Is there a point where, due to past good deeds, a politician becomes immune to criticism? Does anyone really deserve that status?
John Lewis, son of sharecroppers, became a pillar of the Civil Rights movement for, among other things, helping to organize the 1963 March on Washington. In his efforts to bring about non-violent change, he himself was the target of physical violence on several occasions. Since his election to Congress in 1986 from a safe Democrat district, however, he’s been a partisan for the party that was responsible for the violence visited upon him.
The achievements of John Lewis during the Civil Rights era are impressive; if fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a statue of the man is, one day, erected in his community. Yet, to err is human; all men err, and with his efforts to delegitimize the election of Donald Trump, Mr. Lewis has done no favor to the nation that admires him. Yet, can he be criticized without allegations of racism?
Is John Lewis, like other iconic figures like John Kennedy, now a statue of bronze, impenetrable to criticism? Of all our living politicians, he is the only one who, it appears, cannot be challenged without consequences. To me, this is patently unfair.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul agrees. He said of Lewis recently in a CNN interview:
“I have a great deal of respect for him, but he is a partisan and I disagree with him on issues. I should be able to honestly disagree with him…that’s the part I think somehow is unfair in this.”
Everyone is a partisan on one issue or another, but no one should be immune to examination of their political stance. It could be done more eloquently than Donald Trump does, certainly; but debate is healthy, and to exempt anyone from that debate is, as Paul says, unfair.
Even if John Lewis’s decision to not attend the inauguration is within his rights, it’s not the correct one. Partisan politics have infiltrated his and others’ thinking so much that he denies the American goal of peaceful transition of power. Is protesting the thought of a nation under one leader, even one you don’t agree with, so worthy a goal? He thinks so, and so do a lot of other Democrats. Mr. Lewis is putting party before country, something that is beneath him.
I commend John Lewis for his Civil Rights accomplishments, but we all have to work together to form, as the constitution states, a more perfect union. Mr. Lewis and fellow Democrats should set aside, for just a day, hard feelings about the election and bear witness to the results of a free election.
Joe Alton, MD