Smith: Beauty through Brokenness, Chattanooga's Choice

photo Robin Smith

On July 16, our great community was viciously attacked in a targeted act of terrorism. How do we know it was terrorism? Simply look at the definition of the term: "the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear."

Just as a rape victim is assailed and fractured by violence, then left with a lifetime of scars, Chattanooga won't be the same. Yet our beauty may intensify from these changes.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi takes broken pottery and repairs the cracks and breaks with a lacquer dusted with gold, silver or platinum. Translated as "golden joinery," the attention these precious metals bring to the imperfections makes no attempt to hide or camouflage the damage, but rather shows the "flaws" as part of the piece's overall story.

Such is the new reality of Chattanooga and Southeast Tennessee. And our value will increase with the refinement of our greatness.

On a quiet Thursday, with the lunch hour approaching in a city whose growth and national renown unarguably is on the upswing, a 24-year-old man made an evil, despicable choice. And, despite reports, this man is neither martyr nor victim.

The alphabet soup of agencies is investigating and collecting data. The hope and expectation are that these agencies will act upon fact and on behalf of the best interest of Americans and not bow to the pressures of political correctness by depicting the shooter as sympathetic.

This killer benefited immensely from a life in Chattanooga: attending a public school, receiving a degree from our state university and enjoying the freedoms of the greatest of all nations. Yet he targeted the very souls who protect the freedoms he abused. Turn this monster into a victim and Chattanooga residents' commitment to love and unity will certainly be short-lived.

Prejudice and religious intolerance are unacceptable on any terms. The announced presence of Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based hate group, was greeted with swift responses of disgust and planned counter-protests. Clearly, Chattanooga demonstrates neither the desire nor patience to abide such misinterpretation of the Holy Bible or the tenets of faith.

And while it is appreciated that many in the Muslim faith have condemned the attack by this man, if Muslims authentically reject the teachings of the Quran that promise pleasures in the afterlife for those who seek the violent deaths of "infidels," it's long overdue for the religious leaders and figureheads of this global faith to step forward and articulate this stance.

Our hearts are indeed broken, but as with damaged pieces of pottery, they may over time be reassembled and enhanced with the lacquer of community love and forgiveness.

To do so, Chattanooga must reject any politically correct agenda that uses the ugly adhesive of deception to gloss over obvious facts and rearrange the pieces of this tragedy. The unsightly, permanent scars would then galvanize a city betrayed.

The value of honesty becomes all the more treasured when deception and power are inextricably linked. In Chattanooga, citizens expect and deserve the truth. Leaders, do you value them enough to provide it?

Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, is owner of Rivers Edge Alliance.