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The Daily Planet's Opinion: April 2020
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 11:44

Let’s flatten curve in pandemic

Much has been said and written about the coronavirus pandemic besieging much of the world, but we especially commend those who invoke the wise words of the great Winston Churchill to inspire us to hang tough through a crisis.

An example was a St. Patrick’s Day address on March 18 by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who said, “We’re asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other.” He added, “This is the calm before the storm — before the surge” in coronavirus cases.

Varadkar then paraphrased a quote by Churchill, Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II: “Never will so many ask so much of so few.” (Churchill’s exact quote: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”)

Also inspiring was a mid-March letter reportedly addressed to the Mercedes dealer network across the U.S. from its CEO, Nicholas Speeks, urging that a brave face be put forward during the pandemic.

He also echoed Churchill’s war cry from 1940 when Britain stared at the possibility of a swift defeat at the hands of Nazi Germany in World War II. “Winston Churchill once said, ‘If you are going through hell ……. KEEP GOING!’ “ Speeks reportedly wrote in the letter. “The challenge we have is not of the dimension he was forced to confront, but that is exactly what we, all of us, are going to do: ‘Keep going.’”

We can do it, Western North Carolina! And, finally, as Churchill said memorably in yet another speech, “... never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
 
Let’s lift the rug and check out that little bulge
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 11:43
By LEE BALLARD
Special to the Daily Planet

 

Reparations for slavery and segregation — an issue swept under everybody’s rug so long there’s barely a bulge.

I don’t like the word “reparations,” and I don’t like what some proponents are saying, but then I like less what U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.) said: “No one currently alive was responsible for [slavery].  And I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it.” 

The Pew Research Center estimates that today, white households are worth about 20 times more than black households. 

Is this some kind of huge coincidence?   

Slavery ended with the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, but black people weren’t given the rights of free people for another 100 years. They weren’t even regarded as people.

The Brooklyn Dodgers assigned Jackie Robinson to minor-league Montreal for the 1946 season. The Montreal manager was a Mississippian. He begged Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey not to make him manage an African-American. “Mr. Rickey,” he asked, “do you think n***s are human beings?” That was in my lifetime.

I grew up in Georgia until 1954, and no exaggeration, every thread of our lives was white supremacy. I remember a time my parents visited us and saw my children playing with their black neighbors. My father reprimanded me: “They’re not like us.”

I never heard one person ever criticize Jim Crow segregation. Never. Not only were the races separated; the system made certain that, in every way, the other race was always less. Why did the gentleman who helped with our yard work have to drink water from a Coke bottle instead of a glass from our kitchen? I never wondered.  I sort of understood that he had “his place.”

And that inferiority carried over to education, jobs, justice — and life itself.  When a polio epidemic hit Wytheville, Va., in the summer of 1950, black patients weren’t accepted at Memorial and Crippled Children’s Hospital in Roanoke (80 miles away). They had to be taken 260 miles over pre-interstate highways to Richmond for treatment. 

There were legal remedies after the Civil War — on paper. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments gave ex-slaves legal standing.

And when General Sherman completed his March to the Sea, he and Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton met with 20 black leaders in Savannah to find out what they wanted. 

As a result, Sherman issued a special order — which was approved by President Lincoln: “The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free.”  They were to govern themselves, with no whites allowed to reside there.  Tens of thousands of ex-slaves rushed to make claims.

But Lincoln was assassinated, and his successor, Andrew Johnson, a Southerner, nullified Sherman’s order — and did nothing to stop the violent subjugation of blacks. The paper remedies were crumpled. 

White society, top to bottom, enforced white supremacy from then for a century.  They did. No, we did, well into my lifetime — and Senator McConnell’s. 

I read about monetary reparations, even detailed studies of slave wages computed over centuries with interest, amounting to trillions, to be divided among slave descendants. It’s totally unworkable and short-term. Better, a plan over decades, mostly around education.   

I’d like to see a program that challenges the millions of successful blacks to be highly visible role models and a massive federal investment in scholarships for serious black young people. Call it yeast in the dough.

The U.S. military wastes enough money in one day to fund hundreds of students in state universities.

A resolution in the House of Representatives to study options, H.R. 40, will likely pass next year. Studyin’s a start.

Georgetown University owned slaves to work their vast tobacco fields, and in 1838, the Jesuits there sold 242 of them to plantations in Louisiana.

The university is looking for remedies. Their current president went to Louisiana in 2016 to meet with descendants of those slaves. And last year, G.U. students voted to add money to their tuition for scholarships for these descendants. 

They recognize a debt is owed. 

Lee Ballard is a published semanticist and lexicographer who lives in Mars Hill.

 

 



 


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