Smith: Shooting must stop: Hope and change, Chattanooga style

Smith: Shooting must stop: Hope and change, Chattanooga style

January 27th, 2014 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Keep reading, please. This is not about partisan politics.

Chattanooga is at a crossroads.

The recent slaying of an innocent teenaged boy -- ironically on the national holiday honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- in an alleged gang-related shooting has stirred most to say, "Enough!"

While a new anti-crime effort is underway here, the resistance among many who would benefit most from eradicating the actual problem is stunning.

The hard truth is that citizens who find themselves disproportionately influenced by the infestation of criminals must take a bold stand to reject, expose and reclaim their homes, neighborhoods and families.

We've all heard that hope is not a strategy. However, hope, in Biblical terms, is an ability to operate in the most turbulent storms knowing an unseen anchor holds the ship.

Most seem to apply hope as wishful thinking, a distant utopian goal.

Chattanooga has always had a sense of community that helps us weather a storm. We all know the anchor of hope still holds in Chattanooga if we'll endure and work together.

Change, in our minds, is more commonly an act of discarding or removing one item, thought or belief for another. Changing a jacket for another. Substituting one attitude for another. Changing your mind by entertaining one belief instead of another.

Transformational change, however, alters and completely modifies the situation.

Imagine the Monarch caterpillar that crawls around, taking in nutrients as it approaches adulthood. It then forms a chrysalis, or hull, hanging in a place of safety for a period of weeks. During this window of time, the "worm" breaks down into a basic cellular structure that is reformed and transformed into a completely new creature that, as research has shown, has a few instincts that linger from its previous caterpillar existence.

Our city has realized a transformational change over the decades that has birthed an atmosphere of commerce, creativity and community that will continue. The only limits our city will ever face will be self-imposed by its citizens.

Having participated directly in efforts and initiatives through the faith community to cultivate a sense of hope, I'm not delusional that making statements or offering soaring rhetoric and verbal pixie dust will achieve authentic hope and change in our city's violent subculture.

Yet I do know after standing in a Westside housing unit a few weeks ago with a group of others praying with a single mom with one child -- who had adopted two other children whose mom was dead and dad was incarcerated -- it's now time for transformation in our city based on an absolute rejection of the drug activity that funds the gangs who have created their own economy of evil.

My pastor recently shared a truth about the majestic redwood trees that are God's skyscrapers, reaching upwards of 370 feet tall and weighing almost 3 million pounds. The root systems of these giants of nature are very shallow, but grow laterally to interlock with other redwoods as people would lock arms to stand against the battering forces of nature.

Chattanoogans, lock arms. We're in this storm together and we have the ability to stand and grow.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.