Nonviolent Civil Disobedience: #GoodTrouble

Claiming the mantle of decorum and customs of the House, Speaker Paul Ryan announced an early start to the body’s recess this morning in an effort to quell the sit-in lead by Rep. John Lewis. But that doesn’t mean this is over.

Lewis and other leaders of the protest vowed to continue their movement in one form or another when Congress returns on July 5.

“We will continue to fight. … When we come back in July, we’ll start all over again,” Lewis said.

As we all know, Rep. Lewis knows a thing or two about staying with the struggle despite setbacks. Need I remind you that there were actually two marches across that bridge in Selma? During the first one, he got a concussion from being beaten by law enforcement. It was only after “Bloody Sunday” that protesters regrouped and actually completed their march for voting rights.

Throughout the day yesterday, Rep. Lewis talked about “good trouble,” and used it as a hashtag on twitter. That is his way of talking about nonviolent civil disobedience – which isn’t just a concept to him.

This is something we don’t learn much about from our history books. The civil disobedience practiced by people in the civil rights movement didn’t just spring up spontaneously. They took their time to study, learn and strategize. The training Giordano describes in that Nashville church basement came from the Highlander Folk School, which was also attended by people like Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Septima Clark, Ralph Abernathy and Pete Seeger. We need to disabuse ourselves of the idea that their actions were merely an expression of their anger. That is what started the process. But it was channelled into goals, with thoughtful strategies about how to reach them.

When Rep. Lewis talks about good trouble, that is what he is referring to. Of course the anger mobilized by strategic goals is kept alive via hope – or what Rev. Joseph Lowery called “good crazy” (this video is not great, but the message is worth it!)

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.