- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


July 6

The Cleveland Daily Banner on responding to two controversial billboards in northeastern Tennessee:

Speaking of billboards - and over the past couple of weeks who hasn’t been? - an advocate for love over hate has taken his message to new heights.

He’s doing it with a billboard. Featured on one of those electronic pedestals at Exit 27 on Interstate 75, the message is clear, clean and to the point: “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

It is a quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a beloved orator who served as the face - and the voice - of the Civil Rights Movement before an assassin stole his life in 1968.

It is one of King’s most powerful, and remembered, speeches - “I Have a Dream” - that was taunted by one of two racist billboards recently erected by an aspiring political candidate: Ocoee businessman Rick Tyler who yearns to represent the 3rd Congressional District as an Independent.

The offensive signage, which depicted an image of the White House surrounded by Confederate battle flags, was located - briefly, before the billboard owner took it down - along Highway 64 in Bradley County. An equally as demeaning message was erected - just as briefly - on a billboard along Highway 411 in Polk County. Its inexplicable messaging read, “Make America White Again.”

The political candidate, who is offering an AR-style assault weapon as a featured prize in a campaign fundraiser, claims the unauthorized removal of his signage was a blatant violation of his freedom of speech as protected, and guaranteed, by the Constitution of the United States of America. In response, he has suggested more billboards will be going up in other areas of the 11-county congressional district.

Josiah Vacheresse, a local resident who took offense at the billboards but who didn’t want to contribute to Tyler’s quest for self-serving publicity by even referencing his name or misguided ambitions, chose a far higher ground for his response.

He rented a billboard of his own, and he borrowed a message from one of American history’s greatest humanitarians, the same one whose vision of changed and better times has stayed on the lips of his followers for the past 48 years.

In the June 26 edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, Vacheresse explained his inspiration to staff writer Allen Mincey.

He told our newspaper, “I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who so eloquently said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

The community-minded and people-focused Vacheresse also pointed to another source of hope - one of the most beloved faces, and hearts, on Planet Earth: Mother Teresa.

As he did with the fallen Civil Rights leader, Vacheresse quoted the Roman Catholic nun and missionary who said, “The greatest science in the world, in heaven and on earth, is love.”

In Cleveland and Bradley County, he told us, it is not necessary to promote love over hate. But because of the heinous billboard messaging that evoked the nightmares of America’s turbulent past, Vacheresse felt compelled to respond in like fashion but with unlike words.

“Like so many in our community, I am deeply concerned with the hateful messages we have heard as of late,” he told our reporter just a few days after the unveiling - and the dismantling - of the Tyler signs. “I am troubled with the perception this casts on us as citizens and the message it sends our children.”

He added, “Hate demands a thoughtful response, and that is why I ask (others) to join me in driving out hate with love.”

To help spread his positive message, Vacheresse has developed a Facebook account (www.facebook.com/driveouthate) and a Twitter account (twitter.com/driveouthate).

The billboard he is leasing costs $30 a day to maintain.

As much as he would like to, Vacheresse financially can’t make a go of it alone. So, he has set up a Go Fund Me account whose donations will keep the billboard of love aloft for as long as possible.

Our newspaper does not traditionally solicit funds for individual causes. But this cause is for no individual. It is for no special group. It is for no particular organization.

It is for all men. It is for all women. It is for all children. It is for the children of their children.

It is for people.

It is for love.

It is for life.

We can think of no worthier causes.




July 2

The Jackson Sun on health insurance:

We have mixed feelings about the alternative to Insure Tennessee proposed by a task force last week.

We were encouraged that the group came up with a plan that would provide health insurance to some Tennesseans who fall in the gap between qualifying for Medicaid and being able to afford insurance from their employer or on the insurance exchange.

We were discouraged that the plan would not go far enough to help more of the working poor who fall in this gap.

The task force that developed the plan was appointed by state House Speaker Beth Harwell, who had come under heavy fire for her failure to support Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan.

Insure Tennessee would have provided coverage for up to 288,000 people, including about 30,000 veterans. That plan was rejected by legislative committees last year and never made it to the floor for votes by the full Senate or House.

We supported Haslam’s plan, which we believe represented a fresh approach. It required accountability on the part of participants and would have utilized insurance in the private marketplace. It was not a handout for those who don’t want to work, but a hand up for those working hard to make ends meet. Unfortunately, it was viewed by many with narrow minds as an extension of Obamacare and never got a fair hearing.

The ability to expand Medicaid coverage is a ripple effect of Obamacare, which cut reimbursements to health care providers with the understanding those cuts would be offset by an increased number of paying customers through an expansion of Medicaid.

The expansion would have been fully funded by the federal government at first, and federal funding would have eventually dropped to 90 percent. The Tennessee Hospital Association had offered to pick up the 10 percent in funding when the federal share decreased.

But our legislature rejected Haslam’s plan. As a result, about $2.5 million in federal funding that would have been paid to Tennessee every day has gone elsewhere. Tennessee has missed out on about $2.8 billion so far, as reflected in our Misery Meter below.

Small rural hospitals have suffered the most under the cuts in reimbursements. Three hospitals in West Tennessee have closed, costing people jobs and access to convenient health care and emergency services.

It’s not clear how many people would be eligible for coverage under the plan - called 3-Star Health - presented by Harwell’s task force. The plan focuses on helping veterans and those with behavioral health problems. It would include health savings accounts, incentives for healthy choices and penalties for improper use of emergency services - all good ideas.

The plan would need approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and ultimately the state legislature, before it could take effect.

More information is needed on 3-Star Health, but we are pleased that it is at least a step in the right direction.




July 1

The Knoxville News Sentinel on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis:

Among the many speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, two stand out: the “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 march on Washington and the “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis on April 3, 1968.

The date of the second speech is significant because King, one of the foremost leaders of the movement, died the next day, gunned down by an assassin. King and other civil rights leaders had gone to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers.

King gave his speech at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple, the international sanctuary and headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the largest black Pentecostal group in the world.

Recently, some have begun efforts to have the temple designated a national monument. Those efforts deserve support. The temple already is on the National Register of Historic Places since it is the headquarters of a denomination that has a presence in all 50 states and 70 countries.

Nevertheless, some believe the temple’s significance in the civil rights movement often has been overlooked, said Lauren Beaupre, a member of the Shelby County Historical Commission.

“To me, the Mason Temple is the physical embodiment of the past 75 years of the civil rights movement,” said Beaupre, who wrote an article about the temple as a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame.

The effort at this point to have the building declared a national monument under the auspices of the National Park Service is a grassroots movement led by Mary Patterson, widow of the church’s first elected bishop. The discussions are in the preliminary stages.

The official designation depends on approval by Congress or a presidential order under the Antiquities Act, a law dating back 110 years that protects cultural or natural resources.

The temple served as a rallying point for civil rights activities in the 1950s and ‘60s. Yet it was King’s speech the night before his death that was as haunting and prophetic for the events of the next day as it was a rousing plea for support of the sanitation workers and for the equality of everyone. It helped define the movement’s progress to that point and pointed the way ahead.

As the nation prepares for this July 4 weekend, we could use King’s reminders from that speech: “All we say to America is to be true to what you said on paper” (the Declaration of Independence). He also referred to the “great wells of democracy, which were dug deep by the founding fathers” in the Declaration and Constitution.

Then, there was the haunting and prophetic part. King reviewed the threats on his life before saying, “I have been to the mountaintop.” He added that he had seen the Promised Land and “I may not get there with you . but we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

For its role in the civil rights movement, as the site of King’s final speech and for its place in the religious heritage of the nation and the world, the Mason Temple should be a national monument. It is a worthy project, adding to the rich history of this great land.



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