- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


July 1

The Cleveland Daily Banner on communicating with others amid recent protests calling for the removal of a Confederate statue in Cleveland, Tennessee:

While protests get the public’s attention and their community message dominates newspaper headlines, it is face-to-face dialogue - actual communication - that resolves conflict.

Handprinted posters pinpoint the causes, angry voices seek to overpower those on the other side and vocal jeers rally the crowds to a level of heightened tension whose next step treads ever-so-close to the unthinkable.

This has been the nightly scene at the base of the Confederate statue for the past two weeks. Its scenario is simple, yet its complexities go far beyond the right and wrong of American history.

One group feels this way. One group believes the other. One wants the statue relocated to a more historic setting like the Confederate section of Fort Hill Cemetery; the other one says no, leave it alone … it’s not hurting anybody where it is.

It’s a tale as old as the nation, one whose birth pre-dates the arrival of any one person on Bradley County soil.

Yet, it’s a new chapter that has finally made its way into our hometown. Given the political climate defining American cities everywhere - and the fact that Cleveland is home to such a monument - the arrival of this debate was inevitable.

And during times like these, turning deaf ears to the sound of anguish is the worst possible direction.

Thankfully, leaders within our Cleveland and Bradley County community - and particularly those with influence in the setting of precedence - are beginning to talk, and to recognize the importance of sharing ideas in ironing out the fate of the 110-year-old Confederate monument.

Granted, some of the words might not be what the collective - those who just want peace - wish to hear. But, we’re talking. And that’s a start.

Last week in a Cleveland Daily Banner interview, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks cautioned against false hope, saying municipal history records the statue - and the tiny slice of property on which it rests - is no longer under the city’s domain. According to the minutes of a 1911 Cleveland City Aldermen meeting, it was “sold, transferred and conveyed to the officers and members” of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis Chapter 900, as well as to “… their assigns and successors forever.”

This doesn’t mean the city has no say. Certainly, the statue is a part of our municipality, meaning city leaders carry influence - at least, as mediators - in determining the statue’s future.

At about the same time that Brooks was disclosing the legalities of historic documents, a Black Lives Matter leader - Tee Davis - was explaining in an interview with our newspaper why the organization is especially sensitive to the presence of a Confederate statue whose history presumably runs counter to America’s commitment to human rights.

“What we’re trying to tell them is that oppression is not wanted in our community,” Davis told the Banner. “We don’t want to battle amongst each other. That’s what we’re trying to convey to the public.”

The next day Linda Ballew, president of the United Daughter of the Confederacy, contacted a Cleveland Daily Banner editor advising her organization was ready to make a position statement. While her written words offered little hope for change, it did constitute the start of communication.

“The war was fought over 150 years ago,” she said. “Debating the war could go on forever. We choose to honor all veterans as Americans, as it should be. We cannot be held responsible for what others did.”

While the UDOC leader was confirming her group’s stance, Cleveland City Councilman Bill Estes was proposing a compromise that he plans to bring before the full council at its next gathering on July 13.

“Good people disagree on important issues, therefore moving forward frequently requires measures of compromise,” Estes told our newspaper. “What does take courage is to listen to others, see an issue from another perspective and work to solve a problem together.”

Estes’ proposal is to keep the Confederate statue where it is, and to relocate an existing Union monument from the entrance of Fort Hill Cemetery to a spot adjacent to the UDOC statue. The two memorials would then be bridged by a plaque acknowledging the history, and the heritage, of both causes. A permanent exhibit erected in the neighboring History Branch of Cleveland Bradley Public Library would then add context.

The Estes plan seems viable, but does it go far enough? Ballew’s stance seems adamant, but is there flexibility? Can Bradley County history find common ground with the path of Black Lives Matter?

It remains a guessing game. But this we know: People are finally talking about it.

Now, we just need them to talk to each other.

Online: http://www.clevelandbanner.com/


June 28

The Johnson City Press on coronavirus safety measures in Tennessee:

In recent days we have witnessed two events that enforce the glaring fact that many - far, far too many - people continue to ignore the presence and continued threat of COVID-19.

As evidenced by the spiking numbers in Florida, Texas and Arizona where an overwhelming number of the new cases can be traced to crowded bars, concert events and the like, social distancing is being shrugged off with dire consequences.

Locally, we have been disturbed as some of us attended a service where just three people were seen wearing masks. To make that more disturbing, people in attendance sat should-to-shoulder in the chapel and there was the fact that well more than half of the attendees would be placed in the 65-and-older high-risk category.

It was an uncomfortable, uneasy setting, to say the least.

In another instance, one of our reporters covered an indoors meeting of 40 to 50 people. Three people, our reporter included, wore a mask. Just three. And again, the 6-foot physical distance guideline was ignored.

As Tennessee and other states have relaxed lockdown and quarantine guidelines, people have grown more comfortable with larger, concentrated gatherings, including some restaurants, church services, civic club luncheons, public meetings and funerals.

For the time being at least, COVID-19 appears to be a long-term problem requiring us to adapt.

But let’s be blunt here: Are large gatherings worth risking the lives of dozens of others? Instances are well documented, for example, from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when a funeral was ground-zero for an outbreak cluster. Why risk the health and lives of the survivors and friends? That’s not cruel nor mean-spirited to ask. It’s genuine concern for the living.

Tennessee’s mandate for virtual government meetings expires at the end of the month. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that Gov. Bill Lee will do the common-sense thing and extend the mandate.

But while the state may not do the right thing, that doesn’t mean folks in Northeast Tennessee can’t be responsible and continue virtual meetings for at least a couple more months. We’ve seen no glaring issues with the meetings since mid-March, so why pack folks into a commission meeting space when the threat of COVID-19 exposure remains a real concern and threat?

We encourage every group - government or not - to continue virtual meetings into the foreseeable future. If that’s not possible, groups should mandate that every participant and attendee wear a mask and that no more people be allowed to attend than can be accommodated under social distancing guidelines.

The same goes for funerals. One funeral need not result in 10 more.

COVID-19 has proven to be non-discriminatory. While it is believed that older populations and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to contracting the disease, recent spikes have been largely in younger populations who tend to congregate in crowds and have a more cavalier it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude. Too many are learning the hard way that nobody’s COVID-19 proof.

Be smart.

Be safe.

Keep your distance.

Wear your masks.

If you have no respect for yourself, have some respect for your fellow humans.

The sooner common sense becomes more common, the sooner we get to return to some semblance of normalcy. But right now, that sadly doesn’t even feel like a possibility.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/


June 25

The Crossville Chronicle on registering to vote:

Haven’t registered to vote?

There’s still time - you have until July 7 to register to be able to cast your ballot in the Aug. 6 county general election and state primary. And it’s easy.

Go to ovr.govote.tn.gov if you have a valid Tennessee driver’s license or Department of Safety and Homeland Security ID. You’ll be prompted to answer five yes-or-no questions to determine your voter eligibility before inputing your information.

All total, the process takes 3-5 minutes at best.

If you just moved to Cumberland County and haven’t changed your address on your Tennessee driver’s license, you can do that and register to vote at dl.safety.tn.gov.

We realize this solution is not for everyone. The websites also offer links to applications that can be printed, completed at your convenience and taken to the Cumberland County Election Office, at 2 South Main St., Suite 105, Crossville, across from the Cumberland County Courthouse, to finish the process.

To vote in Tennessee, you must be a U.S. citizen, live in the state, and be age 18 or older on or before the next election. Special instructions at sos.tn.gov cover voting rights for those who have been convicted of a felony.

Whether online or in person at the Election Commission, registering to vote takes mere minutes of your time. It’s free and easy.

And exercise your right to vote, whether you cast your ballot early, by mail or show up at the polling place on Election Day.

The time you spend registering and voting enables you to put our county, state and country on the course it will follow for the next four years.

Make sure your voice is heard. Register and exercise your right to vote now for our future.

Online: https://www.crossville-chronicle.com/

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