Category Archives: Newspaper Opinion Columns

Opinion Columns originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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”.

Continue reading Ginsberg’s Daring Legacy – by Deborah Levine

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.

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

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.

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.

Continue reading Racial justice is not political correctness – by Deborah Levine

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”.

Continue reading The Naked Athena – by Deborah Levine

Racial justice is not political correctness – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

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.

Continue reading Racial justice is not political correctness – by Deborah Levine

A new generation takes to the streets – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Should I laugh or cringe when reporters say that today’s protests aren’t new and similar protests go all the way back to the civil rights movement? They have now labeled those of us involved in the movement back in the 1960s as ancient history. First, it wasn’t that long ago in America’s 400-year history regarding race. Second, let’s be clear that I was very, very young.

I got a call from a high school classmate to come downtown and join a protest. Not sure that I’d get permission, I told my dad that I was going for a walk. It was hours before I returned home, but no one commented on my absence. I was busted the next morning when dad picked up the newspaper saw our protest on the front page with the caption, Pimple Politics. I held my breath as he turned purple, expecting to be squashed for life. But I’m forever grateful for his response: “How dare they insult you!” I suddenly saw my future as a leader and advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, and, in those days, for the end of the Vietnam War.
Continue reading A new generation takes to the streets – by Deborah Levine

Which racism and whose history? – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

We all heard about NASCAR’s decision to remove the Confederate Flag. And the immediate resignation of a long time driver was all over the news. There were photos of the protest parade of trucks near Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway sporting Confederate flags. Most spectacular were the shots of a plane flying overhead hauling the Confederate flag and a Defund NASCAR banner.

Controversy over Confederate statues isn’t new and divided views over what the flags stand for have been around since the war between the states. That division can sometimes take center stage like four years ago in Charlottesville over the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee. Given the uproar generated by the violence that erupted when white supremacists clashed with protesters, we expected permanent changes to our national culture.

But few Confederate monuments were officially removed or relocated after Charlottesville. And there were more internet ads than ever targeting the true believers: “We’ve got a whole bunch of Dixie stickers & decals, including confederate flag stickers and decals… Add a confederate bumper sticker to your truck … Show the world you’re not ashamed of your Southern roots and you’ll FOREVER raise our Confederate Flag. It’s Our Heritage… Our History.”

Referring to the protesters, our president said at his Arizona rally, “They hate our history, they hate our values, and they hate everything we prize as Americans.” He refers to these Confederate symbols as “our wonderful monuments” and echos on his statement of ”good people on all sides” describing the Charlottesville incident.

Branded by as un-American, anti-racism protesters aren’t waiting for federal approval to take down these monuments. In our the post-George Floyd culture, there’s little trust in official action. Yet, there’s growing awareness, sensitivity and willingness to act by organizations, universities, corporations, and municipalities. In addition to NASCAR’s decisions, some towns are moved to take down confederate statues. Lawmakers in California are revisiting affirmative action policies that were jettisoned two decades ago.

The result is a magnification of the emotions on opposite sides of the spectrum that is spiraling upward. Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase declares, “This isn’t about destroying Confederate history, it’s about destroying WHITE HISTORY… the history of America. These liberals and socialists seek to paint us as racists when it’s them who are racist.” The White House adds threats of violent repercussions towards anyone taking down these statues without official approval.

It’s disturbing to hear comments crediting God for raining out the NASCAR re-opening as punishment. The battle over whose history and whose racism only intensifies with a rally cry of divine purpose and evoking God’s name. A modern-day civil war isn’t far fetched, especially given the economic and social unrest of COVID-19. That’s why it’s so vital for religious leaders to intervene and make sure that our country isn’t torn apart, again.

It’s heartening to see local pastors call for learning the history of racism. We know that,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But education doesn’t always lead to action as we saw when our state legislature recently adjourned with little done. And some resent that education and increasingly resist efforts for change.

Religious leaders can inspire their flock, educate us all, and pray for those making the path by walking it. But they can also help congregational leaders engage in public policy, urban planning, economic development and election reform. We need to mobilize the change makers of all faiths to come together, design that future, and implement it. And we need to make sure that they’re heard.

To mask or not to mask – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

I got a call from my cousin Lenny from a New York hospital telling me that they’d just admitted his elderly mother into the emergency room. He was upset because the hospital restricted his time with his mother as part of COVID-19 protocols.  But “Upset” didn’t cover his reaction to the receptionist not wearing a mask and neither a few of the medical staff. He made his objections loud and clear and took pictures on his phone. At that point, security was called and he got tossed out.  Picturing this kerfuffle over my aunt’s prone body, I’m taking the war over masks personally.

When I see headlines about North Dakota’s Republican governor Doug Burgum being on “brink of tears as he decries ‘mask shaming’, I’m horrified that the governor had to beg but encouraged that he had the courage to do so. It takes guts for a Republican governor to antagonize the anti-maskers when Biden says yes and Trump says no way. The battle’s begun in a presidential campaign fight to the political death.

Continue reading To mask or not to mask – by Deborah Levine

A COVID-19 Mother’s Day Gift – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Maybe you’ll get to hug your mom in person this weekend, but it’s likely that your Mother’s Day moment will be online or by phone. We’re not back to what we call normal and travel is still a luxury many of us don’t have. Especially if Moms are older and health-compromised. COVID -19 may have many of us disappointed over missing a warm embrace, but it should also make us plan the appreciation of the women in our families, and communities, more deliberately.

My daughter in New England announced weeks in advance that my Mother’s Day gift would be arriving soon. It doesn’t matter what kind of present she sends, I could feel her love bubble up through my cell phone. And she probably felt the mommy love I sent her way. We both know that feeling well. It just gets magnified thinking of Mother’s Day. Continue reading A COVID-19 Mother’s Day Gift – by Deborah Levine