Stan Goldberg: Good Trouble

2 min

John Lewis is the first African American to lie in state in the Capitol. The movement he helped lead inspired Stan Goldberg’s generation to risk the consequences of "good trouble."

As I watched John Lewis’s casket roll over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I thought of the refrain, “If you can remember the '60s, you really weren’t there.” The humor glosses over events that shaped my generation. We had to choose between accepting the draft or fighting against it; espousing unquestioning patriotism or taking a moral stand against the war; embracing parental values or bathing in ones that frightened them, and giving lip service to equal rights or in John Lewis’s words, getting into “good trouble.”

As a college student in 1965 I descended into the South thinking “lip service” was the same as “good trouble.” That changed when 40 of us were attacked by state troopers while we peacefully waited for John Lewis and other civil rights leaders to cross the bridge. Words were no longer sufficient: We were forced to “walk the walk.”

Most of us can look back on our lives and find “ah-ha” moments that changed our psyches. One of my first was sitting in a Montgomery jail understanding the difference between thoughts and actions. My second was explaining to my mother why I was in jail on a hunger strike fighting for the rights of people she feared.

It would be 30 years until an “ah-ha” moment of equal significance occurred. As a hospice volunteer, whenever I left the bedside, I thanked patients for allowing me into their lives; for providing me with the opportunity to understand who I was and who I could become. It was the moral equivalent of the civil rights movement.

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Looking back at what I experienced and how it changed me, I know I’ll react differently than my mother if my granddaughters come to me and say, “I  got into good trouble, Grandpa.”

What more can an old activist ask for than to know his progeny made a difference?

Thank you, John Lewis.

With a Perspective, I’m Stan Goldberg.

Stan Goldberg is an author of fiction and nonfiction books.