Great Men Shouldn’t Have to Die to Remember Greatness in Trump’s America

Everything Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Life Inspired in One Epic Twitter Thread

Maryland Congressman and civil rights champion Rep. Elijah Cummings died Thursday, Oct. 17, of complications from long-standing health issues. He was 68. The son of sharecroppers, Cummings rose to become a stalwart of the Democratic Party and, ultimately, chairman of the House Oversight Committee at one of the most tumultuous times in American politics. He earned the distinction of being the first African-American lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol, an honor bestowed on only a few dozen statesmen, presidents and military leaders throughout U.S. history. It was befitting the man whose political stature and impact on nation-building — and on the character of those who served alongside him in Congress — were as remarkable as they were profound.

A veritable “Who’s Who” of political figures, activists and well-wishers, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, showed up reverentially in Baltimore on Friday to celebrate Cummings’ life alongside his grieving widow, Maya Rockeymore, and family. Wisely — thankfully — President Trump did not attend.

Nevertheless, the 3 a.m. tweets will undoubtedly come. With Trump’s signature malevolence, Cummings’ death will, inevitably, become Obama’s fault. He will whine about the lack of obeisance from African-American voters for the jobs he’s provided their communities so they can eat without being a strain on the economy. Such an ungrateful lot! He will remind his willfully ignorant MAGA cult of the “witch hunt” that Cummings, Speaker Pelosi, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff initiated to impeach him. Such a hoax. And in his “great and unmatched wisdom,” Trump will — simply because he can without consequences — lower the bar still further, below the indignity and unseemliness we witness only in the certifiably insane, to demean Cummings’ accomplishments before the dirt has settled over his casket.

Thankfully, the world will remember President Obama’s eulogy. He reiterated that Cummings was “honorable before he was elected to office.” His meticulously crafted words soothed like Balm of Gilead. “Being a strong man includes being kind,” Obama declared. “There’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There’s nothing weak about looking out for others… You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”

Obama’s words were delivered with masterful aim and diplomacy. However, everything we needed to hear at Rep. Elijah Cummings’ funeral was articulated on Twitter by David Rothkoph, a professor of international relations, political scientist and journalist. The entire thread (aggregated below) was a reminder that America was built on the backs of great men like Cummings who refused to cower from tyranny and hate. It was a thoughtful and poignant reminder of the America we hope isn’t yet dead:

The McCain funeral, the Bush funeral, the Cummings funeral — they have all become national events, elevated by their focus on decency and values that our current leadership violates and ignore (sic). By pausing to think of goodness, we somehow send a message of protest and solidarity.

It [is] a recognition that we are embroiled in a contest not just for political victory of one party over another in Washington, but for the soul of our country. It sounds too simplistic or dramatic perhaps to say so, to say we are engaged in a battle between good and evil. But that’s just what this is.

On one side you have the corrupt — be they an unfit, narcissistic, serially criminal president and those who enable and defend him or whether among those on that side, they are henchmen and dupes, racists and thieves, or they are those who affect piety, claim religiosity while displaying no understanding of the principles or aspirations to perfect ourselves that underpins every faith. They are the heirs to the money-changers in the Temple and the dictators and thugs of history.

They threaten us like every enemy that our nation has ever faced, but they threaten us from within, without regard for truth, with the support of the worst among us, with contempt for our institutions, our laws and the values on which we were founded. As a result, they are among the greatest threats we have ever faced. And candidly, we must acknowledge their defeat is by no means a certainty.

They control not only the highest office in our land but our system of justice and others among the primary checks against abuse of power that those who established this country put in place. They are employing the proven tactics of autocrats and tyrants and they have maintained a base of support sufficient to keep them in power despite their manifold depredations.

And on the other side, there is just all the rest of us. We are in the majority but many of us feel impotent — though we have the power to win at the ballot box and in the street and in the court of public opinion. We are many — but we are divided as to the urgency of the threat. We are on the side of what is right and what has historically prevailed in our society — but that makes some complacent and causes many to lose the sense of urgency we must have.

We can defeat these enemies among us if we mobilize against them. If we encourage the leaders who share our view to be bold and to demand accountability. If we support with our money and our efforts candidates who can defeat elected representatives who are [on] the side of those who would destroy America. If we run ourselves, speak out ourselves, mobilize our friends and our families, take to the streets when we can, harness every form of pressure available to us, make it clear that those who continue to threaten our institutions will be not only defeated but that we will not rest until all of their abuses and crimes are made public and everyone who played a role in them has paid whatever price the law demands for those assaults on our society.

When good women and men have stood up in these funeral services and we have paused to consider where we are, how we have stumbled and how we can lift ourselves up again, they often speak of faith and prayer. And there is certainly a place for that. But they also speak of action and courage — as they did today in citing the examples of Elijah and Isaiah. And given how serious the threats we face are — and they are very serious indeed, our government is corrupt as it has ever been, our president the worst of all presidents, his aids (sic) seeking to crush core democratic concepts like that no man is above the law — we must recognize that now is a time for action. We may gain insight and energy from gathering in reflection. But now is a time for action. This is the defining challenge of our generation.

Rising to meet this challenge is no less important to the future of American (sic) than was rising to meet the challenges of World War I or II, the Civil War, of (sic) seeking to defeat racism and sexism and historical prejudice of every sort. This is our moment.

Let’s not simply mourn the passing of good and decent leaders. Let’s not fall into the trap of mourning the passing of goodness and honor. Let’s rise up from these experiences and focus in (sic) that which each of us can do and not rest until we have succeeded and lived up to the best characteristics of those we have lost in order that we do not lose what we cannot live without.

This is a “battle-cry” reflective of Elijah Cummings’ life and memorial.

Author Rick Wilson, the “Apostate GOP Media Guy,” keeps reminding us, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” And with unnerving accuracy, his mantra has almost become prophetic. But let us not forget, Trump has touched us all.

America may be on political life support, but she isn’t dead yet. Whether we will be saved by true patriots willing to stand up to the fascist barbarians at the gate of our democracy is left to be seen. But, perhaps, those in positions that matter(ed) in Trump’s administration ⁠ — those like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, whose lawyers are reportedly in contact with impeachment probe panels ⁠ — will determine that “Country Over Party” is the only mantra that matters in the turbulent days ahead of Trump’s impeachment and Election 2020.

Indeed, as we fight for the country for which Cummings and others before him fought so valiantly, may we remember who we are: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” And fight like hell.


© Copyright 2019 Donna Kassin. All rights reserved.
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Contributor to HuffPost and Medium; Author of the upcoming book, EVERYTHING CRASH: The Search and Rescue Mission for America.” 🇺🇸 🇯🇲

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