The Shadow

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

~ T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

No American could have watched the past weeks’ tributes to John Lewis and been unmoved. The man’s entire life, right up to his astonishing final words, which he wrote in the hospital knowing he was dying and told his lawyers to release four hours before his funeral, are indeed something to learn, something to absorb. Lewis was himself right to the end – standing up and pushing firmly but kindly for what he knew to be right, for his vision of a better America:

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.

[…]

The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

John Lewis understood the moment we are in. He saw not only the danger but the opportunity and the astonishing awakening of a people (us) notoriously difficult to raise from our workaday lives. “The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.” Exactly. It is not as if we aren’t aware what will make things better, what is just and right and perhaps most importantly, kind.

Tributes to Lewis flowed from every corner of the globe, including from many of Lewis’ former colleagues, all the way up to several former Presidents, including perhaps our greatest living orator/politician — and the one with most claim to be speaking at Lewis’ funeral, Barack Obama. Obama’s eulogy was everything you would expect if you heard any of the best of his speeches while he was President. It was wise and expansive and intelligent. But it was unusual in one way as well: a direct call, from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, for the elimination of the filibuster to advance the agenda that must overcome the voter suppression and other worrying tendencies in America today:

And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster — another Jim Crow relic — in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do.

I say this was unusual because the Obama of 2009 would not have considered it. Or perhaps, considered…but rejected. Not brought up. Certainly not advocated in a public speech. He is right — the filibuster has been distorted from its original intent as a means to prevent the trampling of majority rule in “the world’s most deliberative body” into nothing more than another tool of gridlock, cynicism and a way for a ruthless minority party to use the letter of the law – or in this case, the rules – to thwart progress. It is long past time for it to go, since it cannot be reformed.

How did the Democrats meet their colleague’s call to action? This week, Dems met and hammered out their 2020 platform. The document that is, yes, aspirational for the most part, but that sets the tone for their vision for the future, should they be victorious at the polls. And though it was immediately labeled by its drafters the “boldest Democratic platform in American history,” it can only be described as another in an unbroken string of limp, pale, wan party platforms that will accomplish the astonishing magic trick of leaving those who hunger for change uninspired yet somehow simultaneously manage to allow the GOP to paint it as the most recklessly liberal, anti-‘Murican spendfest in history, tantamount to full anarcho-communism. Here’s what Democrats 2020 platform didn’t contain:

  • Medicare for All (in a pandemic, no less)
  • An end to qualified immunity for cops
  • Placing of conditions on aid to Israel
  • Marijuana legalization

That, friends, is the starting point – the “aspirational” document – of the Democratic Party, in 2020, with secret police kidnapping peaceful protesters off the streets of American cities, a pandemic other countries have successfully learned to keep in check ravaging our communities, and the worst economic crisis in a hundred years.

Between the idea

And the reality

Falls the Shadow