John Lewis wrote this tweet, which is not particularly surprising, if you've taken even five minutes to listen to him speak:
But that's not the tweet I think about sometimes. This tweet, in response, is:
Rarely do tweets stick with me, and this is definitely one to think about for a while. It's also worth explicitly stating: we should have two different emotional reactions to the John Lewis thing, one where he's just transparently lying to appear to be the person he wishes he was, and another where he's completely sincere and the Big Joel tweet is approximately historical. I'm not sure which one I would find more disturbing, but here's my homework question of the day:
When you see an injustice, it's not enough to just say, "that's wrong" and go home. When we look at the nightmare dictatorships, when we look at people cowing in fear, we have to acknowledge: you need to, at least, say that it's wrong. Police officers beating John Lewis for his civil rights protests is morally wrong. But John Lewis seems/claims to appreciate it – are we stuck between calling him a liar, or condemning him for supporting police brutality? Isn't it important that moral leaders say clearly when something is wrong, and shouldn't we turn against them when they refuse to condemn acts of brutality?
What would we say if John Lewis had that same reaction to the cop that killed Philando Castile? "Thank you for your service". How would you feel about him as a moral leader if that was his only response? Not forgiveness, not understanding, not ever feeling angry, of course, but also not feeling frustrated or upset. Only thanks.
John Lewis can forgive crimes against himself (and should be lauded for doing so, if there's any reason to think they asked or wanted forgiveness) – but his tweet is only partly about forgiveness. The other part is about the nature of service to the community. And I'm not sure we should desire John Lewis to so hastily embrace all police misconduct on all of our behalf.