(Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Of the top stories summing up 2018 and predictions for 2019, few mentioned the escalating rate of suicide. Adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, the highest rate recorded in 28 years. Yet, despite about 129 suicides per day across the country, the topic remains in the shadows.
You may think that Tennessee is an exception, but we have twice as many suicides than homicides. With a suicide rate well above the national average, suicide is the tenth cause of death in our state. Tennessee averages one suicide every eight hours. And the situation continually worsens. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network reports that suicide deaths have steadily increased over the last 35 years since they’ve been monitoring suicide.
Continue reading Elephant in the room: Suicide – by Deborah Levine
(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
We struggle to resist the temptation minute to minute this time of year. It begins with Halloween candy and proceeds to Thanksgiving dinner, exploding with holiday eating extravaganzas with the year’s tastiest foods. By the New Year, the scale shows our over-indulgence. It’s no coincidence that 12% of gym members join in January.
Maybe this year we’ll wake up to the fact that 30 million Americans suffer from the obesity-related disease of diabetes. Did you know that the ten states with the highest rates of type 2 diabetes are here in the South?
Continue reading Yummy or Yucky – by Deborah Levine
Editor’s note: this article on anti-Semitism was originally published as an op-ed in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Russian President Putin got my attention when he suggested that Jews with Russian citizenship might have interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. “Maybe they’re not even Russians,” said Putin. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship – even that needs to be checked.” Putin reminded me why my great grandparents made the harrowing journey from Russia and the Ukraine to the United States. My ancestors weren’t the only ones. Between 1881 and 1924, over 2.5 million East European Jews sought to escape the relentless persecution and ghettoization. The slice of history was captured in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, but while Hollywood entertained, it didn’t fully show the history of anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe, or its ongoing ripple effect.
Continue reading Pandora’s Box of Hate – by Deborah Levine
(Give thanks, seek peace – originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Thanksgiving isn’t just food, family, football, and Black Friday. Not that there’s anything wrong with stuffing yourselves and your loved ones and then heading for the couch and TV or the shopping mall. All are fine American traditions celebrating the abundance in our lives, topped off with delicious left overs. But they seem more removed than ever from the holiday’s intended purpose.
That purpose was demonstrated at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service held at Pilgrim Congregational Church. We sat in the pews listening to the harmonies of a choir made up of talented congregants from faith groups across the city. The graceful music surrounded and filled us as religious leaders representing Baha’i, Catholic, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant communities offered prayers and poems of gratitude and compassion.
Continue reading Give thanks and Seek peace – by Deborah Levine
(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
When I heard that Holocaust Survivor Eva Schloss was speaking in Chattanooga, I seriously considered staying home. I know Holocaust stories all too well from my work in Holocaust education, the hand-typed memoirs of survivors sent to me, and my father’s World War II letters. Dad was a US military intelligence officer assigned to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war. His letters described their education into fascism and its authoritarian ultranationalism, dehumanizing minorities and suppressing opposition.
Continue reading Holocaust Lessons at Memorial Auditorium – by Deborah Levine
The Kavanuagh hearing featuring his accuser, Dr. Blasey Ford, was an emotional roller coaster for both “witnesses”, a term that implies a trial and jury although it was more of a job interview. Yet, this was an opportunity for the accuser of sexual violence to be heard and for the accused to rebut. The GOP senators chose a woman district attorney to question Dr. Ford, making it look like a trial where “innocent until proven guilty” applied. But this was a job interview, not a trial, and it focused on demeanor rather than legal jurisdiction.
Continue reading She Said, He Yelled, We all Fall Down – by Deborah Levine
Birthdays that end in zero are milestones to be celebrated, or completely ignored, depending on your point of view. I choose to celebrate my milestone by writing about the beauty and value of older women. Too often, the presence of older women can be used to delegitimize a good cause. There were several editorials about Women’s Marches calling them irrelevant because so many of the women involved were old, limping, and decrepit.
Maybe I should be used to this dismissive language, I’ve heard it often enough. I’m reminded of the time I gave a presentation at a national interfaith workshop in Huntsville. Wrapping up, I asked for comments from an audience of woman chaplains and pastors. The first question had everyone nodding their heads, “How do you get people to listen to you? Once I turned sixty nobody cared what I thought or said.”
Continue reading Who You Callin’ Old? – by Deborah Levine
NOTE: Article originally appeared in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
Who doesn’t know about the cops being called on two black men at Starbucks? Don’t we all know that Starbucks closed its stores around the country to do unconscious bias training? But what would you answer if asked for a description of “Unconscious Bias”? Most folks will ramble, hem and haw, or just say, “I have no idea.” When asked to describe training to prevent unconscious bias from becoming outright prejudice and discrimination, the response may be a profound, dumbfounded silence.
Continue reading Unconscious Bias “R” Us – by Deborah Levine
NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
According to immigration lawyers, children as young as five will be in court going through the legal process. They’ll have to prove to a judge why they should not be deported. Separated from family and lacking legal counsel, the cruelty of their situation is magnified by anti-immigration comments: “They brought it on themselves” and “they had it coming”.
Continue reading Cruel and Unusual Punishment at the Border – Deborah Levine
NOTE: Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
by Deborah Levine
The education I received getting my Master’s urban planning degree in the 1990s had less to do with the classroom and more to do with developing the Windy City. That’s the nickname given Chicago more than a century ago, not for its weather, but for its gusts of political hot air. The hot issue of my time was planning the city’s high rise developments and rapid growth into nearby neighborhoods. A major land parcels under debate was home to inner city housing projects. The projects were built with the intent to alleviate poverty but had become African American islands battered by desperation over the lack of good schools, public transportation, decent jobs, and grocery stores.
Continue reading Make Some Noise for Urban Planning! – by Deborah Levine