Category Archives: Newspaper Opinion Columns

Opinion Columns originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

COVID is real. Are we?

originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

We’re on the cusp of receiving a vaccine for COVID but we’re also at an all time high for cases and deaths. It’s time to get real. Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Texas State University noted that, “If poorly designed and executed, a COVID vaccination campaign in the U.S. could undermine the increasingly tenuous belief in vaccines and the public health authorities that recommend them.”

My first reaction to that was to deny we’d have a problem. Isn’t the United States the most advanced country on the planet scientifically and technology-wise. Surely folks will listen to the scientists and epidemiologists and make a logical judgement. But then I was reminded that we have increasingly fallen under the conspiracy syndrome. Just a few days ago, A Wyoming Department of Health official insisted that the “so-called pandemic” is a plot by Russia and China to spread communism worldwide. And he told the audience that the vaccine was a biological weapon.

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The 60 second smile – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

I’m addicted to watching TV news shows, especially “This Morning’s Eye Opener: Your World in 60 seconds”. It’s everything I need to know in just one minute.  We ran out of names for hurricanes predicted to decimate coastal lives and Trump’s EPA prevents legal suits against polluters and allows drilling for oil in Alaska. The CDC warns us not to travel on Thanksgiving and the White House encourages rebellion against state-mandated masks. Trump plans to pull down troops from Afghanistan and maybe bombing Iran. Defense experts freak out.

Now for the fun part. Sometimes the 60 seconds ends in a comedy shtick. It’s no accident that the popularity of political satire goes back to the ancient Greeks. Scholars describe the power of satire as a way to express truths in ways that are blunt, digestible and even enjoyable. George Bernard Shaw said it more succinctly, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

But some scholars say that TV satirists alienate folks from any political involvement:  Letterman, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Cooper, Dave Chapelle, and the list goes on. They echo the general disgust that Mark Twain voiced, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Yet given the record-breaking vote counts of the 2020 election, we’re more political than ever. And everyone’s a comedian, too. Go on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. Better yet, go see Pinterest and check out how satire and cartoons have blended into a hypnotic flow of irony, puns, goofy images, and a bit of fantasy. One of the cartoons that combines all of the above got stuck in my mind. A mermaid, unicorn, and a leprechaun was into a bar and sit down in a circle. The mermaid points to an empty chair and says, “I’d like everyone to welcome out newest member to the group, Ethical Capitalism.”

Some are over the top like, “Breaking: Dr. Fauci discusses new life-saving face mask.” The cartoon pictures Dr. Fauci and behind him is President Trump with masking tape over his mouth. Then there’s the meme caption, “FBI uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot to just sit back and enjoy collapse of United States. They’re funny, horrible, and mind-blowing all at once.

For better or worse, research shows that while satire may educate and entertain us, it doesn’t change how people vote. The politics remain nerve-racking. But it does give us comic relief and disrupts the anxiety of our COVID-19 era. We can sure use some relief these days.

So let’s give a shout out to all the comics out there. Thank you for your satire and periodic goofiness. The laughter that you generate is healing and inspiring.

Now I gotta try some humor myself. A liberal politician, a conservative politician, and a turkey walk into the bar. The bartender says, “What’ll you have?” The liberal votes for a turkey sandwich and seltzer water. The conservative votes for a turkey sandwich and a beer. When it’s the turkey’s turn, he gives them the stink-eye and says, “I want a recount.” The politicians stare at him as he gobbles out the door. They nod to each other and call over the bartender, “Make that whisky instead. We’re gonna get basted.”

OK, so I’m a lousy comic, but I had to at least try to make you smile. Now it’s your turn. Go out and make someone smile. Bring on that comic relief and knock the stuffing out of us!

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Serving up rage and revenge – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press 

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

Biden continues with a presidential transition while an enraged Trump plants land mines and trip wires. Tump’s niece predicted the situation saying, Hes not going to engage in the normal activities that guarantee a peaceful transition. All hes got now is breaking stuff, and hes going to do that with a vengeance.” I’ll be even blunter. Trump has declared war on democracy.

Trump is fracturing our country by charging Attorney General Barr to seek out fraud even though most court cases have ruled that there’s little evidence to back up his claims. He’s breaking traditions by refusing to authorize access to government officials, office space in agencies and national security tools provided to transition teams of President-Elects.

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Come together over health care – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Deborah Levine
ADR Editor-in-Chief Deborah Levine

COVID-19 cases are on the rise and it’s upsetting to see the rising number of hospitalizations in so many states. It’s even more upsetting that the White House told Governor Lee to mandate the wearing of masks to head off a likely surge in Tennessee. But it’s downright horrifying that the governor didn’t discuss this publicly. The White House message was only discovered through a records request. Did Governor Lee hope that by hiding it, no one would find out?  But we’re at a tell-all moment as the Supreme Court prepares to debate the Affordable Care Act. And there’s no hiding how the rush to affirm Trump’s Court nominee comes just in time to vote the ACA out of existence.

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Eat that pizza now – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

In this week of chaos, I looked online for occasional moments of relief. I found fascinating videos of animals looking for food in all the wrong places: an escaped ostrich-like emu stopping highway traffic and of a herd of elephants crossing a street into a village. But my favorite was a bear cub eating a delivery pizza on a doorstep in Colorado. I chuckled as he devoured the entire pizza.

But I felt guilty for laughing because bears on our doorstep are like canaries in the coal mine.  They signify the new COVID-19 reality, and it isn’t funny.

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Ginsberg’s Daring Legacy – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

The announcement of the passing of Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg came during the online services celebrating the Jewish New Year. I could see an old friend on Zoom just put her head in her hands and stay there. I’d seen the announcement a few minutes before services started at sunset so I’d had a brief moment to digest the news. I immediately texted my cousin. We both identify with the description of Ginsberg as “Elder Badass”, having fought our own life-long battles for women. She texted back, “Nooooo!”. Our grief was immediate and we could already hear rumblings of imminent battle.

Jewish tradition holds that someone who dies as the New Year begins is among the most righteous. The Divine holds death back for these souls until the year’s last moment because they’re so needed, driven by the biblical obligation, “Justice, Justice, shall you pursue”.

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QAnon, COVID-19 and conspiracy addiction – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press – August 2020

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

QAnon has gone mainstream. This fringe group’s theory that there’s a deep state dedicated to child trafficking, cannibalism, and anti-Trumpism is no longer under the radar. Some point to the successful Georgia primary of QAnon backer, Marjorie Greene, as proof. Others point to President Trump congratulating her and calling her a “Future Republican Star”.  While Vice President Pence tried to counteract Trump’s enthusiasm for QAnon, the fact that QAnon ended up on the front page of The Chattanooga Times Free Press tends to support the mainstream theory.

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Women, Votes and the $20 Bill – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of men granting women the right to vote, we should remember that it took two or three generations from the first women’s rights conference in 1848 until that right was granted. Women protested, picketed, and were imprisoned around the US. The disdain for these protesters was strong and anti-Suffragist protests were loud even in Nashville. Sound familiar? Not surprisingly, when the 19th amendment passed in Tennessee, it did so just barely, and was then contested. Fortunately, attempts to rescind passage were not successful and Tennessee became the deciding vote in passing women’s voting rights nationally.

So given our activist history, why are only 19.6% of elected officials in Congress women. And why, in the 2016 presidential election, did only one-third of women eligible to vote cast a ballot?  There’s never been a woman president or vice president or chief justice of the Supreme Court. And in Tennessee, which was so instrumental in passing the voting rights legislation, there’s never been a woman governor.

What is the problem? Why aren’t women more prominent in leadership? Are we ignorant of history and therefore taking it for granted? Then read this newspapers’ columns by Linda Moss Mines about the amazing stories behind passing Constitutional Amendment 19 and achieving women’s right to vote. Consider that this Centennial isn’t just a once in a lifetime commemoration, it’s happens only once in several generations.

But I worry that women and their supporters are just too depressed to care about voting given all the economic and social issues confronting us. Can we get over thatWhy Bother” attitude? Consider that 76% of public school teachers are women. And 80% of bank tellers, 83% of social workers, 91% of nurses, and 70% of wait staff are women. Yet only thirty-three of the Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs. And of the handful of African American CEOs, none are women. It’s way past time that women are seen, heard, and elevated to leadership.

Still not inspired to vote? Dig into the stories of women who are historic icons. A great example is Harriet Tubman who was born into slavery, escaped and then rescued 70 enslaved people using the network we know as the Underground Railroad. Truly a Woman of Valor! Tubman was to be on the $20 dollar bill this year to commemorate the  passage of the 19th Amendment.

So why was the new $20 bill postponed? Treasury Secretary Mnuchin claimed the design delay was over counterfeiting issues while announcing that plans for new $10 and $50 bills would go forward.Yet The New York Times reported that the Tubman $20 bill had already been designed.

We know what really happened. President Trump nixed putting Tubman on the currency saying it was pure political correctness”. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen angrily responded saying “…this delay sends an unmistakable message to women and girls, and communities of color.”

Can Shaheen get legislation passed to produce the Tubman $20 bills in 2021, or will it take another 100 years? My hope is that we see a positive cultural shift with Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as his Vice President. But I’m prepared for the “extraordinarily nasty” tidal wave of name calling already begun by Trump who claimed that men may feel insulted by a woman VP choice.

Despite the inevitable divisiveness, I’m hopeful for a huge turnout of voters who support women in leadership. I’m hoping for an historic Centennial and that someday soon, I’ll have a $20 bill that’s more valuable than anything I’ve ever had in my wallet.

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Racial justice is not political correctness – by Deborah Levine

(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

The giant earthquake over our African American history at Trump’s Tulsa rally was followed by a tiny spotlight on Native Americans who protested against Trump’s July 4th appearance at Mount Rushmore. The monument is on sacred Sioux Nation land, but National Guard troops fired pepper spray and arrested indigenous protesters.

Before anyone calls Sioux protestors left-wing radicals, marxists, and anarchists, understand that the National Park Service banned fireworks at Mount Rushmore because they caused wildfires and groundwater pollution on Sioux Nation land.

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The Naked Athena – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

At 1:45am in Portland, Oregon, a naked woman emerged from the gas fumes and halted the onslaught of federal police in a militarized crackdown over objections by local leaders. Some call her The Naked Athena after the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare. Others called her Lady Godiva, a medieval streaker on a horse. Today’s unamed-as-yet nude protester did some ballet moves that had the police in retreat. Portland has long given legal status to naked activists, but I suspect that this incident was memorable even for them.

Some are labeling Athena as an “Antifa psychopath” and one more reason why federal troops should be policing Portland. Chad Wolf, head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) railed about Portland’s violent anarchists”. But this hotbed of violent anarchy is actually a 12 block area of Portlands 145 square miles.

Federal agents were never requested and Portland’s Mayor said that the city’s tense situation had been quieting down until these squads made matters worse, Folks aren’t taking kindly to camouflage-wearing agents with no identification who virtually kidnap protesters and yank them into unmarked rented vans. One victim reported being locked up in an unknown location, not told why he was jailed or given access to an attorney. He was released with no citation or record of his arrest. When the Mayor tried to reason with DHS’s Wolf about the lack of constitutionality, he was told to “stuff it”.

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