Dear Editor:

Thanks to Steve Wildsmith’s article, “Newbie doesn’t know Blount County” (Jan. 17, 6A), readers are discovering unhappy newcomers, Mark Pulliam and wife, who came to Maryville from Austin, Texas.

According to an essay Mark wrote in The Federalist on Jan. 13, they “imagined” a happy life in their chosen red-county, low-income tax, beautiful East Tennessee. But after 18 months of Maryvillian life, they have become “disillusioned” and “chagrined” about the state of affairs. First, they have detected whiffs of “dysfunctional leftist governance.”

“Wokeness is everywhere,” he writes. As proof, he cites the local government, the local college, the county library, the local newspaper, and various civic groups advocating anti-racism and diversity training. In particular, he states that Maryville College “appears to be an island of sanity in higher education. But it’s not, and neither is the rest of the town.” Like a pseudo-Paul Revere blowing a trumpet in the night, he then calls the sleeping residents, presumably conservatives, of this “uninformed” town to “action” to fight their own “complacency” and thus rout the “aggression by liberal activists.”

I am a native born Maryvillian who attended local schools, as well as Maryville College. After graduating, I went to New York and worked as a teacher and professor and board-certified private psychotherapist. Now I am living at my grandparents’ place, which used to be in Blount County. Never have I seen anyone arrive in a town and disparage everything in sight.

Little does Mark and his ilk know the history of East Tennessee. We were the part of Tennessee that tried to secede when Tennessee was the last to secede from the federal government. We were Republicans of the Lincoln sort, sending thousands of soldiers to the Union Army. Our area was famous for sending 2,000 people on the Underground Railroad. We grew up alongside the first and last segregated community created by a corporate entity, the Aluminum Company of America. Maryville was the first town in Tennessee to have a black mayor (1869).

Out of this Black community in Alcoa have risen leaders in government, civics, arts, business and athletics. We are not perfect, but we have had “awakenings along the way” in learning how to live peacefully among divergent groups. We know how to identify with the common good that transcends all labels of identity. And most of us can see through the misguided efforts to create deception, division and violence. We want none of that. Defending the indefensible is not what this evolving community is about.

More power to those fighting, often at great risk, now more than ever, for justice, liberty, peace on Earth and enlightenment. If Mark is further “chagrined” at living in our midst, there is always a moving van waiting for him.

Joyce Leo

Antioch Church Road East

Lenoir City

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