Few people have more justification to question the legitimacy – not merely of Donald Trump’s presidency, but of our entire political system – than John Lewis. Born to sharecroppers in the violent, apartheid world of rural Alabama, he later had his head split open on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
Only six years apart in age, Lewis (76) and Trump (70) are now forever linked. Yet how different have been the trajectories of their lives. One a bullhorn bellowing from outside the ropes, looking out for himself and encouraging violence by others on others; the other a man pledged to non-violence, beaten senseless for insisting his country live up to its “self-evident” truths long denied to his people.
Until November, Lewis seemed to point the way forward for America, toward increasing inclusiveness and greater justice. Now our future seems less clear, as the man who underwrote eight years of malicious attacks on our current president’s legitimacy prepares to succeed him in office.
It’s time to accept the reality of the election and move ahead. That does not mean we must put aside our principles or give up our hopes. Rather, we must learn how to come together under a president who is intent on keeping us divided.
In this quest I take heart from something Van Jones said last month, that “Trump is much worse than anybody in this country is willing to accept, but a lot of his voters are much better.”