Bright and early the morning following Congressman Elijah Cummings’ death last week, after having read the Waco Tribune-Herald and numerous emails, I decided, since I still had hot coffee left in my cup, to scroll through Facebook. Because I realize that mean-spirited social media posts come from both the right and the left and that no one has a monopoly on meanness, I determined long ago to just scroll past the ones with which I disagree. I believe in freedom of speech and expression and I understand we don’t all agree, especially when it comes to politics.
But on this morning, one post stopped me cold. It was beyond the pale. Someone had created a meme of a fictitious Twitter feed from Congressman Cummings in which he says, “Damn, it’s hot down here.” This was followed by a reply from deceased Sen. John McCain in which he says, “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.”
One person had responded to the post with a “laughing face,” but there were no other responses — no likes, no hearts, no laughing faces, no tears, no gasps, no angry faces, no comments. Since it had been posted the previous day, shortly after Congressman Cummings’ death was announced and before his body was even cold, the fact that only one person had responded spoke volumes to me about its inappropriateness. Thank God decent people who recognize distastefulness still walk among us!
Nevertheless, the mere fact someone would even create this hate-filled meme and that someone posted it and that one person thought it was funny wounded my heart and soul. I prayed the grieving families of these two men, both of whom served our country well, wouldn’t see it. Imagine the hurt they would feel. Where is the compassion for them? I also prayed for the people who thought this meme was funny and appropriate to post. Where has their sense of decency gone? While we can disagree with their politics, to suggest these two men are burning in hell for all eternity and that this is worth laughing about raises telling questions about the moral center of our nation today.
In subsequent days, I heard story after story of relationships that Congressman Cummings had with colleagues from both political parties. He was considered a true statesman and was well respected by folks from both sides of the aisle.
In a Washington Post essay published in the Tribune-Herald, former South Carolina Congressman and Baylor University graduate Trey Gowdy, a conservative Republican, offered a moving tribute about Congressman Cummings, a liberal Democrat, in which he described their mutual respect, friendship and what sounded to me like genuine love for each other. This article, which brought tears to my eyes, got me thinking: Why did it take the death of Congressman Cummings for the American people to learn about this special relationship? Would they both have been shunned by their respective political parties and by voters had pictures surfaced of Gowdy pushing an ailing Cummings about in a wheelchair?
I wonder, too, if the person who created this offensive meme would have done so had he been aware of this friendship. Or if the person who shared the post would have done so if aware of this friendship. Same with the person who laughed at this post. If our elected officials could show us more of their humanity, would our own better angels emerge more often? Would we be more compassionate, more respectful, more loving of them and of one another? Why would we not encourage them to love and respect one another and to, hopefully, find common ground? If we don’t, then something is terribly wrong with us. Then we’ve clearly lost our moral compass.
With regard to Congressman Cummings and Sen. McCain, as well as all who honorably served our country, I believe they were welcomed into God’s open, loving arms while hearing God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” May they rest in peace.