligent rebuttal, because there is no intelligent rebuttal.
At some point, the ethical dilemma here approaches the core reasoning of the Second Niggardly Principle: it’s unethical to upset people for no real purpose. To all those who “liked” the John Lewis op-ed, my critique would appear to be a gratuitous smear of a dead civil rights icon, and an insult to them.
Still, while I respect anyone’s decision to hold progressive views (my friend is a text-book nostalgic Sixties liberal and undoubtedly sincere), I expect smart people to avoid being ethics corrupters. Though I know calling out his post would be futile, I am not opposed to futile acts based on principle, having engaged in and suffered for, many of them in my life. Some windmills demand to be charged. Yet I can’t bring myself to alienate a friend and court abuse by pointing out sharply that the the dead civil rights icon was a toxic fraud, and his op-ed, to be blunt, was a self-serving crock. I feel, as a result, like a hypocrite, a coward, and a weenie.
And that’s why I woke up at 4:00 am to write this.
19 thoughts on “A Popeye For John Lewis And His Fans”
“Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.”
This definitely takes Hanlon’s Razor out of the mix. He describes the goals the country should strive to obtain, but his actions, and those of BLM, are blatantly antithetical to that outcome. I attribute that to malice, pure and simple.
As do I.
Early morning writing becomes you. That was good!
“I would be fielding endless angry replies, mostly from Deranged Facebook users I don’t know, calling me a racist, a ‘Trumpster’ and a Fox News acolyte. Nobody would mount an intelligent rebuttal, because there is no intelligent rebuttal.”
I think that’s my favorite line, because it’s highly indicative of how back-and-forth debate has disappeared in this country to the favor of the one-line “last word”. Now I’m getting a bit nostalgic. Remember when we used to argue with people over a topic – any topic – and, when all was said and done, each side tried to get the “last word” in there? That came at the END of the debate, when many, if not all, other avenues to agreement had been exhausted.
In today’s debate – and this almost exclusively occurs with those on the Left, though it does happen on all sides – the “last word” is the first argument. It’s been discussed here a thousand times, but that “last word” is meant to avoid the intelligent rebuttal you mention, the logical discourse, the back-and-forth debate that sharpens individuals and intellect.
A person calling me a racist because of who I support (or don’t support) and then walking away requires no intelligence on that person’s part, no research, no study into an issue or its history, and no thoughtful interrogation of a matter. It’s just “you’re a Nazi”, or “burn it down”, or “topple and toss in the river”, or “spray with paint”, even though the person has little or no idea of the context or reasoning behind their decision…many couldn’t even chronologically place the Revolution, Civil War, two World Wars, and Vietnam. Good thing he/she doesn’t have to when the immediate response is racism.
Jumping straight to the “last word” has tragic consequences.
The hell of it is: Lewis was a dishonest, manipulative and divisive hack. And Ethics Alarms is one of the few places where I can actually get away with saying that online. Posting that sentiment elsewhere just plain isn’t worth the trouble.
This is almost an ethics zugswang situation… but at this point, the only ethical thing I can see with regard to November is to vote for a self-aggrandizing carnival barker with a flat learning curve and no governor on his motor.
There is no chance that my current state of residence will send its electoral votes to anyone but Biden – but in this case, a decisive popular vote majority coupled with a good EV result for Trump (Dear God – am I actually writing this?) is the only firewall to this nonsense that I can see.
Other than some southern redneck types I know, the vast majority of my conservative friends have largely stopped posting on political topics. This has turned my facebook feed is a nearly-continual compost pile of progressive dudgeon. Once in a while, I still challenge particularly egregious stuff, but most of the time I sit there, grit my teeth, shake my head at the necessity of voting for Trump this time around, and pray that there’s a metric shit ton of other rational thinkers out there who are quietly and similarly saying… “Enough. Enough, already.”
“…a metric shit ton…” Thanks, Arthur, I am so going to re-use that. Avid hunter, reader, and user of such phrases that I am, that was nonetheless a fresh jolt that had me reflexively laughing and cheering with my arm raised high and pumping my fist, like studio fans of the old Arsenio Hall Show used to do.
Be my guest. I stole it, too.
What to me becomes more and more clear is that this cannot end well. And what this means — why it won’t end well — is because the beginning was never correct. I assume people who read here will have gotten tired of hearing the *causation* argument but it is unavoidable. If my understanding is correct, and if I have identified a significant and relevant line of causation, most of what is happening today is a causal progression from the Civil War events. That is, a war, an invasion, and the forced ‘reconstruction’ of the Southern section. Whenever these interventions occur — and I often think of recent invasions and occupations which do so much harm and unleash endless causal calamities, and never achieve what they are intended and stated to achieve — the results are bad. Though it is possible to imagine a forced change of government that does result in a better governing system, this did not happen in the American Civil War. The war provoked extraordinary resentment, hatred and resistance. I suppose this will happen whenever an invading army occupies and tries to force its will. It is *natural* I guess that the victim of that find ways to resist and oppose.
All of this, in subtle and sometimes blatant ways, still operates. There was a war, which is the most brutal form of political imposition. The war still continues. Or I guess there are myriad and varies lines of war-conflict. The North still fights an ideological and psychic war against the South. It might be suspect evidence but watch any number of scenes from the film Mississippi Burning. What stood out for me in that film was how ‘righteousness’ found a way to justify itself by becoming terrorizing. That was the *core message*. It was a participatory drama, as perhaps most are, but I had the strong sense that the watcher, the observer, was pulled into a vicarious enactment of justifiable rage against injustice. It is all *story* though. In other words it really does not matter what the truth is or was, that is made irrelevant by the constructed narrative that now operates in people’s consciousness. It is interpretation certainly, but one that is weaponized to fulfill definite functions in the present, in our present.
Thus one has to speak about dual lines of facts and the dual lines of meaning when one examines the words (encased meanings) of a man like John Lewis. It is impossible to assert that there is not a truthful ‘justice narrative’ in the civil rights movement. Yet at the same time — and this is ‘human, all too human’ — there is another narrative line, or various narratives lines. Revenge, getting even, punishing, but to see one’s enemy, the one who did the harm, to see that one suffer as one had suffered. This ‘ressentiment’ operates at a level under consciousness.
“In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
This is a violently absurd statement in a larger meta-political sense as it pertains to the US. It also seems to me absurd to propose or imagine that violence is not a primary force in so many ways in American culture. It is however entirely possible to understand MLKs non-violent method and his discipleship, as it were, from Tolstoy and Gandhi, yet it is ridiculous and an act of *non-seeing* or deliberate mis-seeing not to understand the existence and function of violence certainly in the ways that American Blacks have asserted themselves in the Postwar era. It is as I see it a mounting violence. It grows, not decreases. And I would not discount or minimize certain forms of opposing violence either.
But every important juncture and every *advance* of American history developed out of violence, certainly the Revolution and certainly the ACW. The imposition on the defeated South was a form of violence. And the violence exerted in war translated itself into other types of violence. And that violence was met with corresponding counter-violence (which is one of the ways I interpret the KKK).
Now, at least it seems possible to suggest, things unravel. Michael, on another thread, mentioned ‘healing’. A very common term in today’s speeches and saccharine rhetoric! In itself it is a sick term. Its usage is sick and evidence of a sickness. Where is this *healing*? What it means is not healing as conventionally understood but the glossing over, the submersion, of whatever *reality* produces the sick manifestation.
This is why I suggested investigating, philosophically, the notion of healing. Healing could well be unraveling. Healing could be political and social separation. Healing might take place when an entire group of Postwar ‘liberal’ choices and impositions unravel and break apart. You see? Just a few really easy questions upsets the entire force of the ‘healing’ narrative. This is of course why I challenge (what I understand to be) Jack’s *romanticism*. If Trump is reelected — and Heaven only knows what lies in store over the next 100 days — there will not be peace, there will definitely not be ‘healing’, and there will not be ‘unity’. I do not deny romanticism’s power — it infuses every category of modernity (if one agrees with Isaiah Berlin) — but whole ranges of liberal assumptions and liberal idealism are being significantly challenged.
In any case, it is in these areas that my thinking is going. The larger sense. What this means. What will happen next. Where all this goes. It is not at all clear.
This is a pearl of great wisdom, truly worthy of an ethics blog.
I have little to say about Lewis, except to note that I have always loathed him for all kinds of very good reasons, not the least of which were his vicious partisanship, his intellectual vapidity, and his embarrassing, antebellum racism. Despite the fact of his participation in several seminal moments in American history of great worth, none of them were in any significant part due to him.
Participation in seminal moments is not a validation of bona fides,, even marching with Dr. Martin Luther King. While the fact doing so took substantial courage, given the times, courage does not a statesman or even a good person make. There have been many courageous racists, despots, and even madmen. In isolation, it is not particularly noteworthy as a virtue.
For a fact, we extend this undeserved validation to a lot of people (mere members of the Greatest Generation, space program participants, pop stars, celebrities, athletes, and recently health care workers). But Lewis had decades in the public eye to prove his unworthiness beyond reasonable doubt, and took great advantage of that opportunity.
However, saying something like this, or what you wrote, into the Facebook swamp makes no real sense. You cannot bring the light of truth or reason into the darkness of reflexive, “woke” emotionalism, and no matter how much we would like it to be otherwise, emotion will always trump reason in most people. We were made that way as a survival mechanism, and the millennia it has taken humankind to supplant emotion with reason in decision making has been filled with “one step forward, two steps back” fits and starts. Right now in history we are deep into a second step backward.
All this notwithstanding, I understand why this self-cannonizaton would bother you. For me, it barely moved the needle, as a needle already on the peg is unlikely to be affected by more current into the meter. It was extremely ethical of you to avoid inflaming the immovable objects on Facebook, as even irresistible logic is futile against such calcified cerebra.
Even if your Facebook friends privately agreed with you, they dare not do so on Facebook, and putting a potential career ender out there where a “like” might get one canceled is something we should all think about, especially when it comes to our friends and family.
Wise words, Glenn. Wish I’d read them before the episode below. But in that case, I should have dumped my former friend years ago, as Mrs. OB urged from the first time she met the guy.
I can’t tell you how many times I have regretted not listening to my wife. 🙂
” …even irresistible logic is futile against [Facebook leftists’] calcified cerebra.”
I am going to re-use that, too, just like Arthur in Maine’s “metric shit ton” (from his comment above).
Recently, I had the temerity to suggest that federal agents in Portland only needed probable cause and not warrants to arrest suspects and wonder what the reaction of “protestors” would be if Trump were to win re-election on a grade school and high school buddy’s Facebook page in response to his post that Portland was the beginning of Trump’s fascist take-over of the country. I was gleefully demeaned (to put it mildly) by him and a high school classmate of both of ours. The latter guy was one of my closest friends in high school and we’ve remained close, entirely due to my efforts. He finally pushed me over the edge. He’s dead to me.
I think another gloss can be applied to John Lewis’s (I almost wrote Elijah Cummings) words. I’m not sure he’s so much anti-white as he is anti- any party that’s not the Democratic party. The only thing Lewis and BLM and all these insufferable lefties on Facebook want is one party rule. The only thing standing between them and Nirvana is the constitution and two party government, which are embodied in the Republican party. They’re not against all white people, just the ones that aren’t lefty, woke Democrats. Try reading his final words as follows:
“You lefty Democrats filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society by neutering the opposition, the great Satan, the Republican party and its followers. Millions of people who are lefty Democrats motivated simply by human compassion, which would be better described as the desire to rule properly without the pesky obstruction of the Republican party laid down the burdens of division caused by having to deal with the Republican party and its followers, all of who REFUSE to agree with us lefty Democrats about everything. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality and joined together as lefty Democrats to demand of the Republicans and their followers that they show respect for human dignity by simply going away.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on, that truth being that we will brook no opposition to establishing the Democratic party as the sole arbiter of all things in the United States.”
If I knew I was about to die, I think Inwould be making sure to get right with God and apologizing to anyone I may have wronged, publicly or privately. Typically public statements like this are awash with humility and grace for that reason. Check out any statement by Alex Trebek since his diagnosis, for example. People tend to start being honest about their own vulnerability when they’re near death.
I don’t care to criticize John Lewis’ statement; I just don’t understand it. It comes across as if he’s making his own case for sainthood, by appealing directly to the masses and papering over any imperfections he might have had. This is what one might do if he doesn’t actually believe there is any all-knowing Judge awaiting, other than the court of public opinion. (But I wouldn’t presume to question his personal faith.) It looks for all the world as if he’s giving his last breath and leveraging his own demise for the advancement of the Democratic Party, even to the point of repeating lies that advance the party right up until one’s dying breath. The party demands total devotion.
Or, it could be that he started to believe his own press releases. He wouldn’t be the first.
“The party demands total devotion.”
That’s my take, Isaac. And part of that devotion requires insisting on the destruction of the opposition. All opposition. Particularly the Republican party and the brazen fools who run it or dare to vote for it. Obliteration is required.
I can’t imagine keeping up that kind of loyalty while staring at the pearly gates. I wonder if he has kids who he expects to be well provided for with easy jobs in government and media.
Wonderful post, Jack. As you could clearly see in my recent comments, my Popeye “Enough!” Moment about the late John Lewis came at latest a few days ago. Here we go again…
JEEEEEZUS!!! Yet more John Lewis-deification defecation-orgies.
Well, I wrote some lyrics about Lewis, to the tune of “God Bless America.” But I”ll hold off sharing for now. Must sleep.
Lewis was known in Georgia, for anyone who bothered to pay attention, as a “safe-seat” congressman who did virtually nothing useful in that capacity but vote democrat (if one considers that useful). Even now, the most fawning tributes (SUCH AS THIS ), while listing various awards and honors, don’t seem to contain a single citation of a legislative accomplishment attributable to his 30+ years in Congress.