A Tribute to the Courageous and Beautifully Spiritual John Lewis

“Walk with the winds brothers and sisters and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide”

John Lewis –

           Representative John Lewis died July 17, 2020 at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer serving more than three decades in Congress. A civil rights icon who began his life as the son of sharecroppers was by all accounts an ordinary man who because of his bravery, his acts of courage and commitment to making this world a better, more just place,  has changed this world. Almost losing his life during bloody Sunday’s march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and being on the frontlines of a bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, Lewis never gave up hope for making this country a better nation.

Lewis reminded us to answer the highest calling of one’s heart. He spent his life demonstrating that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the best way if we want to achieve that peace. What Lewis was describing are principles of political forgiveness. Political forgiveness triumphs over violence, aggression, and war. It is a healing force that unites us instead of that which divides us. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It is a healing force that helps us understand one another instead of hating one another. What John Lewis stood for was political forgiveness in action. His attitude and philosophy in life was based on love. He regarded everyone with dignity and respect. His civil rights activism and his views on nonviolence were based in restoring relationships. And his greatest dedication to his life was changing political structures from those that supported structural violence to those that reflected justice and equality. The Voting Act of 1965 reflected that. As former president Barack Obama said about Mr. Lewis, “he as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals.” Political forgiveness is one of those highest ideals.

We are a work in progress. Much healing needs to take place on all levels of society. This is where the power lies in a political forgiveness process. It addresses all levels of society in a coordinated and healing capacity. Lewis demonstrated moral courage and has asked us to do the same. Forgiveness requires moral courage. Lewis stood for unity not division, love not hatred and embraced taking responsibility to create a better society. These are some of the principles of forgiveness on a political level. Lewis never gave up and persevered against all odds. These are the qualities for us to emulate especially in a political forgiveness process.

John Lewis will be profoundly missed. Let us never forget the light that he shined upon this world. The greatest tribute we can pay to John Lewis is to keep fighting for what he stood for and in the way he led his life. He was truly a most spiritual human being.

Forgiveness And the Healing of America

Published in Real Leaders Magazine June 4, 2020

Senate Democratic Caucus Holds 8 Minutes 46 Seconds Of Silence At U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 04: Senate Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), take a knee as they participate in a moment of silence to honor George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Protests continue to be held in cities throughout the country over the death of Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

At 9:05 pm on Wednesday, June 17, 2016, the unthinkable happened. Nine people were murdered while worshiping at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. An unlikely place for a murder you may think, but an occurrence that has, unfortunately, become more commonplace, especially in light of the recent George Floyd incident.

That night in Charleston triggered protests and rioting from Missouri to Maryland. The “Black Lives Matter” movement was born, and hints emerged of a white supremacist race war in the heart of the old confederacy. Luckily, that never happened — grace and forgiveness emerged instead, led by survivors of the massacre.

Some of us may find it hard to understand how those affected could forgive anything, considering the trauma and loss they endured, but they realized how critical the engagement of this process was in healing their community. Importantly, they understood the pain went beyond them as individuals; it represented bigger, symbolic issues on a national (even global) scale.

Forgiveness helps us let go of emotional burdens, pain, and suffering. For some groups, it can even mean survival, especially for African Americans, who have survived slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, disenfranchisement, and racism. For them, forgiveness can sometimes become another survival technique. However, the act of forgiveness does not rest on African Americans alone — all Americans need to brave this process. It will be uncomfortable for everyone, but until we look at ourselves honestly, deal with our past appropriately, and change the pervasive structures of violence within our country, we will only go deeper into a dark hole.

It’s a painful process that begins with emerging from the denial of wrongdoing and correcting it no matter what the price. Many countries have already demonstrated the will to do this, through truth and reconciliation initiatives in places such as Argentina, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Rwanda, South Africa, and approximately 30 other nations.

In a country as vast as the United States, where does one begin? As a global power, with the potential to become a moral compass for the world, we have a unique opportunity to work on all levels of society — being the globally diverse country that we are.

Political forgiveness begins with renouncing the act of revenge. This should be coupled with the building of historical memory, transitional and restorative justice, and a move to exclude violence from the structures of society.

Political forgiveness does not mean impunity or forgetfulness. It creates the possibility of a future in which intolerance, violence, and repression give way to peaceful, sustainable co-existence. For us to recover from decades of pain and suffering, there is a need to help people transform their thinking so that every citizen affected can move forward and lead a more productive, peaceful, and happier life.

After political forgiveness, individual forgiveness should follow. The massacre in Charleston and the murder of George Floyd has a profound effect on communities. In the Charleston case, many found an ability to forgive the killer. Those who struggled with this idea still recognized the importance of healing the anger. This type of reaction is a step in the right direction, but deeper issues that cause these events should be examined as part of a solution.

How do we come together to address the root issues that appeared at the birth of this nation? At a community level, we need to create public spaces where everyone can be heard, considered, and understood. We need soul searching that recognizes our collective complicity and shared history. This is not about beating ourselves up, but realizing we have alternate choices that can support the healing of a nation.

If we seriously want to heal America, we need to root out harmful policies. The work of political forgiveness on a structural level is to work together to right the wrongs passed down between generations until there is true equality. The Charleston and Floyd incident demonstrates the worst of human behavior in an individual and the best of human behavior in countless strangers. This country was built on an incredible legacy, underpinned with the moral and spiritual foundations of immigrants, settlers, and indigenous peoples. We already know from history that we have this inner strength and spiritual wisdom. Let these principles guide us.

NATIONS WORKING TO RIGHT THE WRONGS
Many countries have established truth and reconciliation commissions to help reveal past wrongdoings by a government — in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past. Usually set up by states emerging from periods of internal unrest, civil war, or dictatorship, these national initiatives are important in identifying what actually happened, understanding how opposing ideologies and worldviews can cause problems, and finding closure and healing for survivors of traumatic experiences. Here are some examples.

Canada
The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a commission that investigated the human rights abuses in the Canadian Indian residential school system. It ran from June 2008 through June 2015.

Colombia
The National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation aims to help victims recover from more than 50 years of armed conflict.

Germany
Germany created a Commission of Inquiry for the Assessment of History and Consequences, which looks into crimes of the Socialist Unity Party in East Germany after unification in 1992.

Mauritius
The Truth and Justice Commission of Mauritius was an independent truth commission established in 2009, which explored the impact of slavery and indentured servitude in Mauritius.

Sierra Leone
At the end of the Sierra Leone civil war in 1999, the country created a Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission which reported that both sides had targeted civilians, including children, and called for improvements in democratic institutions and accountability.

South Africa
After the transition from apartheid, President Nelson Mandela authorized a truth commission under the leadership of former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to study the effects of apartheid in that country.

United States
The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a non-governmental body that ran from 2004-2006 to investigate deadly events in the city that took place around November 3, 1979 and came to be known as the Greensboro Massacre.

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