Sunday, July 19, 2020

Marchers toward a better time

            What a horrible, horrible time.

            A staggering – and staggered -- 73 percent of us say the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

            Nonetheless – and don't count me among the unfathomable 27 percent giving today a thumbs up -- count me as highly encouraged.

            For one thing, more and more of us now deem Donald Trump a historic error and today's Republican Party a ship of tools.

            For another: Many, many impressive people have stepped to the fore, and to the streets, in response to the worst imaginable kind of national leadership.

            It reminds of a time when a young John Lewis linked arms with others on a bridge in Selma.

            There they absorbed blows, took racism's best shot, in a theater of carnage that would compel this nation to make that "all created equal" stuff more than faded parchment.

            Yes -- and, there goes the neighborhood -- the Civil Rights Act applied even where flags of Dixie flew.

            Lewis's passing, as with that of C.T. Vivian the same day, is cause to mourn.

            But what should encourage us is what's seen in the street,: the regeneration of outrage, the regeneration of a generation.

            Lewis and Vivian were towering oaks. I had to look this up, but do you know how oaks reproduce? Through the wind.

            And through Twitter, and Facebook, and TikTok, and Snapchat, and Instagram, and Reddit.

            The young people marching in the street, some bloodied by police, are of the stripe to fill the void left by great leaders like Lewis, Vivian and Elijah Cummings.

            The marchers' many hues hark back to the Freedom Rides and Mississippi's Freedom Summer where white students came to be at the side of black activists risking their very lives.

            As with then -- as with George Wallace and Lester Maddox and the Klan -- Donald Trump seeks to dismiss their rage as the work of extremists and shadow groups.

            Have you tried "outside agitators," guys? (That would be the Russians.)

            Those marchers haven't been the only people who have impressed and who now cause this to be a time to be encouraged.

            The combination of racial injustice and a pandemic that Trump treats like a golf ball lost in the rough has caused a gallery of impressive young leaders to fill the void:

            So many impressive people – Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, author Ibram X. Kendi and Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garner and Pulitzer-winning journalist Nicol Hannah Jones – have national presences they might not have garnered otherwise.

            They join such inspiring figures as congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, and fresh voices like Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Texas Senate candidate M.J. Hegar.

            They are young. They are diverse. They want change.

            Contrast with the Republican firmament – characterized by blowhards like Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, and statues like Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. What does Lamar Alexander do, anyway?

            Yes, I am encouraged. Heck, even McConnell's Senate seat is in jeopardy at the challenge of one-time fighter pilot Amy McGrath. Even if McGrath doesn't beat him, the increasingly likely loss of four GOP seats in the Senate would make McConnell largely irrelevant.

            You be encouraged, too. Consider these words:

            "For the first time in years our side is empowered, our side is enthusiastic, our side is excited, our side is hopeful, but more than hopeful, we are confident."

            Expressions of confidence from the great white supremacist David Duke in 2016.

            For him, 2020 looks to be a horrible, horrible time.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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