The Revolution Televised

“Don’t walk alone, don’t stand alone, don’t go anywhere by yourself. It was a cryptic warning.” I wasn’t sure if the person on the other end of the phone was trying to be helpful or if they intended to scare me. I wondered how much truth was in what she was saying, but I listened anyway. She continued, “Don’t talk to anyone by yourself.”

I was talking to her by myself but was recording the call. I was recording a lot of calls these days. I sat in the car before going into my brother’s comedy showcase. I thought back to one of the coaches I’d met with recently. 

It was psychological warfare because I was participating in the revolution. 

I wondered who had put her up to this. I would likely never know, but I continued to listen. I thought about the slant of the media. 

Power, money, privilege. All of these things would keep the revolution from being televised. 

They buried the monkey pox stories, and though they told us about the COVID deaths, no one talked about the reason COVID deaths were staggering; it was because of lack of access to healthcare. More than 60,000 excess deaths, 220000 additional hospitalizations, and 2.9 million additional cases are all associated with lack of health insurance, and then there were the seniors. Shut up in assisted living facilities, dying by the dozens, with no one pausing long enough to tell the story or report on it in a way that would cause outrage. 

The deaths televised were mostly televised in an insignificant way. Choosing a narrative that said, “if you don’t wear a mask, it could be you,” while the real talking point should have been, “thousands are dying because they don’t have health insurance, and we are still living in a world where the quality of your care may be based on the color of your skin, your level of poverty, or lack of poverty, your zip code, or who you know.” If the truths were told about all that was really going on in these systems driven by money, they would lead to revolution, and no one would televise revolution, at least not in a meaningful way.

I’ve spent the better part of the last year campaigning for office across the state of North Carolina. I had a dream when I started. I dreamed I’d be able to help people have meaningful conversations about police reform. What I’ve gotten has been so much more than that. My decision to run for office brought me closer to being included in “…the least of these” than I had been in my life. I was fired from a job because I was running for office. In a letter I received from the employer, they said, “…this is not about your performance but the best positioning for both parties for the upcoming electoral cycle.” I let it sink in. I was fired because I was running for office. The termination led to joining the ranks of the uninsured and underemployed. If revolution ensures everyone has healthcare, everyone won’t want a revolution because the revolution will mean releasing power and caring for the least of these. It means people of faith and followers of Christ will have to recognize that we can continue to be a part of the problem, or we can be a part of the revolution. It means admitting that Jesus was a revolutionary executed by the state. His views so radical and different that the state didn’t want to let the revolution happen or be on display for others to join. 

If we televise the revolution, people will have to awaken from that has kept revolution from happening in the first place. Televising the revolution means we won’t be able to continue ignoring the poor and the working poor and the corporate theft of wages. Televising the revolution means we’ll have to answer for continuing to price working people out of their neighborhoods through gentrification. Televising the revolution means we’ll have to be honest about why this country has a housing shortage. Televising the revolution means we will admit that a two-party system isn’t working for anyone, especially not poor people, the working poor, rural people, black people, and migrants. Televising the revolution means we have to admit that we have a broken immigration system. It means granting citizenship to those who have been waiting for decades for their applications to be processed and increasing border security. It means admitting that we have become a country that doesn’t care for its own; televising the revolution is recognizing that choosing not to care for the influx of migrants is a heart issue for followers of Christ. A revolution admits the damage caused by broken systems and works to bring beauty from brokenness while reforming those systems. 

Televising the revolution means admitting people are starving to death in this country and will probably freeze to death this winter because of inflation, and it won’t be some of us; it will be all of us. It will be Jesus. What we do to the least in our communities we do to him.  

The revolution started with Jesus and continues with all of us, and we have to televise it. All of our lives depend on it. 

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is the name of a song and poem by Gil Scott-Heron.

By Rev. Dr. Michelle Lewis

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