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Jay Ambrose: Time to heed the John Lewis example

Jay Ambrose: Time to heed the John Lewis example

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John Lewis, at age 80, has died, and one result is remembrances of his life, his courage, his Christian faith, his sacrifices and his dedication to nonviolence as one of the foremost civil rights leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Peace and love resided in his heart, it is said, and the Black Lives Matter protestors should listen, should forsake arson, vandalism, theft, injuring others, spreading ruin and defeating their cause.

The group’s adherents should instead become John Lewis.

Lewis lived through times when the abuse and oppression of Black Americans was much harsher, crueler and painful than today, times when none could even dream of having a Black president, for instance.

Especially in the South, Black people could not vote, ride on a bus with whites, eat in regular restaurants, stay in most hotels, go to public schools with whites or get into white colleges. Segregation ruled, and there were physical threats to deal with.

Since then, hundreds upon hundreds of police officer have been injured, with three federal officers just maybe blinded for the rest of their lives. People have been killed. Statues have been toppled. Graffiti has become a substitute for literacy. The substantially richer, ideologically supremacist truth-haters have minimized all of this, often belittled the desperate need for religion and demanded politically correct, evasive language if you are going to keep your job. The consequence will not be what the protesters are seeking.

Here are some of John Lewis’s final words to the protesters as reported by Vanity Fair magazine: “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at


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