Monthly Archives: September 2006

William Rivers Pitt, still a favorite

He breaks down the stupidity here.

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Welcome to Nathan Bedford’s Tennessee

Nelly Rivera and her husband moved to Tennessee from Florida roughly four months ago, in part to escape the threat of hurricanes. Little did they know her presence at a local library would set off an altogether different type of storm. Nelly, an American citizen of Puerto Rican descent, landed a part time position as a Library Assistant at the Marshall County Memorial Library in Lewisburg, Tn. Before her arrival there, Spanish speaking residents and visitors looking for reading or reference material had a handful of books and periodicals to choose from, but there was no one at the Library that actually spoke any Spanish. A handpainted sign that said simply “Espanol” sat on a shelf adjacent to those few books. Nelly, because she is fluent is two languages, and because she is a friendly, helpful person, started helping those who did not speak English by teaching them how to use computers, and started offering children’s book readings in Spanish. Apparently, this did not sit well with several Lewisburg citizens. At least one, Jeanie Morris, expressed her displeasure loudly enough that last night, she was invited to address the monthly meeting of the Library’s Board. The meeting was held in a classroom like area just off the main floor of the Library, and was attended by approx 20 people. Channel 2 news sent a reporter, as did the Nashville Scene. The entire Board was present, local citizens who do the often thankless job of overseeing a critical part of the community, and do so without pay. Jeanie Morris, however, did not see fit to show up and make her case. Instead, one local citizen named Robin Minor decided to vent his frustration to the assembled group. He started his tirade by informing the Board that he was a lifelong resident of Lewisburg, and that he was angry that his tax dollars were being used to provide materials in Spanish at the library. When informed by the Board Chairman that the bulk of the materials had been donated by local citizens, he demanded to know exactly how much money had been spent by the Library for books in Spanish. The answer? 130 dollars. Total. He then proclaimed that even a penny was too much, and accused the Board and the library of being enablers. The Board Chairman, John Rowe, further informed Mr. Minor that the library also had books written in French, Russian, Gaelic, and Japanese. Mr. Minor then demanded that the Board require all donated books be written in English only. The Board, clearly embarrassed for this man, thanked him for his input and moved on to New Business, as they had a full agenda that night. As we all left the room, I noticed a portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate officer widely believed to have ordered the massacre of a largely black garrison after capturing them at Fort Pillow, and who was among the founding members of the Klu Klux Klan.
Days before this meeting, prompted by telephone calls from outraged local citizens, the County Mayor, Joe Liggett, paid a visit to the library, and, (apparently unfamiliar with the I-9 form) nervously asked the library Director “what papers do you guys have for her?” (meaning Mrs. Rivera) Nelly overheard this, and promptly produced a copy of her birth certificate, which clearly indicates that she was born in New Jersey. Mr. Liggett was not present at this meeting.
This sad incident makes me wonder how many other brown skinned citizens are made to feel unwelcome here in Tennessee. The amount of local Governments proposing ridiculous ordinances to punish the undocumented in their communities is proof to me that the rhetoric of Hate Radio is obviously winning out, in fact, Mr. Minor, disgruntled by his quick dismissal by the Board, shouted out in the parking lot to his handful of friends that they should all call the radio stations in the morning. (It should be noted that Mr. Minor was formerly a social studies teacher in Lewisburg schools) That should give you the shivers.

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Si, se puede

Today I put out a call to action for people to donate to a fund dedicated to purchasing security equipment for the Espinosa family home. The response was overwhelming. I was looking for a few hundred dollars, I think we have raised three times that, so we may have enough left over to get the family a good guard dog as well. People are caravanning to the house on Saturday, and we will install the lighting then. I cannot express how much a gesture like this means to a scared family. Thanks to everyone that pitched in!

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Cowards strike in Bowling Green


Channel 5 (Nashville) covered this story last night. Apparently, this Salvadoran family recently purchased this home, and now they are afraid to stay in it. This kind of thing happens when irresponsible elected leaders help create this climate of fear. When there is no public backlash in response to hateful rhetoric, it is considered ok to continue to do it. Silence is tacit approval. I’m all for educating the public, and I believe that non-violent protest is the most effective tactic, but, this type of incident calls for a “circling of the wagons.” This family needs to know that they are not alone in this struggle. More later…

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Meeting Tonight in Springfield

In the 1960’s, Nashville City officials elected to close the public swimming pools rather than allow black Americans to use them. Conventional wisdom of the day said that the Negro was incapable or unworthy of fully integrating into white American culture. Historian Victoria Wolcott wrote of that era that to many white Americans, “segregation meant safety.” The attempt to separate those who worked in our factories and farms, cleaned our houses, and cared for our children was the shameful legacy of the Jim Crow south.

Today, too many Americans, fearful and anxious about the state of our precious country, again elect to lash out at those least capable of defending themselves. Once again, the voices of separation and division have returned, and are a constant barrage against our better selves. An alarming number of our elected officials have sought the easy way out, giving in to the seduction of power over reason, retribution over forgiveness and understanding, and pride over humility. Some, motivated by ambition, and dangerously uninformed, seek to climb to power on the backs of those who work and contribute, but are forced to live in the shadows of society. It was wrong in the 60’s, and it remains wrong today.

Surely, there must be those in positions of power that have some vision and compassion. Our County can and should work together to find answers that help us embrace these new neighbors, and offer them an opportunity to live without fear. Those of us blessed with so much have a moral obligation to see to it. It is time for us to shape our own legacy here in Robertson County.

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Whats next, internment camps?

Seems Davidson County officials have decided upon yet another knee-jerk response to help them identify and deport “illegal immigrants.” The tragedy caused by Gustavo Reyes was an apparent catalyst to this new program.
I’m wondering what Reye’s legal status had to do with the fact that he drove around drunk and eventually killed two people? Seems he had been arrested for drunk driving at least 6 times, and had arrests for other violations as well. Why is nobody lamenting the fact that our court system failed us in this instance? Reyes should have been incarcerated long ago. Period. Now, Davidson County officials plan to train 10 of their offficers to enforce FEDERAL immigration law. Sort of. The article states that if an officer suspects that a person might be here illegally, they plan to ask him or her to either: A) produce documentation, or B) name their place of birth and where they went to High School. The article doesn’t mention anything about that pesky law enforcement perequisite: probable cause. Or due process for that matter. Also, it clearly says that even after police bring a suspected illegal immigrant in, when they run his/her name through their database (another concern, who will ensure that the database is accurate and updated daily, and who pays for that?) if the person has a “immigration hold” or prior arrests, he/she is held until he/she is removed by ICE. Ok, what happens if they don’t have an immigration hold, and no priors? This seems poorly thought out, and I suspect someone got a fat contract to provide police departments with a fancy new terminal and software package, paid for with Homeland Security funds….more as this develops.

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