A president who seeks to divide the country must begin early, and so it was with Donald Trump.
During his 2016 run for the presidency, he talked about a united country, but he had laid out his true objective from day one: divide the nation into MAGA hatters and everyone else.
The MAGA-hatters would comprise the exceedingly wealthy trying to protect their income; the Evangelicals hell-bent (sorry) on abrogating women’s rights and protecting fetuses until they became children; the bigots never able to accept a Black man having been president; the poorly educated/or stubbornly ignorant defenders of white privilege; and your basic garden-variety racists who for no particular reason detested Blacks, Hispanics, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, immigrants, Asians—oh hell they hated everyone but other whites. There were others in the Trump camp too—decent people who genuinely believed that Trump would drain the swamp—people who didn't realize that someone who rises from a swamp is the last person who would want to drain it. (Unlike Trump I won’t affirm there were good people on both sides. I remember those rallies—if there were good people present, their disguises were perfect.)
And then there was everyone else—about 3 million more of them.
John Lewis, the congressman and political activist who died last week, was an early victim of Trump's divisiveness. was one of the people from whom Trump bigots needed to defend their country. Of course most of them had never heard of John Lewis, but when Mr. Lewis was critical of the President for taking election help from the Russians, Mr. Divide-the-Country was quick to fire back:
John Lewis died last week after a lifetime of devotion to the cause of racial justice and a commitment to hard, often unrewarding and unrewarded work. He didn't open a casino, or sell vodka, or run a spurious college or a failing airline. He worked hard to benefit all people—Blacks because bigotry was relegating them to poorer quality lives, and whites because bigotry was poisoning them too—the toxin showing itself in groups like the KKK and the Proud Boys and the various neo-Nazi spinoffs.
No words I can write here in a short piece can even begin to enumerate John Lewis's accomplishments over the last sixty years. When we look back at the time between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the urge to call it six decades without progress is tempting. But much of the progress made—though it has been slow and halting and inconsistent—is due to the tireless work of people like Lewis, like Elijah Cummings, and before them Martin Luther King, Jr, Roy Wilkins, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, and Frederick Douglass.
Maybe an impeached president, instead of striving so hard to restore the luster of the Confederate flag and the honor of the traitors who fought under it, should turn his attention to the true heroes in America—the ones who sought to make the country better for everyone, not "great again" where "great" simply means "white" and "again" means forever."
In "Walls and Doors," Cuban songwriter Carlos Varela writes:
Ever since the world's existed
There's one thing that is certain
There are those who build walls
And those who open doors
John Lewis spent a lifetime opening doors Donald Trump kept trying to close. We already know who will end up on the wrong side of history, and even many who voted for Trump now express the need for a movement like Black Lives Matter. It's a shame that the most ardent of Trump's supporters won't figure it out until afterwards—they could have done so much good before.