In One Week, Two Very Different Views of America

Which One Do You Think is Worthy? Which Path Shall We Choose?


Our World is a Lesser Place Today

Much has been said about the passing of John Lewis. Much should be said. I come from a background wherein the word hero is used sparingly. I know a lot of people I like or admire. Those I call heroes could be counted by hand, with some fingers left over. John Lewis makes that count. He was among the best of us, and he constantly called out for the best within us. We are diminished by his loss.

To say that he lived his values, all of them, for all of his life, would be an understatement. To say that he was an inspiration is wholly inadequate. Two things stood out to me in thinking about Lewis. One, this was a man of courage and vision. Courage because he knew, especially in early days, that the choices he was making could cost him his life. He went forward knowing that, not because he was a fatalist, but because he thought what was at stake was that important. He was, of course, right.

Two, he was an unshakeable optimist. He persevered so tenaciously, kept at it so persistently, because he believed this country had it in itself to be what it promised. John Lewis thought our better angels would triumph. It was just going to take some time and some sacrifice.  That Lewis never gave up, never let despair capture his heart is nothing short of remarkable. Goodness knows, he had ample evidence that we were never going to get it right. But he believed that we could do it. In spite of the world he grew up in and the test by fire he faced as a leader in the civil rights movement.

Can We Follow His Example?

We probably did not deserve a leader with the grace and wisdom of John Lewis. But we got him anyway. As we go through this election year, as we – finally – begin serious discussions about race in America,

let’s keep Lewis in mind. Let’s not waste the example he set in both heart and mind. It would be wonderful someday to cross his path again and to be able to say, “We listened, John. We heard you and we finished the work you started. Thank you.”

The 21st Century seems a bit late to declare someone a Founding Father, but if we do become the nation we aspire to, it will be in part because John Lewis led the way. He could be a founding father of the America we wanted all along. We have lost a giant among us.

The Lincoln Project has offered up a good video in tribute:

And Then There Was Portland

 What is going on in Portland OR as this is being written should enrage, worry, and frighten every American. We let this stand at our eternal peril.

Before going any further, allow me to point out that it is my perspective that protest has a checkered history at best in Portland, and has for many years. There is a strong anarchist element resident there, and others not especially interested in peaceful progress. Destruction and over reaction by government is exactly what they want.

But the deployment of secret police by the Trump administration is so wrong, on so many levels. Neither state nor local government wanted nor asked for “help.” The deployment of heavily armed forces to road through a city and pick up citizens at will is as Unamerican as it gets. No one has any idea who these forces are, although good journalism is beginning to piece together the make-up of this aberrant force.

An Ugly New Reality

People are being “arrested” with no valid reason and upon release, have had no charges filed, and no record of any such “arrest.” That seems to meet the definition of kidnapping.  One the one hand, there is a bit of good news in all this. It seems the awful incident of misuse of force in Lafayette Square a few weeks ago convinced the Trump administration that they cannot call on the armed forces for this kind of misadventure. The odds are now high that leaders and troops would refuse the orders.

Enter Bill Barr’s secret police. That is the other lesson of the DC escapade. They did a test run of this anonymous force and decided they could get away with it. You can bet that without major pushback we will see this again. Perhaps in an effort to skew an election. Certainly, to generate film footage to feed the base. Josef Goebbels would be proud.

What to Do?

It would be hard to overstate how dangerous this kind of deployment is. Local officials have gone to court, which is a good first step. But in the meantime, Congress needs loud and public hearings (cancel the damn recess), now. Communities all over the country need to go on record that such deployments are not welcome and will not be supported in any way in their communities.

More importantly, in communities wherein this kind of thing happens (and there will be more), citizens need to turn out en masse to peacefully surround the occupying force. Immobilize them, and ensure the word is received that this will not stand in our home. We will not tolerate this.

Is such a course dangerous? Yes. Would people be putting themselves at personal, physical and legal risk? Yes. It is that important to stop this cold in its tracks. If it comes to your community and you are afraid, I know what might help.

Just imagine John Lewis is standing next to you as you march to the line of confrontation. John has been here before. He will help show you the way.

105 days until Election Day. 184 Days until Inaugural Day. May we find the wisdom and the courage we need to get us through to these two benchmarks.

Thank you, John. We will take it from here.

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason

Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here. If you wish to share COMMENTS anonymously, make the last word in your comment “PRIVATE.” I will assure your privacy via anonymity.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts ( Let’s grow our circle.


1 reply to In One Week, Two Very Different Views of America

  1. In July of 1945—just a month before the Pacific war ended— my dad was a Naval aviator serving as flight deck commander on the Bonhomme Richard. After waving off a damaged airplane preparing for landing, he got all his men out of the way and then tried to guide the pilot safely on board. The plane staggered onto the ship, snapped the wire and skidded down the length of the flight deck. Dad was severely injured and ended up losing both legs. I remember as a teenager being part of a conversation with dad and a former shipmate. Addressing me, the fellow aviator said, “young Bill, your father was a true hero.”

    Dad immediately responded by saying (as reconstructed from my ancient memory), “No, I was not a ‘hero’. A hero is not some who, in the heat of battle, performs bravely one time in a life-threatening emergency. A hero is someone who consistently performs bravely in the face of death or severe injury yet keeps coming back for more and more. To be a called a hero takes a lifetime of giving of oneself.”

    So, like you, I come from a “background wherein the word hero is used sparingly.” And, by any measurement, John Lewis fits the mold. His courage to follow the vision of a more just and equitable nation, his integrity and grace under fire, and his lifetime of being consistently true to the cause, is a model that all of us should aspire to.

Your Turn to Comment