There has been a good bit of discussion of Congressman John Lewis’s interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News in which he said that he didn’t believe that Donald Trump is legitimately the President of the United States. Lewis stated that this is because the Russians and other parties conspired to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and to elect Mr. Trump. There has also been a great deal of comment about President-Elect Trump and his Tweets regarding Congressman Lewis. There is plenty of room for discussion about the ways in which each of these men do and do not understand each other and the people who support them and with whom each of them most identify.
However, two events on the calendar make this exchange more poignant and different than it would otherwise be. One reality of the calendar is that Monday, January 16 is Martin Luther King Day. African American groups and associations can readily rally around the ideas expressed by Congressman Lewis, as can others — such as the Democrats already using his words in their fundraising programs. MLK Day is when I am typing this post. Race is highly relevant to all these discussions, but it is not entirely clear how it is relevant. President Obama of course is of different racial connections than President-Elect Trump. Most Americans have noticed this. But how all this relates to Civil Rights history is less clear. Trump wants to make a new case to racial minorities– especially Blacks in the inner cities. Lewis does not represent a poor inner city district, but Trump may have believed that he did. That’s suggested by a Trump Tweet.
The other big day is on the twentieth of this month. That is the day on which Donald J. Trump is supposed to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Lewis and at least twelve other members of Congress have said that they will not attend. I have hopes of watching most of the Day’s events on television as usual. Lewis does not seem aware of how messy many elections in our history have been. But more likely he simply believes he must rally certain forces in the country. The Russian hacking is mostly an excuse, I think. A better excuse than many its our history.
The new administration comes in at a time when I find myself uniquely alienated, despite an alienated life. My life is largely spent in ways that I own to which have left me deeply and broadly aware of how entirely devoid of success a life can be and yet remain the life one chose. Both Lewis and Trump are largely successful. Both are committed to the lives and paths which they have lived and blazed. Less alienated Americans will feel the divide between them more intensely. The empathy of millions will, for a while, center around one or the other.
Today is also the birthday of Ernest Gaines the prominent African American writer associated with my alma mater. I have read a good number of his novels and short stories and attended his lectures in the distant past. He also plays some role in shaping how I see this time.
But I am mostly preoccupied with concerns not much discussed nationally. I am going to be watching the next state in our affairs for any shadow of relevant hope. I will not expect much more.