Roy Exum: The New Mean

Monday, August 21, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Until last Monday I believed nobody could ever hurt my feelings again. In the half-century I have been a writer I’ve had hundreds of people take swipes at me, been called more names, and received more hate mail than you can imagine. I also know the only way anyone can hurt you is for you to allow it and, brother, it is nigh impossible to get inside me. My defense mechanism is because my “praise mail” - the thank yous and those that appreciate my opinion - outnumber the bad by about 25-to-1.

But now there is a “new mean,” vicious with real hate, and it just knocked me to my knees.

Last Monday I wrote a story on “The Other Supremacist,” and, sure enough, the ‘others’ came for me.

By nightfall a handful of the haters were calling Chattanoogan.com’s advertisers and demanded they cease supporting this website. I have hundreds of dear friends at these businesses and to me it is not a protest; it is a personal affront.

That’s vicious, mean, with the sole purpose to destroy. These people want to see the blood, squeeze the ‘pound of flesh,’ and smile over the suffering they cause.

Asking advertisers to quit never works – it is a ruse by cowards – but the one thing that reduced this much-scarred guy to a puddle was that these new supremacists are, in fact, good and fine people otherwise. These are the kind of people I like and this recognition of the “new mean” undid me.

I can withstand the thugs, the riffraff, and the stupids. But the new version of haters include the types you would love to have as neighbors, that you are glad to see, who are fun at parties. I wasn’t ready for them to be mean and vicious over – what! – just one story where I called out Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer. He turned a tragic debacle into a media show where he attacked President Trump at every turn. I still stand by the story, as the majority of my readers do, but now the haters have swapped disagree to destroy.

Immediately the new meanies screamed I was a racist, that I was in the KKK, and that I just outed myself as a white supremacist. I did nothing of the sort! Lies about me, sadly, are nothing new but when “good people” who I have admired in the community spread those lies to Chattanooga businesses, that’s different.

These haters attempted to destroy the jobs of a group of people at Chattanoogan.com who I love. They did it because of one column I wrote. All because of me. I was so crushed, I took a week away to take a long look at my hold cards.

I wondered, has it come to this? Is our country so shattered and jagged that we want people to lose their jobs? To taste one another’s blood? A wonderful girl, from all reports, is dead in Charlottesville and – yes – as the truth is learned, both sides are equally to blame. But what is equally as bad is many good and nice people are now becoming emboldened by what UT football coach Butch Jones decries as “a society of negativity.”

Try this: News outlets all over the country identified the Virginia mayor as Jewish, what with Swastikas and “Heil Trump!” chants everywhere. The grotesque connection was in every news tape and photo but I was floored when “nice people” screamed and spread word that I was an anti-Semite when I, too, identified his religion.

For me to be forced to avow my love for the Tribe of Israel is so absurd it is sickening yet an executive of the Jewish-owned CBL & Associates was calling our advertisers. I was deeply hurt by the lie, so much that I wrote Stephen Lebovitz an apology for anything I have ever possibly said or written other than adoration for the Jewish faith and one of the finest families in Chattanooga’s history. I was raised on the Holy Bible, was reminded that at my mother’s funeral I publicly praised her love for Israel in my eulogy, and ever since I could talk I have known my Savior is a Jew. Are you kidding me?

The great saying is, “The truth is like a lion. You don’t need to defend it … just let it loose.” Then again, when you’ve got no control over those who I would believe are reputable hurling the slander, it takes the Big Cat longer to get where that lion can roar. Abraham Lincoln: “A lie will travel halfway around the world before the truth can catch up with it.”

I’ve written several times of the summers I spent in rural Mississippi where black children my age and their families endeared me forever to their race. To look back over 65 years at the countless black faces of those I have loved and suddenly to have “good” people call me a white supremacist is nauseating. There’s a lawyer on Signal Mountain who called our advertisers claiming such filth. You want to silence my keyboard – the lies of people from families I have openly admired become a threat to do that.

This week, as I’ve even had my depression meds checked, I have asked myself if this is worth it. I love to write, to learn more every day. In the years I’ve written thousands of stories – not just one – it’s filled my soul. Now I’ve wondered with the “new hate,” and it is pure hate, is this the time I ought to turn my attention towards writing my book. I’ve got one that would scare the be-jeez out of some people but I’ve got some wonderful tales to share, too.

At the same time, I can’t remember when writing about the community and the thousands of people who I love has ever been so much fun. And there is still so much of the buffet table I want to try.

I want to better our public schools, to tear down the idiotic wall where the fact our public and private schools hold disdain because fools will not even let them play sports together. And speaking of schools, the next time a county commissioners says “that’s a school board matter” he/she ought to be recalled. How do they think we got here? We all share blame for what has been allowed to happen.

I want to make our automotive inspection stations part of the 2018 election – they are wrong. I want to push for two commissioners for each of the nine county districts instead of one. The people need far more intense representation in the communities that have grown in each district -- look at the district maps and you can see the short-ends-of-the-stick. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the FY2018 budget is so bare that I believe every commission seat is low-hanging fruit. The county’s needs cannot be met, not with no tax increase in 12 years.

Where is our jail? Why can’t we do “the right thing” for the mentally ill in this city? Why do we still have bike lanes when nobody uses them or wants them? Now some goofs want to put a baseball stadium on the best piece of real estate in the community when the only place a three-month recreation facility should be is the Engel Stadium site. (Its cheap dirt, raze the rotten stadium and build a gem; the neighborhood is crying for something like it.)

The upcoming election is going to be a hoot. I don’t want to miss out on that. We’ve got to roll the noe-performers in county government and the school board. We need at least four schools coming out of the ground compared to zero today. Crime? We’ve got to eliminate danger in the downtown area. Ask any woman who works downtown between the river and 12th Street how many times she is accosted every week. Pan-handling must be outlawed with hard jail time.

What? We are spending millions on Miller Park and Patten Parkway yet act like the Hotel Patten building isn’t our city’s worst cancer. Anyone who has never seen a drug deal can watch one in the sunshine at Eighth and Broad on any given day. Who do we see about that? It is so brazen street planters are the new public restrooms. Ask anyone on Market or Broad. Or, in a more personal view, who is going to expose that? My biggest chore is to remember love is stronger than hate.

It is not lost on me that I have a strong voice. This week I have reminded myself a responsibility comes with that. As the emails increase wondering if I am sick, and begging that I’ll ignore my critics, I realize the “new mean” is going to take a crusader. The evil and vicious don’t back down until the same good people knock them down.

Some believe I am kind of good at that. And I am now back in the game.

royexum@aol.com



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