Rep. John Lewis died recently after a lifetime of fighting for civil rights. Courtesy photo.

GOD BLESS JOHN LEWIS

A powerful but so very humble man who inspired so many, including me. Fearless crusader. Righteous warrior. Gentle but roaring lion. You could crack his skull and leave him close to death and he would offer forgiveness, compassion and brotherhood. (48 years after a vicious attack in South Carolina, a Klansman who went in swinging came to him asking that forgiveness.)

And just look at what he accomplished, this dirt-poor boy from a sharecropper’s shack, nine brothers and sisters, in rural, still-Jim Crow Georgia. He worked outside the system as an inestimable very young civil rights leader, then from within the halls of power, elected 17 times to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was known as the Conscience of the Congress.

Faith in the long arc of peace and justice through non-violence motivated activists like Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Malala, Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, Leo Tolstoy, Peace Pilgrim, Dalai Lama, Susan B. Anthony, Jesus. But it’s hard to keep the faith because in the middle of it, it doesn’t look like it will work. The other side has the power, the money, the media, the police and armies. What do we have? The numbers. And for now, still, the vote. I’m certain there are a lot more men and women of goodwill, than those who are blind and selfish.

How can I do any less than try to follow Lewis’s example? To remember to be magnanimous while shining a light on wrongdoing. His passing gave me pause to measure certain things.

I HAVEN’T ALWAYS

Used the kindest, most loving language when commenting on political events or the people involved. (I will pause now for “no kidding!” eyebrows to arch, and guffaws to play out.) As a writer, as a journalist, you quickly realize there are dozens of ways to say anything. It’s too easy, and defensible, to pick the sharpest, most effective words to make your point. Often, you write to raise ire, to try to move people not only to think but to act. Good thoughts alone, without deeds, never changed anything.

I can do better. The truth is, most people don’t get up off their couch until they are really mad. But you don’t have to make it personal. I don’t think I ever have — but our City Council members might disagree. (And our Toddler-in-Chief certainly would.)

I hate what they have done to Santa Monica. I don’t hate them, any of them. Not even Pam O’Connor. Never have. Every once in a while I do note that I believe them to be good people making the great sacrifices that public service always requires, and they should be acknowledged for that. But I also believe we need to replace them all because their misguided vision for Santa Monica is destroying a unique, precious city, and our quality of life, for too many years now.

THESE ARE REALLY TOUGH TIMES

We’re all feeling it. Some, severely. No work, no business, no government support to speak of (not like Canada, and, everywhere else), health insurance gone during a pandemic, no rent money, no food, no meds. Reaching a breaking point on racism. It’s coming at us from all directions.

I also worry very much for the survival of America as a democracy. Just Monday a disgruntled lawyer, a self-described anti-feminist (after his Russian wife dumped him), apparently a Trump supporter, went to a NJ judge’s home and shot and killed her son and critically wounded her husband (she was in the basement), then killed himself. Murdering judges happens in corrupt banana republics with two-bit dictators turning a blind eye; not even Al Capone murdered judges. We are sinking fast.

According to the U.S. Marshals Service, tasked with protecting federal judges, there were 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications against protected persons in 2019. In 2015, that number was… 926. They recently explained those figures as being the result of “better reporting.” Right. Like coronavirus.

BEFORE I GET BACK TO THE MESS OF SM

Let me summarize the dangerous situation our nation now faces, in the words of Santa Monica’s own Steve Erickson, who I first encountered as a music journalist but is considered by many one of America’s greatest living writers:

“As the social contract frays, as the economy teeters on collapse, as racial reckoning is at hand, as black cars whisk fellow citizens off the streets, as a pandemic batters a nation that has neither a strategy nor the will for battling back, and as proto-totalitarianism takes its toll on the truth — there are only two things that can be said with certainty: Six months from today a president is scheduled (I’m choosing my words precisely) to take the oath of office; and those six months will be like nothing we’ve ever seen. No more time for squabbles, sniping, snits or bullshit. Get ready.”

No more time. Sure, there are other realities besides politics, but in the end movements must force the hands of politicians, to have reform written into law. Women’s suffrage. National Parks. The Civil Rights Act.

Elections have consequences. Hoo boy, do they. Look around you. I have been writing about our City Council for more than eight years. Bill Bauer did the same, for 14 years. It might seem neither one of us has made a dent. But John Lewis kept at it for decades. Important change comes slowly.

We are in crisis here in Santa Monica, and our Council is strolling along, business as usual. That won’t make it. They have had ample time since racism, health and economy intersected cataclysmically. They are clearly not the right people for the tasks at hand. So it looks like we have to take care of that in November. It won’t be easy. Get started. Get off your couch, please.

Erika D. Smith had a great column in Tuesday’s LA Times about two young SM “activists” who are making a big difference in our schools.

John Lewis famously preached, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

I’ve been saying something for years. Now you have to do something. Time’s up.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com