Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis died on Friday night at the age of 80 following a six-month battle with cancer.
Lewis came to fame as a young man during the height of the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. He famously was one of the leaders of the march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, which many credit with leading to the passing of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis and many others were severely beaten by law enforcement during that march. Lewis ended up with a fractured skull.
His bravery in the face of bigotry and violence deserves the respect of all Americans. On a political level, I had many disagreements with the late Congressman. However, that doesn’t diminish the respect I have for the courage and conviction he showed during the Civil Rights movement.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “Lewis was one of 10 children of a sharecropper in Alabama when state power enforced white supremacy in the American South. He dreamed of being a preacher, but he had a political awakening over civil rights while attending American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville. He led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and in the early 1960s became the most prominent young leader of the civil-rights movement that broke Jim Crow.
White political supremacy at the time was enforced by state and local governments. Nonviolent protests built moral authority and widespread political support for the movement that triumphed in the mid-1960s with the help of federal law and enforcement authority. The fight took too long and required much sacrifice, including the cracked skull endured by Lewis as he marched across the Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965. But legal segregation and black political exclusion were defeated with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Unlike many in the mob today, conservatives have come out and lauded Lewis for his good deeds despite the many disagreements they had with him on political matters. Conservatives aren’t calling for memorials of Lewis to be removed or for his legacy to be tarnished, despite some of the negative things he said about them.
During the Tea Party movement of 2009-2010, Lewis accused the movement of being racist and claimed that he was shouted down by Tea Partiers using racist rhetoric. He never provided any evidence to back up the claim. He also called President Trump a racist and was one of the first to call for his impeachment.
And yet, despite these episodes, many conservatives—rightly—are paying respect to his courage during the 1960s and honoring his memory after his passing.
By pointing these instances out, I am not seeking to denigrate the Congressman’s legacy. In fact, I am simply trying to show that it is possible to compartmentalize the memory of a person by honoring their good deeds, forgiving their mistakes, and moving past disagreements.
The radical Left is not affording the Founders and other American heroes the same courtesy. Not that I am equating Lewis with those who owned slaves, of course. It is just a comparison—albeit probably not a fair one—to show that it is possible to honor the memory of a person for the good deeds they did in life even if they did things with which one disagrees.
John Lewis took a stand for equal justice under the law, and paid a physical and mental price for it, and for that, he deserves the thanks of Liberty-loving Americans, Right, Left, and Center.