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The John Lewis Conundrum: Caring for Justice or Carrying Water

I will admit in advance that John Lewis was a hero of mine for the sacrifices he went through and the struggles he overcame on behalf of equality and justice. And in a way, what I am writing about John Lewis today is not so much a condemnation as it is a reflection of the very meaning of justice and how we can fight for it. Not too long ago, when my idea of standing against injustice was pontificating from a distance, I used to view justice through the prism of “my people”. But what I have experienced these past two years showed me that no one can claim a monopoly on pain and that if we want to attack the root of injustice, we have to do so through inclusion and with the spirit of togetherness.

After seeing the broken masses in endless states who suffer without regard to color, ideology, or the ceaseless labels we put on ourselves, I can no longer in good faith go around advocating for justice through the narrow lens of identity for the identity that we all have in common is this very thing we call humanity. If a day ever arrives where there will be peace on earth, it will be when we can concurrently celebrate our differences but honor above all what it is that we have in common. I understand it now, we the people are the ones who contribute to our own oppression because we keep letting the powerful divide us and pit one against the other. Only unity can overcome the throbbing blight of injustice that afflicts many and destroys countless lives throughout the world.

It is precisely because of this reason that I have shed the blinders of labels and instead use the abilities I have to write and speak of our common struggles and common hopes. This lesson of unity and togetherness thus awakened me to the deception of politics and in the process has led me to a revelation of how some are using the pains of the masses to advance themselves. There is a cottage industry of people on all sides who cater to the pains of people and demagogue incessantly all the while getting paid by the very source of injustice they rage against. In this light, I see the Congressional Black Caucus no different than I do the Tea Party and the endless grievance groups who have perfected the art of leveraging the suffering of the people they supposedly speak for to make fortunes and live like royalty.

While I am not about to paint John Lewis in the same light as the charlatan Al Sharpton, I have nonetheless reassessed the way I view John Lewis for one simple reason. I do not make this judgement without a clear-eyed analysis, John Lewis—who once fought at the forefront for Civil Rights—has now become a stage prop for the Democratic Party as he carries water for the duplicity of the DNC. Anytime the Democrats in DC want to use “black folk” as political pawns, they trot out Lewis to present the Republicans as an abhorrent and malevolent lot as they cast themselves in the most altruistic light. This is what the Democrats do, every four years they tread on the pains of their most loyal base only to ignore them the very second the last ballot is cast. We become nothing more than stepping stones for shysters feigning outrage; frothing at the mouth ranting against racism only to go to DC and drop their buckets into the very ocean of injustice they preach against on TV.

In reality, the Democrats and Republicans are equally malignant; where the GOP impoverishes the masses with monstrous fiscal and monetary policies, Democrats do their part to cripple the victims of Republicans into a life of dependency. Both parties are co-dependent in the economic terrorism which has been declared on “we the people”. Both sides pay lip service to cater to their base only to turn around and shove the knife in all of our backs the minute the camera lights are turned off. This is how the game is played and sadly John Lewis is part of the charade as he presents injustice from a partisan podium all the time instead of actually speaking truth to power and speaking against the corruption and duplicity that is done in DC in our collective names.

But then a conundrum arrives which makes me ponder if there is actually a way to solve injustice. Not too long ago, I was an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton where I was an IT consultant for various Civil and Defense agencies. The rationalization that went on in my mind, I was concurrently protesting the excesses of the military-financial complex all the while getting paychecks and earning my keep from the same industry I was ranting against. So there is a part of me that wants to say I understand, to give allowance to the endless duplicity of the CBC and the countless grievance groups as they take part in the same policies which are gnawing and tearing at the seams of their constituents. After all, if I was able to justify working for one of the preeminent defense consulting agencies in the world all the while speaking against defense contractors, well then maybe I should be more forbearing to those who lose their bearings and go to DC to have their legacies inverted by the system. We are all slaves of the system in this way I guess, either we submit to the beast or the beast will relegate us to the sidelines or find ways to silence us.

But there is a difference between the common man who is doing what he can to sustain a living and those who hold positions of power and perpetuate injustice. So as much as I respect the sacrifices John Lewis went through in the past, I can no longer keep silent as I see him become a smokescreen for the Democratic Party. Thus, I will speak against Lewis and Obama the same way I speak up against the fatuous Trump and the malignant Republican party. Those who speak against injustice from a partisan perspective are only using the suffering of people to further their own agenda and to stuff cash in their pockets. So if John Lewis will not muster up the courage he once displayed on the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma to speak against the excesses of Barack Obama’s policies and only utters outrage against Republicans, then I will view him as a political shill and nothing more. One can’t lean on past courage while living in present cravenness.

I don’t need ESP to tell you what will happen next after Donald Trump took a pot shot at John Lewis this morning. Within a few hours emails will start flying around stoking up the emotions of the various bases on all sides. Along with those emails comes an ask, for us to part with our dollars to “fight injustice”. The insanity of it all, millionaires and the gentry using injustice as a shtick and a means to make more more all the while as they are indulging in injustice. Of course, the yellow press hyenas will treat this like an Armageddon is before us as they endlessly gin up resentment and anger—Fox News catering to their crowd and MSNBC doing the same to their liberal denizen. Politicians and pundits get a new rallying cry to raise money and elevate ratings, the whole industry of politics and media one big sickening circus—innumerable filthy hand washing each other.

Sad though, they are coming to us with this idiocy and too many of us are blinded enough by political affiliation to give them money as they peddle us grievance. We are financing our own insolvency! How are we just taking this, the liberal elites talking about resistance while they are sipping Chardonnay and shitting on the very same people they talk down to with paternalistic snobbery from the comforts of their ivory towers. The duplicitous conservatives doing the same, lying through their teeth about family values all the while they are fornicating and drugging it up with the same liberal elites they supposedly are wagging a cultural war over. If you are near DC, go down to Old Ebbitt’s Grill on 15th Street across near the White House to see these snakes, from pundits to politicians of all stripes, getting drunk together and laughing at us. The whole thing is one big lie being sustain by prevaricating jackasses and elephantine pricks yet sadly we accept this bunk as government. We are being led by perjurers and swindlers yet 30% of Americans who do vote are giving cover and legitimacy to an illegitimate government that has lost the confidence of the people.

It is high time for us to stop falling for the antics of politicians, stop letting them use our pains to advance themselves. Moreover, stop falling for the trap these demagogues in DC and these craven pundits in the media keep whispering antipathy into our ears. Stop listening to their rhetoric and actually watch what they are doing. Take Van Jones as an example, this fool is on TV shedding crocodile tears all the time pretending to be outraged, yet you go to his Facebook page and he is smiling it up and being chummy with Newt Gringrich—the same Gringrich he pretends to be at war against. This is happening on all fronts, “white folk” are being sold this bill of goods as well, Sarah Palin made millions playing on the outrage of her base and Trump made his fortunes by screwing over the same “Joe Plumbers” that Sarah Palin used as she mangle the English language to supposedly speak for the “silent majority”.

In reality, we are the conundrums, we are letting the powerful ravage us by letting them pit us against each other. We have become a society of a reality show, I swear the Truman Show was nothing compared to this farcical republic of ours. As long as we keep viewing justice through the confines of “just us” and refuse to hold hands with co-victims of this economic warfare that has been declared against us by the 1%, we deserve this corrosive government we have before us. We are letting a few divide us based on skin shade, politics, or faith or their beliefs, and refuse to join with our brothers and sisters in the struggle; our myopic outlook is the root of our own misfortune. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it again so that it will sink in to more and more people who are being led by the nose by double-dealing misfits—skin don’t make one kin. And when it comes to politics, unless you are making a fortune using the hopes of people to enrich yourself, you need to stop finding your identity through political labels and these useless isms. Don’t be a loyalist to the ideologies of the rich, they are only feeding you red meat so they can feed on your hopes. Disregard political ideology and hold tight instead to the identity of being HUMAN.

As far as John Lewis, while his past valor will remain with me, I am reminded of the corrosive influence of money, status, and fame and how anyone’s moral compass can go awry by the magnetic distortion of power’s proximity. Maybe this is a lesson in reality for all of us, the change we want will never come from those who are a part of the system of injustice for the system depends on injustice to perpetuate its power. The change will come from us—the common folk and those who struggle from the outside—or it won’t come at all. To all those in DC who bilk us caucusing and partying as you make fortunes using our pains while neglecting our plight, you are the same as the people you demagogue against. After all, silence in the face of injustice is compliance, there is no conundrum about that axiom.  #CarryingPoliticalWater

Politicians, pundits, and their powerful patrons; they are playing all of us for fools. We are playing the part perfectly.

Let me make this point a bit more from a piece I wrote titled “History’s Malevolence”, an excerpt from Serendipity’s Trace, where prose might have failed, maybe poetry can paint a better picture.

History’s Malevolence

The middle ground is treacherous

Preaching unity to all sides dangerous

I mean trying to find a universal language

Creating consensus out of chaos

Is often laden with insults—profoundly onerous

It’s easier rebuilding the tower of Babel

But lend me an ear brethren and sisters

What if I told you history was malevolent

Facts rewritten by victors and conquerors

In order to split the masses into opponents

Propagating propaganda to prolong injustice

What if I told you that the Civil War

For example to pick one of many instances

Was not truly about slavery

It was about the economy

Forcing one ideology over another

The powerful versus the feeble

A clash of aristocrats and the prosperous

Who duped the powerless to fight each other

Most “white folk” in the south

Were struggling as indentured servants

Deteriorating in barrenness

Now the powerful spread lies

Fracturing society into encampments

Pains of the subjugated

Being used to hide intentions of a system

In the process pitting one against the other

Racism is about power

But they deceive you into thinking

That fellow victims are racists

To obfuscate the true malevolence of bigotry

Hiding the hands of those who bleed society

What if I told you

That poor “white” folk in Antebellum

Had more in common with “slaves”

Than they did with nefarious “slave” owners

And only a fraction of society, the wealthy aristocracy

On both sides of the war irrespective of location

Thrived in the midst of hardship

The multitudes on both sides

Living in destitution and squalor

As they teach that Lincoln was the “Great Emancipator”

Educating us to elevate a president

To the status of God for “black people”

Maybe you should read Lincoln’s speech

“A House Divided”

And you would realize that history

Is full of utter bullshit

Injustice only prospers

When the people are splintered

And feed into the propaganda of the system

Did you get mad, think of me as a sellout

As if I was dismissing the horrors of slavery

Or diminishing the pains of its legacy

Do you think I am trying to erase Jim Crow

Will you accuse me of negating

The terrors of Reconstruction

Or do you understand

That the ancestors of “black” and “white”

The children of the masses

Irrespective of color

Are besieged in poverty and squalor

At this precise exact moment

For the Civil War is still raging

As they pit races against each other

Trying to instigate strife and friction

As they manipulate society

To rupture into racial warfare and hostility

Think about this for a moment

Who shares the burdens of the broken

Of “black folk” who shiver in Chicago?

Is it the bourgeoisie Congressional Black Caucus in D.C.

Is it the “first black president”

And the jive talkers like Sharpton

And his ilk who live in Manhattan partying in the Hamptons

Attending soirées in Martha’s Vineyard chalets

Or do poor “black” folk in the cities

Have more in common with their brethren

The impoverished “white people” in the Appalachians?

It’s always easier to speak to individual grievances

To impassion flames instead of spreading light

Insults follow the ones who preach universal justice

Applause given to those who demagogue incessantly

See history is meant to cleave people

To teach that others are dissimilar

But in truth the lives of most are unbearable

Slavery has taken on a new concept

Where debt has become the new bondage

And poverty is the new shackle

Most of us are ensnared in irrespective of identity

More and more falling into this depraved captivity

When it comes to historical injustices

The sins of a diabolic few

Cannot be blamed on the masses

I mean Mussolini’s army not too long ago

Terrorized my native land Ethiopia

As mothers and children

Innocent civilians

Perished by the hundreds of thousands

Charred up by chemical weapons

A holocaust visited upon my ancestors

But I can’t blame Italians

For the horror of a murderous cabal

For there are masses in Italy

Suffering just like the masses in my country

This same message I preach to my fellow Ethiopians

Those who are blinded by tribalism

As they insult their countrymen

Letting animosity overcome their emotions

This is the reason Ethiopia is shattering

And why tyrants rule with iron fists

Injustice making us forget our common heritage

Making us disregard that we are one people

United by one common struggle

It’s always easier for the powerful

To pilfer the citizenry and fleece us blindly

As long as we are distracted by differences

To “white people”

This message I reiterate

So called “minorities” have identical struggles

The same burdens that you go through

So why get mad at the meager means

Of those who are broken by poverty

The pittance given to those caught in bleakness

Instead of being outraged

By the thievery being undertaken by the few

The billionaire class who we worship

As they swindle our life savings

History is mendacious

Truth subverted into propaganda

Instead of dwelling on past pains

And residing in separable grievances

Why don’t we unite as one people

If you want to end injustice

Stop monopolizing pain

And understand one thing

We are all in this together

Or we will suffer forever fractured

This is why I keep using quote marks

Around the words “white” and “black”

Because these labels are pernicious

They prevent us from realizing our cohesion

For we are more than labels

We are humans united by the same purpose

History is full of lies and divisiveness

It’s in our hearts we find humanity’s oneness

~ Excerpt from Serendipity’s Trace, a book of our common struggles and connective hopes. Search “Serendipity’s Trace” on Amazon or “Teodrose Fikre” to find the the book ~

Teodrose Fikremariam
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Teodrose Fikremariam

Writer at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal.
Teodrose Fikremariam
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