If there’s anyone who can serve as a barometer on how messed up things have gotten in this country, it would be U.S. House Rep. John Lewis. And according to the Civil Rights trailblazer known for getting into good trouble, the U.S. is now in “deep trouble.”
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Lewis admitted he was less hopeful now than he was during the Civil Rights Movement.
“I hate to say it, but I think we’re in deep trouble,” Lewis told Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith.
“You worry about our future, as a people and as a nation. Sometimes you’re afraid to go to sleep, to turn off the radio or the television or to pick up a book or a newspaper and read,” he added.
Asked if he had any diversions to help calm his mind, Lewis responded he had some, “But I have never been like this, even during the height of the civil-rights movement.”
“During those days, there was a greater sense of hope and optimism,” Lewis said.
Yes, even when he was crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to get to Montgomery (known also as “Bloody Sunday”), the Georgia congressperson clarified.
Lewis, never one to mince words or whitewash the bullshit, kept that same energy when talking about the White House’s current resident. Later in the same interview, Lewis discussed what exactly he would have told Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his friend and mentor, were he still alive:
“I would say, ‘Dr. King, we have come a distance, we have made some progress, but we still have a great distance to go before we lay down the burden of racism. There have been so many setbacks since you left. We have someone, the head of our government, who, in the finality, is a racist. He doesn’t understand the meaning of your life and the significance of the civil-rights movement. But I truly believe, somehow and some way, we will not give up, we will not give in. We will continue to do what we must to create what you called the Beloved Community. We will do what we must to redeem the soul of America.”
Even though Lewis’s responses clearly displayed some measure of (unnerving) despondency, he maintained that it was important to not lose hope.
To that end, Lewis also spoke about H.R. 1, a voting rights bill that, if passed, would be a gamechanger. The legislation would ensure automatic voter registration, make Election Day a holiday, end gerrymandering, and add protections for early voting. The bill is a clear response to efforts throughout the years to chip away at the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“We cannot have another major election in America until we fix the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Lewis told Rolling Stone. “We’re gonna fix it. We’re gonna do our very best. If not, some people gonna have hell to pay.”