Last Thursday, Representative John Lewis’ memorial service was held in Atlanta, Georgia. Among other things, we knew Congressman Lewis for his nearly 60 years of fighting for the civil and human rights of others through non-violent protests based on the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of Lewis’ prominent acts of non-violence occurred in 1965 when he led one of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. During that march, known as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and police viciously attacked the marchers, and Lewis nearly died from a billy club blow to his head. Despite that violent attack and the other indignities Mr. Lewis endured during his lifetime of service, he never sought to demean the character of those who opposed him. John said, “I believe in forgiveness; I believe in trying to work with people.”
In the divisive climate that we face today, we could use a little bit more of John Lewis’ consciousness and a little less judgment of our fellow human beings. I say that, because I’ve noticed how readily and negatively we judge our fellows. It’s particularly prominent on today’s social media platforms, which display the depth of judgment and division in America and throughout the world. There was a post on one platform about a football player, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Laurent decided to forgo participating in the upcoming National Football League season to work at a long-care health facility. This sacrifice, from my standpoint, was a selfless and worthy goal. However, many of the comments to the post surprised me. A third of the responses noted that the player was an idiot, and that if he worked with these patients, the chances increased that he would get infected with COVID-19. Others said he was being a selfish player and did not care about his team. The commentators' statements were made despite Duvernay-Tardif clearly stating he knew the risks and felt called to be of service to those patients.
Then there is the case of two supporters of a particular politician. Both of them made very public and strong positions against wearing masks. Sadly, both of them died from complications of the Coronavirus. The irony of the situation did not escape the judgment warriors on social media, as they excoriated the deceased as if they would win some prize by doing so. But what they are not remembering is those two individuals were fellow human/spiritual beings, with family members, friends, and co-workers who loved them and now mourn their loss.
We live in highly polarized times. And it is okay to stand by the principles we believe in and challenge the ideas of others. Yet as difficult as it is (believe me, it’s hard for me as well), let us not be so quick to judge and debase the character of another. We usually have no idea what is going on inside another individual. As Congressman Lewis (a man who suffered more indignities in a lifetime than most) said, “Not one of us can rest, be happy, be at home, or be at peace with ourselves until we end hatred, [judgment] and division. We must continue to go forward as one people, as brothers and sisters.”
It’s not easy. But the achievement of high ideals seldom are.
Peace and Blessings,