The Canonization of John Lewis

The extravagant tributes conferred by the conservative establishment on the onetime civil rights leader and longtime Atlanta Democratic congressman John Lewis are as ineffectual as they are utterly tasteless.

Lewis’s moments of fame came when he accompanied Martin Luther King, Jr., on his March on Washington in 1963, demonstrating for what became the Voting Rights Act. They then fatefully crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, leading to a clash with police in which Lewis sustained serious injuries to his head. Whether or not one approves of the Voting Rights Act, no one should question that the black protesters were treated brutally and that what happened to Lewis was inexcusable.

His Truth Is Marching ... Meacham, Jon Buy New $32.00 (as of 05:16 EDT - Details) Lewis later made a career out of this inexcusable treatment on Bloody Sunday, holding a congressional seat in Georgia’s overwhelmingly black 5th District from 1987 until his death. The media, including—or especially—Fox News, presented Lewis as an exemplary “man of principle.” I heard this phrase so often from authorized conservatives that after a while I came to think of it as a form of doxology. One editorialist at the neoconservative Boston Herald balked at the idea of renaming the Pettus Bridge in Selma, which still bears the name of a “racist” Confederate commander, for the deceased Lewis. Although this gesture, it has been suggested, might help morale what with the town’s sagging economy, the editorialist complains that renaming the bridge might not be enough. More grandiose ways must be devised to honor the civil rights leader.

This genuflecting from the right comes despite the fact that is impossible think of anything Lewis did in Congress that would please a non-leftist. He played the race card against Republicans and attacked Trump with extraordinary ferocity as a “racist,” particularly in a widely noted speech on July 17, 2019. Lewis also refused to go to Trump’s inauguration and worked tirelessly to get him impeached. Although Trump never hesitated to fire back, it was clear that he was going after someone who loathed him profoundly and who thought he was a dangerous white racist. The Vanishing Traditio... Buy New $22.95 (as of 10:15 EST - Details)

Lewis also railed against the Confederate Battle Flag almost as obsessively as National Review Editor Rich Lowry and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-N.C.)—as a hate symbol that should never be publicly displayed. Curiously, Lewis and King had once considered that battle flag as a symbol for the black civil rights movement. Lewis also became an enthusiastic backer of the LGBT cause, although his venerated mentor Martin Luther King had expressed views on homosexuality that would nowadays cause him to be canceled, even by Conservatism Inc. Apparently, principles change even for the impeccably principled, but not so for Lewis’s righteous indignation, which continued to erupt.

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