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Opinion | Politics and my conservative temptation

S. McEachin

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Before the election, Hillary Clinton labeled 50 percent of Trump supporters as “deplorables.” After the election, she doubled down in an interview by listing entire groups of people that she said his supporters were against. The terms not used for them, but certainly implied, were “racists” and “bigots.”

As to her original statement, I found it astounding that she would blindly allege at least a fourth (half of a half) of the electorate were bigots and/or racists merely because they voted for Trump. She did not even know them! That was bad enough, but then her later, less qualified double-down statement made me think she might have actually felt it was 100 percent!

I thought this was pretty “deplorable” stuff. Yet, after President Trump took office, I found myself resisting a similar inclination toward those always tearing down, not only anything Trump supported (even including his North Korea denuclearization efforts and efforts to cut down on medical fraud) – but also anyone else supporting Trump’s policies (I mean any one or more of those policy positions!).

My temptation was to believe that a lot of the people who vocally oppose Trump—and anyone supportive of anything associated—were possessed by hatred, i.e. were haters. The second level of this temptation was to hate them right back! Over time, the temptation grew due to a consistent pattern and my weak heart. The pattern involved descriptive terms those critics consistently used—accompanied by obvious teeth-gnashing vitriol. Moreover, I was especially tempted due to an expressed broad view of anyone and everyone seeing any positives associated with Trump—on issues or whatever.

This sweeping view included so many whom the critics did not know at all—just like Clinton’s “deplorables.” I once was told by a Trump critic that I could not be a Christian and support anything about Trump or anything he supported. That’s pretty personal. It did not help me resist my temptation at all!

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Assuming only the worst of Trump at every turn, these people surely viewed him as a hater. Some literally stated it that way. With that in mind, a question dogged me: If you hate a hater, what does that make you? Moreover, what does it do to your heart in the long run? I believe that unabated hate undermines the heart, and breeds more hate.

I felt that some people hated President Obama, whether motivated by racism or big-issue differences. Hate was and is hate! As with Trump critics today, some of those Obama-bashers even broadly condemned those supporting Obama or his positions—hate growing from hate. Some said you could not possibly be a Christian and support policies reinforcing wholesale abortion.

I was never tempted toward hating or judging Obama or his supporters, but I was tempted this time toward those judging or blindly hating other people approving of anything Trumpian. Of course, the fact that I was among the targets had no effect—ha! Yes, it got personal. That’s how temptation works, right?

I prayed about this temptation, and came to some firm conclusions: First, I am not going to hate anyone hating me. It undermines only me. Second, I am not going to judge anyone judging me. I am not qualified. Only One is qualified to judge, and it must be left to Him—enough said on my temptation! Oh, and one thing more: Issuing percentages for “deplorables” does no good. It never works!

 

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Opinion | Let us give thanks

Bradley Byrne

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On October 3rd, 1863, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation on Thanksgiving establishing the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday, encouraging every American – at home and abroad – to give pause and give thanks.

Thanksgiving had existed before in America. There was the First Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in Massachusetts in 1621, of course, and Presidents George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison also issued proclamations encouraging the celebration of Thanksgiving.

It is interesting that during a time as perilous as the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln entrenched this holiday of gratitude and togetherness into the American year.

1863 was a time of divisiveness and uncertainty, and yet people throughout the country could still find things to be thankful for.

Only two months after this proclamation, on December 3rd, 1863, the final symbolic decoration was added to the outside of the Capitol Dome in Washington: a 19-foot tall statue known simply as Freedom.

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The freedoms we enjoy today are some of the greatest things we can be thankful for. For many throughout the world, the freedoms we enjoy do not exist for them.

As we gather with friends and family, I hope you will take time to answer this simple question: what are you thankful for this year?

For myself, I am extremely thankful for my family, my friends, and for the opportunity I have to serve you in Washington.

I am thankful for the many pieces of landmark legislation we were able to pass this year, including fully funding our military for next year, providing funds for vital water infrastructure projects, and enacting meaningful change to the G.I. Bill and the Veteran’s Choice Program.

I am also thankful for all of the positive economic news this year: our thriving economy and jobs market are creating more opportunities for people in Alabama and around the country.

With good news there is also bad. The acts of violence we have seen over recent months in Pennsylvania and California demonstrate the amount of evil there is still to combat in this world. The extremely deadly wildfires currently raging in California causes our hearts to ache for all those affected so unexpectedly and so close to the holidays.

But even in these tragedies, there are things to be thankful for. The first responders who risk their lives to help those in need; the medical professionals who provide service to the sick and those in pain; and perhaps the thing for which we as Americans can be most thankful is our interminable spirit to come together as one, help our neighbors, and make the world a better place to live through one small act of kindness at a time.

More personally, I am thankful to be a child of a loving, forgiving, and all present God. I’m also thankful to call Southwest Alabama home.

Of course, I am thankful for my wonderful family; every moment I get to spend with Rebecca, our children, and our grandchildren is a moment I feel truly blessed.

Lastly, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I have again to serve the people of Southwest Alabama over the next Congress.

There is a memorable verse from the book of John: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

One of the truths we can hold firmly to this Thanksgiving is this: we in the United States are richly blessed with life, prosperity, and freedom. Knowing that, we can be very thankful indeed.

From my entire staff, family, and myself, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

 

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Opinion | Role model statesmanship showcased in the public square

John W. Giles

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Americans got their fair share of hand to hand combat politics in the 2018 general election, which is still going on in Georgia and Florida. As we approach Thanksgiving; there is a national story buried in the heart and soul of Crenshaw County Alabama politics that needs to be shared. In a county that voted 72 percent for Trump, the centerpiece of this story lasers in on local Democrats and Republicans putting their county first, let me explain.

For decades, Crenshaw County was a Democrat stronghold in all of the county elected positions. In fact, many stated for years there is no way to get elected in Crenshaw County unless you ran as a Democrat. Over the past three quadrennial election cycles, Republicans have picked up the Probate Judge office, Sheriff, and three of the five County Board of Education seats. In this recent election, Republicans earned four out of five commission seats; here in lies the role model statesmanship showcased in the public square.

Reverend Charlie Sankey is a black Democrat Commissioner who was re-elected from the north end of the county. He is also a bi-vocational Pastor serving at Rockwest Baptist Church just inside Pike County and is a full time officer at First Citizens Bank. In this election cycle, the other four county commission seats were won by white Republican men. Sankey had served as Chairman of the County Commission for the last four years. With the Republicans clearly holding a majority of power now, the chairmanship over the next four years has certainly been a kitchen table discussion since the election.

Yesterday; all five commissioners were sworn in for their new term. The first order of business was to nominate and elect a new chairman. The county attorney statutorily opened the floor for nomination for chairman three times; and only one name surfaced; Charlie Sankey. In a unanimous vote, Charlie Sankey a black Democrat was just elected as Chairmen by his four white Republican colleagues. What a testament of bi-partisanship. There are so many takeaways from this historic move; I don’t know where to begin.

In my discussions with Sankey over the years, I have found him to be an economic, moral, social and constitutional conservative. We still have our minute differences, but he always puts the county first, makes one dollar do the work of three dollars; and if something is right he stands firm and if it is wrong, he fixes it. He has a common sense approach to governing and will not allow little, agenda driven side shows cloud the focus of what is best for the county. The county is in strong fiscal shape under his watch.

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In an environment where politics are highly charged, it is refreshing to see these four Republicans demonstrate such great statesmanship and bi partisanship in this historic decision. They looked at the content of Sankey’s character, rather than the color of his skin or party affiliation. They put what was best for the county rather than nominating someone who has not yet been seasoned for the job. On the other hand, Sankey has demonstrated over the past four years to be a steady handed competent leader. After months of observing Sankey in the chair, newly elected Commissioner Raymond McGough showed great leadership; and without equivocation, nominated Charlie Sankey and got the vote through unanimously.

Most who know me understand I do not vote for Democrats and in some remote cases; I will not vote for a wayward Republican. The Republican National Committee and the Alabama Republican Party platforms espouse the core issues that drive my heart, vote and support. Setting aside my party affiliations for one moment; these four Republicans made the right decision and have my greatest and profound respect.

While this is a win win win for the citizens of Crenshaw County, it should be a shining example from the courthouse to the Whitehouse to always do the right thing and the hell with the consequences.

 

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Opinion | Words cannot express our gratitude

Bradley Byrne

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One hundred years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the world’s largest, deadliest, and costliest war to that date drew to an end. The guns that boomed over field and forest in Europe fell silent.

World War I was over.

Over 116,000 Americans had lost their lives.

One year later, President Woodrow Wilson issued a statement to the nation in celebration of the first Armistice Day, expressing his thoughts on the war’s end: “To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”

In 1938, twenty years after the Armistice, Congress formally recognized Armistice Day as a national holiday “dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

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Unfortunately, the “war to end all wars” was only the precursor to an even deadlier, costlier war.

The next year, World War II broke out across Europe, a war that would cost the lives of over 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

For a particular Alabamian and veteran of WWII, the celebration of Armistice Day was not quite recognition enough for the service and sacrifice of veterans who had served, not just in WWI, but for all those who had worn the uniform of our nation.

Raymond Meeks, a native of Birmingham, brought the idea of a national Veterans Day, to be held on what was then Armistice Day, to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Gen. Eisenhower greatly supported this idea, and in 1947 Weeks led the first national celebration of Veterans Day right here in Alabama.

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law the formal celebration of Veterans Day here in the United States, dedicated to the memory of all those who served our country in the armed forces.

To this day, words cannot express our gratitude for that service.

Today, as I serve in Congress, it is an incredible honor to know that I am able to represent a free people thanks to the service, dedication, and sacrifice of our veterans.

That is why I advocate so strongly for our nation’s veterans. We need to provide them with proper access to educational and workforce opportunities, we must work towards a health care system that actually gets them the care they need, and we must help them get the benefits they earned.

Just this year, I voted to provide greater funding for programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), positive reforms to the G.I. Bill, and better access to career and technical education for veterans to reenter the civilian workforce. Additionally, my office has helped to resolve hundreds of cases for veterans and their families right here in Southwest Alabama.

Service in the military is so much more than just a job. It is a dedication to support and defend the Constitution and the people of the United States, both at home and abroad. That service is immeasurable, and I am humbled to represent so many of those who have fought for our freedoms.

The words of President Eisenhower on the first official Veterans Day stand as a charge for today: “Let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting and enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

 

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Opinion | Alabama board of education member says school choice is trying to “destroy a whole race of people”

Rachel Blackmon Bryars

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Alabama board of education member Ella Bell, D-Montgomery, spoke out during a work session Thursday claiming that Alabama’s landmark tax credit scholarship program for low income families was part of an effort to “destroy a whole race of people.”

“They took money from the poorest counties in the state to send kids to private school,” Bell claimed, after accusing the program of “stealing” from the state. “That’s just awful.”

Trouble is, that’s just not true.

The small yet popular program created by the Alabama Accountability Act only amounts to one half of one percent of the state’s multi-billion-dollar education trust fund – a fund that has grown well beyond the minuscule cost of providing the scholarships, according to state budget data.

And more than 80 percent of the parents who received scholarships last year from the two largest providers are minorities, according to an AL.com report. All made at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level when they applied, as required by law, which is also the eligibility requirement to receive free or reduced priced lunches.

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Disabled veteran Dalphine Wilson of Montgomery, who is African-American, is one of those parents.

The single mother of two uses the scholarships to send her children to private school instead of the city’s troubled public school system.

Wilson’s children dropped to one knee in protest during a recent Montgomery County School Board meeting after its members approved a resolution demanding a repeal of the scholarship program.

Her daughter wept after the meeting, afraid she’d lose her scholarship. Her son asked if they could leave Alabama.

“Parents deserve a choice,” said Wilson, 44, who applied for scholarships after seeing what she described as the “overwhelming” and chaotic culture in her daughter’s elementary school classroom. “And your choice should not be, ‘Gosh, I really hope my child can get into a magnet school, and if they can’t, their only option is this failing school that is under state intervention.’”

She said if anyone is stealing, it’s those who want to take away the scholarships.

“Why rob us of a choice?” Wilson asked.

Ryan Cantrell, a school choice advocate in Montgomery who was an aide in the State Senate when the act passed in 2013, said the program was specifically designed to provide parents like Wilson with a choice that was once only available to higher income families.

“We’re talking about families who absolutely had no other option,” he said. “For the life of me, I don’t understand how an elected official could consciously vote to take that away from a low-income child. It boggles the mind.”

Cantrell said the “heart of the problem” is that opponents of the scholarship program are primarily concerned with the public education system itself, not the students it was established to serve.

“We are so focused … on the adults in the room, and our education system is not built to serve adults,” he said. “Our education system is built to serve students, and whatever it is that works for kids ought to be what we’re doing.”

Cantrell also disproved Bell’s claim that the program has been “stealing” from public school systems. On the contrary, he said, public schools have more funding and less students now than when the scholarship program began.

Montgomery’s school system, for example, has seen its funding increase by more than $8 million, up 5 percent since 2014, even while the overall student population has decreased by more than 7 percent, according to Cantrell.

During the board meeting, Bell also said the program “is absolutely horrifying to me because already I’m black and I grew up in Montgomery County 70-years ago and I know all the tricks.”

But the scholarships aren’t a trick. They’re a lifeline, a choice, for thousands of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Alabama shouldn’t allow that choice to be taken away because of past wrongs.

The plain fact today is that the Alabama Accountability Act is a tiny fraction of our state’s education budget, it gives low-income families a sometimes life-altering choice, and almost all of the students receiving scholarships are minorities.

We should all be proud of that.

Because in the end, this is about what we believe education dollars are for – the system or the student.

Please call your state legislator and local school board member today and let them know what you think.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Contact her at [email protected].

 

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Opinion | Politics and my conservative temptation

by S. McEachin "Mac" Otts Read Time: 3 min
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