A Memoir: Selma to Montgomery

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Former seminary classmate Jim Haugh wrote this response to “John Lewis: ‘What did you do?'” published with his permission by Views from the Edge earlier this morning.

1965

I took the Illinois Central train from Chicago to Montgomery.

Photo of postage stamp honoring The National Guard of the U.S.

I remember the three Army National Guard Officers with bayonets fixed and their pointy ends against my sternum.

I remember Jerry’s admonition. “If you find yourself in trouble and go to a high steeple church expecting help, You Will Be Killed.”

I remember speaking at Lawndale Presbyterian (Clarence Lennon, Pastor) after returning to Chicago. I said something to the effect “the parable of the Good Samaritan to the Alabama Black is a myth. The victims got out of the ditch and picked each other up.” An ancient woman approached me after the service. “I hated you until this morning.”

2020

I have a friend in Norfolk who took her children to Selma in 2015 when Obama and John Lewis spoke. The KKK was leafleting the city.

We now live adjacent to the City of Baltimore. 500,000 people have fled from its peak. Segregation ordinance of 1910, redlining (still) Brown vs Board of Education 1954, White Flight.

Of the 150 public schools 12 have water students can drink. 138 schools have lead pipes.

Republican Governor Larry Hogan says a program supported by the Kirwan Commission will bankrupt the state. 35% of the students who graduate cannot read at the 4th grade level. One-third of that number are incarcerated in Maryland Prisons.

The struggle against Structural Racism continues. The struggle has just begun. Even though the Constitution of Maryland requires funding for every school district in accordance with the needs of the students.

Best,
Jim

Gordon C. Stewart, Views from the Edge, Chaska, MN, Feb. 22, 2020.

P. S. “When we pray, we move our feet.”

John Lewis — “what did you do?”

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MARTIN LUTHER KING AND JOHN LEWIS

Photo of John Lewis (1964)

Behind every Moses is an Aaron. John Lewis was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Aaron. If Dr. King was the face and voice of the civil rights movement, John Lewis was, and still is, its soul.

PANCREATIC CANCER AND A MEMORY OF SELMA

News of his Stage IV pancreatic cancer was a sad day that calls for national reflection, thanksgiving for his witness, and prayers of intercession that “his suffering be minor and his transition easy.”

Pancreatic cancer is no stranger to the seven old seminary friends who gather annually for friendship and study. Steve Shoemaker and Wayne Boulton pancreatic cancer diagnosis preceded John Lewis. We are down to four and counting, but the memories of walking from Selma to Montgomery in March,1965 did not pass with Steve and Wayne; they are alive and fresh among the busload of seminary students who rode the bus from Chicago to Selma, AL to walk with Moses (Martin Luther King Jr) and Aaron (John Lewis) across the Pettus Bridge to Montgomery.

CANCER, CALENDARS, AND CLOCKS

John Lewis knows that some cancers metastasize. America’s “original sin,” i.e., deep-rooted and omnipresent, never quite goes away. It may appear to be in remission. It may hide awhile, but it is always there.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?”

Day after day — hour by hour, now — the calendar and clock are turned back against the dream. But there is different calendar and clock beyond the control of white nationalism. Until his last breath, John Lewis will bear witness to a better life on the other side of America’s original sin. It falls to all of us afflicted to walk across the bridge Pettus Bridge with confession resistance, and joyful hymns of praise.

BE THOU OUR GUARD WHILE TROUBLES LAST

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
Return, ye sons of men:
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

— Isaac Watts

What did you do?” – Congressman John Lewis. “Come on, now. We can do better than this!” – Congressman Elijah Cummings (RIP), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Gordon C. Stewart, Feb. 22, 2020.

“Legitimacy” on Martin Luther King Day – 2017

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr days before the 2017 inauguration of a new president begs for serious national reflection.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights leader some people once hated was “legitimized” after he was no longer a threat—re-fashioned into a single issue  icon. The real Martin, the disturbing prophetic preacher calling for justice and peace, has been muted —reduced to an icon on postage stamps and in editorials of the same newspapers that scolded him for breaking the law in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, St. Augustine, and Memphis. The real Martin—the real human treasure worth preserving—and his legacy look on our time and ask how we chose to return to the law-and-order-society.

John Lewis and other survivors whose heads were bloodied on Pettus Bridge by the enforcers of an unjust law-and-order society scratch their heads and wonder. They know that Martin Luther King, Jr’s life and witness exceeded the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He was an early opponent of the War in Vietnam, the military-industrial complex, the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, and the propaganda machine that kept the public befuddled and confused about reality.

By the time Dr. King while was shot standing with the striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he had connected all the dots we have yet to connect: white privilege, excessive wealthy, poverty, capitalism, foreign military interventions, and assassinations.

No one can say whether Martin Dr. King would join his voice to his old friend John Lewis’s, the Civil Rights leader become Congressman who has declared the incoming Presidency “illegitimate”, but imagining King’s dismay at the results of the 2016 election requires no great skill. We know enough to say with certainty that the dream for which Dr. King lived and died is no less at stake today than it was the day a bullet silenced him on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968.

Martin Luther King Day 2017 just days before the inauguration asks all Americans what kind of nation we want to be — one that chooses to put out the lights of its real luminaries or a nation that, having seen a bright star on a dark night, walks forward with pink knit hats toward a compassionate Dream worth living and dying for.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 15, 2017