Category Archives: Newspaper Opinion Columns

Opinion Columns originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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.

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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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Hate: Everything old is new again – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINEThe United Nations designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated this week, to remember the six million Jewish victims and millions of other victims of the Holocaust. This Day marks the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a set of work-death camps in Nazi-occupied Poland. The hope is to confront hatred and make sure that we do not forget, ignore, or stay silent on the lessons of this history.

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Ladies Night’s New Decade – by Deborah Levine

DEBORAH LEVINEIt’s 2020 and there’s a lot of buzz about stand-out stories of the last decade. One of my favorites is the proposed replacement of the statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest with one of Country Music’s Dolly Parton. The suggestion is a piece of genius! Let’s go from the sombre debate over Forrest’s dark background as a KKK founding member to Dolly, Tennessee’s music icon who makes you want to break out into a chorus of “Rocky Top”.   Who better to represent our state capital than the creator of Dollywood, beloved by the entire country?

Despite her fame, I wonder if Dolly’s name would have come up if it weren’t for the #MeToo movement. Not everyone was charmed by the movement, but it was definitely a cultural shift that changed our culture as well quite a few prominent lives. As it ripped through the internet like wild fire, women came forward with “Enough is Enough” stories of sexual harassment, assault, and misbehavior. Yes, there’s been push back and countersuits, but there are also major strides in women’s roles that go far beyond removing powerful men like Harvey Weinstein from their positions.

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Swastikas and nooses: campus hate speech or free speech? – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINENever heard of UHBIOC? Think again. The initials stand for Uncivil, Hate and Bias Incidents on Campus (UHBIOC) and rarely a week goes by without an incident on campuses. CNN reported 5 incidents in just one week with swastikas and nooses on campuses in Georgia, Wisconsin, Alabama, New York, and Iowa. Now the big question for colleges is whether swastikas and nooses legally represents hate speech or free speech.

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Mother Nature’s daughters are cleaning up – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINEWe all understand the retail exhaustion of this season, but did the driver of a random car passing by have to toss his empty soda can onto my front lawn? And we all know that the cleaner upper isn’t the driver, it’s me. I’m reminded of a road sign featured online that asks the question, “Why are you littering?” We get several choices for an answer: 1) I’m a Jerk, 2) I don’t care about anyone else, 3) Mommy still cleans up after me, and 4) All of the above. So when 16-year old Greta Thunberg became Time Magazine’s Person of the Year,  maybe Mommy Earth sent her kid with a message, one that’s beyond seasonal.

Greta is annoying lots of folks. “Greta, go home & cuddle a teddy. I object to being patronised by a foreign teenager,” is a British complaint on Twitter.  Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro labeled Greta a “brat”. You all know Trump’s reaction. But I wish she’d come to my street and glare at the cars driving by. Maybe there’d be fewer water bottles, candy wrappers, and beer cans on the ground. I fantasize about her when the driver of the car in front of me tosses his cigarette butt out his open window. Bored at the red light, he empties the entire ash tray onto the street before driving off.

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Reporting and counteracting hate is everybody’s job- by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press 

DEBORAH LEVINEReporters haven’t lacked for stories about hate groups and lone wolves whether it’s Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, Milwaukee’s acid attack on a Latino, Dallas’ shooting of a transgender woman, or El Paso’s Walmart massacre. So I was surprised to see journalist from around the region looking relaxed and hanging out together at an event convened by Chattanooga’s Council Against Hate, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Lookout, and sponsor BlueCross BlueShield of TN. I expected them to look stoic and even jaded given the thick skins they’ve had to develop. But the passion for their work was awesome and so was their excitement about doing research undercover.

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