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Grandpa Tom Goes to Washington: Part I


It’s 10:18pm and I’m in a Red Roof Inn in Lumberton, North Carolina. I leave early in the morning to reach Washington D.C. in the early afternoon. Ten hours of driving today. Two of those heavy rainstorms where you cannot see five feet in front of your car, but from South Florida I’m sort of used to them.

Tomorrow I will participate in what one commentator today called our “American Spring.” Like the “Arab Spring” and the “Eastern European Spring” some years ago, our nationwide protests going on their 12th day presage some formidable shifts in our national consciousness about institutional racism and our government. To juxtapose what these protesters (who represent the conscience of America) are attempting to accomplish, on this day of George Floyd’s funeral, Donald Trump had the unbelievable gall to invoke George Floyd. He actually said that it was a great day for George Floyd and for America because our unemployment numbers improved slightly. He said that George Floyd is looking down on this and is very happy because it is a “great, great day for our country.” (By the way, Black, Brown and Red unemployment went up while White unemployment went down.) You just witnessed the absolute height of racism, economic inequality, and insensitivity. I cannot know what George Floyd thinks from his elevated state, but happiness about the economy cannot be on the top of his mind. His family is grieving the murderous loss of their loved one at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. I suspect he greatly misses his children and family.

So, tomorrow I am protesting against systemic racism and its accompanying police brutality against our Black brothers and sisters. I will be at Black Lives Matter Plaza (which used to be 16th Street) in front of the White House. I am also protesting against the Trump Administrations heavy-handed tactics against peaceful demonstrators, which borders on a totalitarian police state’s playbook. These are the same things I marched against over fifty years ago. We made a huge dent in the Sixties, but we did not get the job done. My hope is that this generation will finish what we grandpas and grandmas began.

I am grateful for the protests because they are shining a light on issues that reach to the very heart and soul of our country. We have never lived up to our ideal from the Declaration of Independence,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

But we have those ideals and they are worthy of our attempts to live up to them. We can become that most perfect union with enough love, justice, and courage. If you can’t join me tomorrow, at least be there with me in heart and spirit or attend a protest in your area. Then, after the protests are done, we begin the real work of change and transformation.

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