Saturday, October 11, 2008

Are we ready to move to the next level of race relations?


John Lewis, Rep. (D-Ga.):
As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.

John Lewis has always been a hero of mine. I admire his wisdom, his work, and his perseverance during the Civil Rights movement. In my mind, he was a more important person than he gets credit for in many history books.

Though it may mean little for me to say that John McCain and Sarah Palin are stepping over a line, creating unfounded fears and provoking untruths, John Lewis lived through the climax of racial tensions, fear, and hatred. He experienced the results of fear-filled people who were provoked by strong voices in our country.

In 2008 we have come to a new turning point in our country. We are experiencing a new era that is leading us to deal with our prejudices and discrimination head on--whether it's women, African-Americans, Muslims, Mexicans, spanish-speakers, gays/lesbians, and a number of other cultural groups.

As happened in the 60s, the current culture clash is leading us to show our colors.

I have hope that, like the 60s, these confrontations will ultimately propel us on to the next level. I pray that as we work toward that next level, however, we will not have to go through the same tragedies in order for us to realize how ridiculous our fears and actions were.
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