Sunday, March 31, 2013

John Lewis, my Doppelganger


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

March 31, 2013

                On this Easter Morning, listening to Krista Tippett’s interview with US Rep. John Lewis, who in the early sixties was leader of SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, for the very first time in my life, I heard my doppelganger.  Soon after Mr. Lewis began the hour saying that he was born a person of faith in being love, I began answering the host’s questions in the precise words Mr. Lewis would use in is answer.  At the end of the interview, he even said loving others meant being honest and open.  He spoke of how his love extended to loving animals, beginning with the chickens he raised and cried over at the dinner table.  He talked about how easily he cried at moments of enjoyment of love.  He stressed patience and persistence, that our role was to carry on the struggle, in the faith that in generations to come, humanity as a whole would be integrated into a loving community.  When asked how he and others in SNCC trained for nonviolent satyagraha (failure to cooperate with segregation), he spoke of studying principles of nonviolence as written by the likes of Gandhi and Thoreau, and when confronting those who would be one’s enemies as later in Selma (where Lewis was beaten unconscious), to maintain eye contact and try to smile to disarm one’s opponents.  I regularly find what I know as the force of love, and what I call peacemaking as a way of life, a way of being in all one’s relations.  But I have never before heard someone use the same words at the same moment I find myself using them to convey the faith that embodies both our lives.  If anyone has bothered trying to understand what I mean by peacemaking, check out what Mr. Lewis says about his praxis.  He talks of his thinking and speech evolving with age, and so the words he used in this week’s “On Being” program, like the words I am using to describe peacemaking, are not what they were and will probably keep changing, as each of us tries to use the language of our audiences of the moment.  For now, this is probably the only time in my life that I will ever feel comfortable saying that this person might as well be speaking for me too.  Happy Easter.  Love and peace--hal

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