This might be news to many of you, but Blount County is under attack. Apparently there are some who gobble a local author/newcomer’s doom-marinated breadcrumbs with the squawking desperation of baby birds because he fears Blount County is in grave danger of radical transformation.
Check out the author’s piece (https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/13/leftists-are-colonizing-red-towns-like-mine-and-local-republicans-are-clueless/) that appeared last week on two conservative national websites, for The Federalist and RealClearPolitics, in which the author warns of an incoming deluge of radicals hellbent on moving to places like Maryville.
Their aim? Mandatory gay weddings on the steps of local churches? A drive-through abortion clinic in New Midland Plaza? Free syringes with a $5 order or more at Dairy Queen? No, this cabal of agitators wants to call attention to racism and equality, because according to the writer, the Blount County Public Library wants to open its arms to homeless people and “maintains a curated ‘antiracism’ reading list” that he somehow finds offensive.
But he doesn’t stop there. Maryville College, The Daily Times, Daily Times Editor J. Todd Foster (who continues to give the author plenty of real estate on this very Opinion page, despite the latter’s contention otherwise), the local Democratic Party, the local Republican Party, Maryville City Schools’ diversity task force, Blount County Board of Education member Vandy Kemp (a Democrat), Maryville City Councilwoman Sarah Herron (a Democrat) and Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell (a Republican) all receive some measure of the author’s ire.
But the most astonishing part is how he saved the worst insult for Blount’s citizens, whom he calls “uninformed.” To insult the publication, he claims that “few people read the local newspaper.” Just to clarify: The Daily Times for the first time in its long history exceeded 1 million monthly web page views in both November and December.
In addition, he suggests Blount’s hardworking conservatives are so singularly focused and simple-minded they’re defenseless against the “better organized, tech-savvy activists of the left.”
He also says we are good-natured but also naïve to trust our elected leaders — too dumb to see that the public officials you have known far longer than this author has even lived in Blount County do not have your best interests at heart.
Such a histrionic warning comes from a man who moved to East Tennessee about 18 months ago from Texas. He is using both pen and social media to tell lifelong residents and transplants with deeper roots how Blount County is an affront. Most reasonable and clear-eyed Blount Countians are far more intelligent than that.
There is no danger of Blount County becoming a dystopian liberal hellscape. The author even points out that President Trump won Blount County 71% to Joe Biden’s 27%. Only a handful of Democrats hold elected offices in Blount County.
Furthermore, calling for the eradication of progressive voices and ideals, no matter how small they might be, demonstrates a gross ignorance of Blount County’s centuries-old progressive streak.
• Cades Cove, arguably the crown jewel of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was a bastion of pro-Union support during the Civil War.
• Settled in the 1790s, Friendsville became a key player in the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves escape to the North.
• Maryville Mayor William Bennett Scott in 1869 became only the third African American elected as a mayor in our nation’s history.
• Maryville College had African American students enrolled and graduating before a state law mandating segregation in 1901.
It’s no secret that my politics are liberal. I’ve gotten plenty of excoriations from some of you over the years. Blount County is a bastion of conservatism but also a place where Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, have coexisted for centuries.
For most of us, the color of a person’s political stripes matter nothing when stacked up against the content of a person’s character. When I pull up beside Mayor Mitchell in the grocery pickup line, we don’t debate politics. When I run into state Rep. Bob Ramsey, I don’t corner him about a legislative vote.
That’s the beauty of Blount County: We don’t live in animosity with one another, because regardless of our disagreements on how to get there socially or politically, we all want the same things.
Perhaps the constant pounding of the drumbeats of fear have blinded the author to the fact that our ties that bind us are stronger than those that would ever tear us apart.
Or maybe he just doesn’t get that Blount County, conservative though it may be, is a compassionate place. We care about the homeless, equality, and addicts and alcoholics. We can sit across the table from one another at Gracie’s, have a spirited debate about politics but be the first to pony up cash to help with their medical bills.
While the author warns against radical leftists, we really need to be wary of the cacophonous claxons of divisive angst from anyone radical.