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Stranger shopping at Walmart – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

As I was leaving my neighborhood Walmart yesterday morning a total stranger stopped in front of me and announced, “The Biden family is living off millions while the rest of us are poor!”  He just stood there waiting for my response. I smiled sweetly and said “ You mean poor Trump – forced to live at that Mar-a-Lago place and living off all those contributions folks send him because he’s such a nice man.” I continued my sweet smile and the gentleman, confused, finally walked away and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was disturbing to have a perfect stranger approach me like this. I worry that given the wild ride of this 2024 presidential election, I need to prepare myself for a tidal wave of such strangeness.   

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On the road to what? – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

I was surprised to see the photos of Ron DeSantis’ motorcade multi-car pile up on I-75 near Brainerd Road. Frankly I’m skeptical about the rumors saying that a dog had caused the accident. In the more than 20 years Ive traveled that road, Ive never seen a dog cross that road. I wonder if his cars got entangled in some of the orange traffic cones along the way. Or maybe they got caught in heavy traffic on that section of the highway when folks careen across lanes.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if either had happened. Whatever the cause, we may never know. DeSantis was using state government vehicles and a new law was just passed shielding his travel records from public view. But we do know about our challenging roads and we’re learning more.

First lesson: Note this quote from Patrick Rothfuss, Safe roads are the bones of civilization.” Key for keeping those bones safe is how people drive on them. Alas, what were once civilized and polite driving has given way to the equivalent of the pushing and shoving by kids in school hallways. I am forever grateful for those drivers who let you onto the highway in front of them. And for those who don’t speed up to cut you off as they cross lanes. They have a slightly saintly aura.

Second lesson: Construction is the new normal. I wonder if DeSantis’ team had driven around East Ridge and the Brainerd area. The drive can be mind-numbing. Ringgold road is continually under construction with orange traffic cones everywhere. Digging equipment have decorated various sides of the road for longer than I can remember. Main roads are blocked. Some ramps on and off to the highway are gone. My favorite mess is the circular path now made by metal shafts that lead cars on Terrace in a circle around closed I-24 ramps. A driver unused to the area had gotten on the circle by mistake and just sat there in his car, mystified at the traffic coming coming at him. Yeah, buddy…I feel your pain.

We all know that Chattanooga is growing by leaps and bounds. You only have to look at the number of grey and white apartment buildings going up all over town, transforming once distinctive areas into lookalikes. Water mains and sewer systems are being updated, often leaving raised planks and covers that click loudly driven over into the night.

As we grow and roads get more congested, the modernization process that widens and adds highway lanes can be confusing. For example, if you don’t know that the extra lanes on the highway will quickly merge and disappear, being mystified is the least of your worries.

Governor Bill Lee has responded with a statewide campaign to promote his $3 billion Transportation Modernization Act.  He recently gave a speech at Alison Pike site that’s part of a larger project to widen Apison Pike from Interstate 75 to East Brainerd Road and more safely connect Ooltewah, Collegedale and Apison to Chattanooga’s urban core. An admirable goal…except for one thing. The Act explores public-private partnerships for “Choice Lanes”. That’s a divert-and-deflect euphemism for toll roads. Supposedly this will decrease congestion, save taxpayer dollars and make road projects more efficient.

The urban planner in me wants to know exactly how toll booths would be a plus for transportation. And who would own these Choice Lanes, and could sell them to whom. I hear echoes of that old saying, The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. If you hear that, too, ask questions. Lots of pointed questions. And don’t settle for divert-and-deflect answers.

Change is Inevitable. So is the Future – by Deborah Levine

Working from home became the  norm during the pandemic, but it isn’t a new concept. Computers have pointed us in that direction for almost 50 years. When my mother insisted that I take the first computer programming elective offered at my high school during the 1960s, I thought she was nuts. I was focused on learning Russian and preparing for a catastrophic moment in the Cold War. But Mom informed me in her soft sweet voice that computers were the change shaping the future and she was commanding, not suggesting. And if that weren’t weird enough, she insisted that I take a typing class to ramp up my keyboard speed.

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Time is well spent at the library – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

As I enter our downtown library I’m reminded of a famous quote by science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, Libraries raised me.” Growing up in Bermuda, the one small public library was a treasure and my grandmother donated the Encyclopedia Britannica to it. When we came to America as a kid, we lived in several different communities before settling in Long Island, New York. Lacking any sense of direction I often got ridiculously lost, but agree with Albert Einstein who said, The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

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Perspective on Christian Nationalism – by A. James Rudin

Baptizing America Revisited

A specter is haunting America and it is not socialism and certainly not communism. It’s the obscene specter of Americans being forced to kneel in submission to an extremist “winner take all” religious ideology seeking to transform the United States into a “Christian nationalist” country where Christian supremacy in its many forms supersedes all human laws – including and especially the American Constitution.

In my book “The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans For The Rest Of Us (Thunder’s Mouth Press 2006), I warned that a well-financed and highly organized group of religious and political leaders was seeking to impose their narrow radical beliefs and harsh public policies on the US, even as our nation’s population was increasingly multireligious, multiethnic, and multiracial.

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End of Affirmative Action? A Tale of Two Stories – by Dr. Carlos Cortés

Keynote Address for Constitutional Law:
The End of Affirmative Action

Part of the Signature DIAlogue Webinar Series of the
Los Angeles County Department of Human Resources

Thank you for the opportunity of reflecting on Affirmative Action, particularly the two recent Supreme Court decisions that struck down the admissions policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. I’ll approach this topic as both an 89-year-old retired history professor and a half-century diversity consultant/public lecturer who actually witnessed the birth of affirmative action.    

The six-decade affirmative action journey involves two intersecting stories: a vision story and a systems story. Both are rooted in the civil rights movement and were launched officially by President John F. Kennedy’s March 6, 1961, Executive Order 10925.

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Douse Fireworks; Embrace Laser Light Shows – by Deborah Levine

Originally published by the Chattanooga Times Free Press

The July 4th fireworks wonderful! We drove around the neighborhood to check out what’s happening. Folks down the street have been doing a family light-up every night over the weekend. And then was there’s Camp Winnie, one of my all-time favorites. Best of all, was watching the sky explode over the Tennessee River. Of course, we’re sad for everyone living near Canada where smoke from across the border forced some cities to cancel July 4 fireworks. I was grateful not to have their pollution levels – until I coughed and wheezed driving by a house surrounding us all in smoke from fireworks lit up in the driveway. Mother Earth whispered that our gratitude should come with a grain of salt, or saltpeter.

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Tackling Bias and Diversity Benefits All- by Deborah Levine

 (Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

I hesitated going into the banquet room at the Chattanooga Convention Center for the 2023 Diversify Conference hosted by our Chamber of Commerce and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBSTN). The last time I attended this conference was before the pandemic when I delivered an inclusive invocation. My friend and colleague, Ron Harris of BCBSTN, demonstrated unconscious bias by asking us if we thought he could slam dunk a basketball. We all laughed since Ron is definitely “vertically challenged”. Our biases were immediately visible.

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Bunny Bear Adventures – Teaching Guide

This guide for teachers and parents helps children connect to their own feelings and develop empathy for others. The Teaching Guide uses the science of storytelling to design engaging stories as a tool for social and personal competencies. Given the growing need to teach young students respect  and empathy, the video stories of  Bunny Bear Adventures in Diversity Land provide a creative approach for teaching social and emotional awareness and laying the groundwork for positive and productive human interaction.

The stories can be read out loud to students and  be accompanied by the Bunny Bear Adventures Coloring Book. Topics in the stories include: welcoming newcomers, understanding differences, dealing with bullying, awareness of language and valuing compassion and kindness.

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Bunny Bear Adventures – Coloring Book

Inclusive Coloring Book

These coloring pages for ages 6-11 are not only engaging and fun, but also include discussion questions that prompt deep thinking. They’re designed to help young people build critical thinking skills, enhance social and emotional awareness, and increase emotional intelligence.

Bunny Bear and Statue of Liberty
Bunny Bear and Statue of Liberty

Why call it Bunny Bear? My father called all the women in the family “Bunny”: my mom, me, and, when she was born, my daughter who gave me a teddy bear called “Bunny Bear”. The love that Bunny Bear represents keeps me company always and I’m happy to share that love.

The images on the coloring book pages are based on the video stories that you can see when you click on: Bunny Bear Adventures in Diversity Land.


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