Thursday, October 16, 2008

John Lewis Earned the Right to Wave a Red Flag about Mobs a Long Time Ago

John McCain acted indignant during last night's debate about U. S. Congressman John Lewis's statement that both he and Sarah Palin were "sowing the seeds of hatred and division," thus reminding him of his dangerous days as a Nashville student leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

No credible Democrat that I know of has questioned John McCain's appeals to his days as a POW in his campaign against them. In fact, Democrats both in the Obama campaign and out have bent over backwards to "honor" McCain's service.

So, why is John McCain questioning a man who not only faced Alabama's white thugs trying to burn, abandon and beat him during the Freedom Rides, but risked his life a second time returning to complete his mission (the following excerpt is from David Garrow's "Bearing the Cross," inset photo is of Lewis and Jim Zwerg after being assaulted in Montgomery):

Just outside of Anniston, Alabama, one of the two buses was attacked by a mob. As windows were broken, an incendiary device was tossed into the bus, and a fire broke out. The passengers fled, and police arrived belatedly. Meanwhile, local toughs boarded the other bus at the Anniston bus station, and seriously beat several of the riders ... the second vehicle was set upon by yet another mob when it arrived at Birmingham's bus terminal. Once again, local police were slow in appearing. Pictures of the burning bus and bloodied riders flashed around the world showing the true temper of the White South.

The next day, the riders discovered that no bus drivers were willing to take them on the rest of their trip .... John Lewis and Henry Thomas, quickly vowed that the effort would continue. They returned ... to Nashville, where other student activists ... volunteered to join them .... this new group ... set out from Nashville for Birmingham. Upon their arrival in Birmingham, Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor promptly arrested them. Three of the ten were released and late on the night of May 18, Commissioner Connor personally drove the remaining seven to the Alabama-Tennessee border and left them on the roadside. After several harrowing hours, the group found a sympathetic black resident and contacted their friends in Nashville. They wanted to continue on, and ... one of the Nashville leaders dispatched a car to take them back to Birmingham ....

The riders finally set out for Montgomery early the next morning on a Greyhound bus heavily guarded by state troopers. In Montgomery, local police were supposed to continue the protection. When the vehicle pulled into the Montgomery station, however, no officers were anywhere to be seen. As the riders left the bus, a white mob attacked them with clubs and chains .... three were beaten severely and the Justice Department representative, John Seigenthaler, was knocked unconscious. Fifteen minutes after the attack began, the first local police arrived.
I believe that John Lewis is more qualified that John McCain is to sound the civil rights alarm when he sees racial hatred and violent bigotry beginning to sprout in the McCain-Palin campaign. Rather than acting seethingly self-righteous, perhaps McCain would have been better served by expressing humility and concern that some of his followers would be right at home in a lynch mob.

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