Category Archives: Newspaper Opinion Columns

Opinion Columns originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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.
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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

Doom and Gloom or Rays of Hope – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINE“Mom, It’s the end of the world!” That’s what I heard when I picked up the phone last week. She’d been told to go home and self-quarantine by the hospital where she works. All non-essential personnel for dealing with the coronavirus were told the same. A week later, she reported living nonstop in her pajamas, losing track of time, and grateful for not having killed someone. As for that end-of-the-world thing, I don’t think she cared one way or another. I wonder if it helped to hear me say she’s greatly loved.

Not knowing what else to say, I had the same message of love for another daughter who called by video conferencing from a lock-down zone. Surrounded by her four boys, all under ten years old, including a set of impressively active twins, there was a lot of yelling and running around. With a strained smile, she said, “Felt optimistic yesterday. Today I just don’t want to get out of bed.”

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For Coronavirus: distract, suppress and shift – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINEThe email cry for help came from a colleague whom I’ve never met in person, He’d been invited to give the invocation at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Seattle, the epicenter of the coronavirus. My gut reaction was “Run Away! Run Away!” But I settled down when he wanted assistance writing his speech. I appreciate the power of words, especially in chaotic times, and they flowed from my brain to my computer and across cyberspace to help inspire calm, kindness, and compassion.

I struggled with adding hope to that list. I was watching the stock market swing like a balloon in a hurricane. I heard reports of schools closing. Harvard gave students just 5 days to “de-densify” the premises and take classes online. I figure my big Harvard reunion in May will be cancelled. (I’m not saying which year. Y’all know I’m old.)

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‘Tis the Season of Love, but the Era of Hate – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINEThis time of year should be all about kindness, generosity, and, of course, love. But there’s precious little love in the air these days. Whether watching the news, looking at Face Book, or checking out Twitter, what we see is the glorification of snark. Insults, meanness, threats, and derogatory language permeate every thread of our society’s fabric. We are at war with each other and love is hard to come by. So I resorted to love expressed in a different era, in a different war.   

I opened the box of love letters that my parents wrote each other during and towards the end of World War II. Dad was a US military officer assigned to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war in Germany. Mom had gone back to her parents in Bermuda to have her baby. Dad didn’t get to see my older brother Joe until he was about one year old. In his seventies, Dad called his letters “just so much love-sick whining”.  But I take heart that in one of the ugliest times in history, love prevailed as did faith in a better future.

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