If John Lewis wants to assert that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president-elect, then we have to understand two facts: First, Trump has the right to (and the kindergartner’s need to) respond in kind; and second, the America Mr. Trump wants to make great again is the same America where citizens like John Lewis do in fact get beat up by club-wielding troops while coddled aristocrats like Trump actually wield the club…or (so as not to get their hands bloody) find surrogates who will.
Lewis, the Georgia representative and civil rights leader, is right to question Donald Trump’s legitimacy, not only because Trump spent years doing the same to President Obama, but because the illegal influence of the Russians and the calculated sabotage of the FBI render his allegation indisputable. It’s not a theory—it’s a fact. And the rest of us, if we believe the same, should be just as vociferous and adamant—and courageous—as Representative Lewis.
Most people my age watched the Civil Rights movement from a distance, viewed it through the safety glass of our television screens. We knew names like Rosa Parks and James Meredith, we knew the bad guys like George Wallace and George Lincoln Rockwell, and we learned the geography of places like Birmingham and Selma. But most of us weren’t there. John Lewis was. He has the scars to show what it means to risk one’s own safety to fight for something greater than himself. When he speaks out against a man who has never fought for anything except his own self-aggrandizement, we don’t apologize or look the other way: we stand behind him.
Lest we forget, Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala incurred the same wrath as John Lewis when they called out Trump on his willingness to cast all Muslims as terrorists and waved a copy of the Constitution at him. Like John Lewis, they had paid a price—an even dearer one: their own son, an American soldier, had been killed in combat. It didn’t matter to Trump who lashed out at them until he was shamed into relenting. Donald Trump will never understand that kind of sacrifice, and for us to keep waiting for him to “come around” makes us look more and more foolish every day. He’s not going to be presidential, or empathetic, or sensitive, or profound, or anything else that separates us from the Komodo dragon.* He is Donald Trump and his presidency is illegitimate.
Two thousand years ago it was believed that the sun revolves around the earth. One out of every four Americans still either believes that or isn’t sure how “that whole space deal” operates. Trump’s vision of America is similar to that long since-discredited vision of the universe: he’s at the center and the rest of us must somehow hang on for the ride. People like John Lewis have decided to make that center as tenuous as possible, and whatever meager way we can do the same—marches, protests, letters, phone calls, even staying informed—is not merely our option: it’s our duty.