1989 the number another summer, get down
Sound of the funky drummer
Music hittin’ your heart, ‘cause I know you got soul
Brothers and sisters
Listen if you’re missin’ why’all
Swingin’ while I’m singin’
Givin’ whatcha gettin’
Knowin’ what I know and
While the black bands sweatin’
And the rhythm rhymes rollin’
Got to give us what we want
Got to give us what we need
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We’ve got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power (x5)
We’ve got to fight the powers that be
As the rhythm designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhymes designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the pride’s arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
From the heart, it’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize, make a change, nothin’s strange
People, people, we are the same
No, we’re not the same, ‘cause we don’t know the game
What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved, let’s get down to business
Mental self-defensive fitness
Yo, bum rush the show
You gotta go for what you know
To make everybody see
In order to fight the powers that be
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother f___ him and John Wayne
‘Cause I’m black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for four hundred years if you check
Don’t worry be happy was a number one jam
Damn, if I say it you can slap me right here
Let’s get this party started right
Right on, c’mon, what we got to say
Power to the people, no delay
Make everybody see in order to fight the powers that be
Fight the power
My father is a rather gentle character. He doesn’t like raised voices, or excessive swearing, or even pointing, if he can avoid doing so. That’s how I knew how angry he was last night when I walked into my parents’ house swearing a blue streak and he didn’t comment on how many f-bombs I was dropping. I didn’t even have my coat off before I asked, “did you see what Donald Trump said about John Lewis?” And then proceeded to rant for the better part of five minutes.
Of all the things that the wretched president-elect has said (inaugurated as president by the time this goes to press, I fear), nothing has made me more angry than his flippant tweet about Congressman John Lewis on Jan. 14: “all talk talk talk — no action or results. Sad!” It was the second of two tweets, and came in response to Lewis saying he wouldn’t go to the inauguration. He questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency on Meet the Press, given the strong evidence of Russian interference in the American election, FBI politicking under the guise of security in the days leading up to the election, and the fact that even with that interference, Trump had not won a mandate. At final count, Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million.
Of course, none of that is news anymore. Many people have questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency on those grounds, and others. There’s a maddening hypocrisy in Trump’s hysterical reaction to these criticisms, considering he built his political profile questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency with far less reason than Trump’s critics have. But this, again, is not news. Tell me something Trump hasn’t got hysterical about, and I’ll consider that “news.”
The fact that we spend so much time being surprised by the ridiculous statements constantly flowing from that man is probably distracting us from the more boring but also far more sinister statecraft at play in the United States at the moment. Senate confirmation hearings in which we are learning just how distressing his cabinet picks are, for example. I don’t think he’s distracting us on purpose, mind you — I think it’s just what’s happening. Senate hearings are long. Tweets are short.
So, generally, I’ve been trying to ignore the articles about Trump’s online presence, and ignoring Trump’s Twitter feed. There’s not much to be gained by paying attention, except the sinking feeling that the world might really be close to ending. I’m not sure how much there is to gain by paying attention to the senate hearings, either. I’m Canadian, after all. There’s not much for me to do except pray that, left or right, cooler heads prevail at some point in the country to our south.
But then Trump had to go and say, “All talk talk talk — no action or results. Sad!” And any sense of equilibrium I had about anything to do with any of this went out the window. Because . . . well, you can’t f-ing say that about John Lewis. You can’t. You’re just wrong. He was one of the founders of the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC). He was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders in 1960. As chair of the SNCC in 1963, he was the youngest member of the Big Six who organized the March on Washington. In 1965, Alabama state troopers fractured his skull while breaking up a praying crowd on Bloody Sunday in the Selma to Montgomery March. Before he was taken to hospital, he went on camera, calling on President Johnson to intervene in the situation. He still bears the scars on his head. In 2009, he was arrested for protesting genocide in Darfur outside the Sudanese Embassy in the United States. Just last June, he and fellow Democrat Katherine Clark led a sit-in demanding the right to vote on gun control legislation in the House of Representatives.
As a young man, Lewis endured violence and brutality in the pursuit of justice and fairness, always maintaining a strict adherence to the principles of non-violence and reconciliation. As a politician, he has stood by those principles as best he could. He has consistently stood up when millions of people have been too afraid or too apathetic to stand up. It’s because of the work that people like him have done, the violence they allowed to be enacted upon their bodies, the decision always to walk forward when there was no safe way of doing so — it’s because of them that the Civil Rights Act passed. It’s because of them that the Voting Rights Act passed. It’s because of him, and people like him, that America has ever been anything resembling great.
None of this should be news, either. I’m not sure why this statement of Trump’s in particular, over all the absurd, ill-considered, nasty, or stupid things he’s said has made me so much angrier than anything else. Perhaps it’s because Lewis is what a leader should be — visionary, convicted, forthright, thoughtful. Perhaps it’s because Trump has said something so clearly, demonstrably untrue and thinks he can get away with it. Perhaps it’s because Lewis is a living legend and deserves far more respect for what he’s endured and accomplished than that fluffy-headed orange goat has given him.
Or perhaps it’s because I have a sneaking suspicion Trump might not actually know who John Lewis is, and what he’s done for that country. And that’s just . . . WTF?
Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings