Lena Mitchell

LENA MITCHELL

“Find a way to get in trouble. Necessary trouble.”

“John Lewis: Good Trouble” is a CNN documentary released only two weeks before his death, about the life and legacy of the civil rights hero who died July 17, and who will be laid to rest later this week.

In it the late U.S. Congressman described his lifelong mission to “get in the way” of wrongdoing, repeatedly counseling young people to get in “good trouble.”

The “good trouble” that protesters across the United States are engaging in now is what the current U.S president calls “terrorism.”

He has sent thousands of federal law enforcement officers to Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, with plans reportedly to send yet more officers to cities across the nation continuing to experience protests to end police brutality and in support of other civil rights issues.

While those officers have critically injured and used violent tactics against most often peaceful protesters, images this week of heavily armed white militias in Louisville, Kentucky showed not a single sign of any federal officers confronting them.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve a name change to the legislation to approve a new Voting Rights Act, renaming it the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Lewis was critically wounded with a skull fracture in 1965 when he led marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to press for passage of the Voting Rights Act. President Lyndon Johnson signed the act into law later that year.

Lewis led the U.S. House vote in December 2019, that passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which strengthens the 1965 law that was severely weakened by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013.

Although the legislation was immediately sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration, it has languished there for months without Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell taking it up for discussion and a vote.

His failure to bring the bill up for a vote made McConnell’s remarks Monday at Lewis’ U.S. Capitol memorial service shocking to me.

McConnell described himself as a young Capitol Hill intern when he heard Lewis, at age 23, speak at the 1963 March on Washington, the youngest person to address the crowd.

“John’s friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” McConnell said in his remarks Monday. “But that is never automatic. History only bent toward what’s right because people like John paid the price to help bend it. He paid that price at every Nashville lunch counter, where his leadership made segregation impossible to ignore. He paid it in every jail cell where he waited out hatred and oppression. He paid that price in harassment and beatings from a bus station in South Carolina to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”

My question now is whether McConnell’s admiring and laudatory words spoken about Lewis at his passing are empty ones.

Does McConnell himself now have the courage to allow the Senate body to hear arguments about passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, and allow a vote on the measure?

LENA MITCHELL is a retired Daily Journal reporter who continues to write a regular column. Contact her at lena.mitchell.dj@gmail.com.

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