Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

John Lewis: Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble

Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become more important principles in public life.

I believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe that we have an obligation to condemn speech that is racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, or hateful.

You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself. 

Rioting is not a movement. It is not an act of civil disobedience. I think it is a mistake for people to consider disorganized action, mayhem, and attacks on other people and property as an extension of any kind of movement. It is not. It is simply an explosion of emotion. That’s all. There is nothing constructive about it. It is destructive.” 

Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it.

Every generation leaves behind a legacy. What that legacy will be is determined by the people of that generation. What legacy do you want to leave behind?” 

We are involved now in a serious revolution. This nation is still a place of cheap political leaders who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation. What political leader here can stand up and say, “My party is the party of principles?

— 

As citizens, we knew we had ceded some of our individual rights to society in order to live together as a community. But we did not believe this social contract included support for an immoral system. Since the people invested government with its authority, we understood that we had to obey the law. But when law became suppressive and tyrannical, when human law violated divine principles, we felt it was not only our right, but our duty to disobey. As Henry Thoreau strongly believed, to comply with an unjust system is to accept abuse. It is not the role of the citizen to follow the government down a path that violates his or her own conscience.

 
Malcolm (X) talked about the need to shift our focus from race to class, both among one another and between ourselves and the white community. He said he believed that was the root of our problems, not just in America, but all over the world. Malcolm was saying, in effect, that it is a struggle for the poor — for those who have been left out and left behind — and that it transcends race.

— 

By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of God and democracy.

 Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once. In the movement, we didn’t know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen.

Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.

— 

Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.

— 

Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet. 

Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul and embed this planet with goodness. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.


These quotations are drawn from books by John Robert Lewis: Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement; March: Book One; March: Book Two; March: Book Three.

John Robert Lewis (February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020) was an American civil rights leader and politician. He was a member of the Democratic Party, and was the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death. He was also the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. The district he served includes the northern three-fourths of Atlanta. 

Lewis, who as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington, played many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States. Later, he became a leader of the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1991 until his death as a Chief Deputy Whip and Senior Chief Deputy Whip from 2003 to his death. He received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

John Lewis is beaten by a state trooper during a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. He was an advocate of making “good trouble.”

2 comments on “John Lewis: Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble

  1. Aaron Whittington
    July 20, 2020

    Awesome piece. I think this piece touches on us looking in the mirror and owning what we see when it comes to racism & anti-semitism. We are on the cusp of real systemic change. We just have to be bold enough, real enough & honest enough to walk through the fire and change America once and for all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cigarman501
    July 19, 2020

    Great points to ponder!

    Liked by 1 person

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