Weekend Open Thread: Two Civil Rights Giants Gone in One Day

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Former Rep. John Lewis, shown young and old, proponent of the moral responsibility to make “good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Two giants of the civil rights era have died in less than a day.  One you’ve likely heard of; one you likely haven’t.

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia famously led the march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, straight into the maw of a hate-filled police force intent on what we delicately call “excessive use of force.”  He died Friday, at age 80, of pancreatic cancer.

An amazing quote by Rep. Lewis, which I’m swiping from a friend on another site, would qualify him as the patron saint (were he canonized, which is not our department here) of good folks in OC:

You must find a way to get in the way and get in trouble — good trouble, necessary trouble. … You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, when you leave here, to go out and seek justice for all.  You can do it.  You must do it.

Those words he spoke on the Edmund Pettis Bridge, before he led the march into bad trouble the bad trouble of Selma, trouble that was also very good.  It was, by the way, about voting rights, so you can’t really admire both this year’s Supreme Court and John Lewis.  Pick a side.

The other death was almost a generation older, enough so to be within the inner circle of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., rather than an acolyte.  This was the Rev. C. T. Vivian, who also died yesterday at age 95.  As the linked story describes:

In Selma and Birmingham, Ala.; St. Augustine, Fla.; Jackson, Miss.; and other segregated cities, Mr. Vivian led sit-ins at lunch counters, boycotts of businesses, and marches that continued for weeks or months, raising tensions that often led to mass arrests and harsh repression.

Televised scenes of marchers attacked by police officers and firefighters with cattle prods, snarling dogs, fire hoses and nightsticks shocked the national conscience, legitimized the civil rights movement and led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Nonviolence is the only honorable way of dealing with social change, because if we are wrong, nobody gets hurt but us,” Mr. Vivian said in an address to civil rights workers, as recounted in “At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68” (2006), by Taylor Branch. “And if we are right, more people will participate in determining their own destinies than ever before.”

C. T. Vivian

It also notes that in the same city and year where Rep. Lewis’s skull was fractured by a club on the bridge to Selma, Rev. Vivian’s was punched in face by its Sheriff, tumbling down a set of courthouse steps — after which he was immediately arrested for provoking the attack.  He was also once almost drowned by racist vigilantes while trying to integrate a segregated Florida beach — and risked his life far many more times than those two.

The Times doesn’t record what thoughts Rev. Vivian had about this year’s Black Lives Matters movement, but it reports that Rep. Lewis was gratified and enthused about it, especially the diversity of its participants and supporters.

There were giants in those days, and we’ve now lost two of them, who lived good long lives but will not themselves reach the mountaintop.  What a difference from those who, in a time of crisis, feel too inconvenienced even to wear a face mask to protect those around them.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that or whatever else you’d like, heeding (if you can) the principles of nonviolence, and getting into (if you can) some good trouble, here and beyond.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)