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June Griffin talks on April 12, 2017, about her strong opposition to the installation of a statue of 1925 Scopes Evolution Trial lawyer Clarence Darrow in Dayton, Tenn., at the Rhea County Courthouse this summer. Griffin, a conservative political activist and minister, says the Darrow statue represents atheism and local residents should get a say in whether the statue is erected.

When it comes to being a lightning rod and protester, June Griffin is Colin Kaepernick, and vice versa.

Griffin, our boisterous Rhea County right-winger, has made headlines because she wants to stop a statue of Clarence Darrow from being erected in Dayton. You folks remember Darrow, right? He's the 1920s lawyer who defended a teacher in the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial almost a century ago.

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FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears. Spike Lee said on Instagram Sunday, March 19, 2017, that it was "fishy" that Kaepernick, now a free agent, hadn't been signed." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 4/15/14. Staff Mugs

To be fair here, while I believe in the Lord and his great works in Creation, you could make an argument that the folks in the tourism industry in Dayton, a city that welcomes thousands of history buffs and sightseers every year, should be behind the Darrow monument on principle alone.

Of course, when it comes to debates of passion in the modern age, principle and perspective have long since been banished. But we'll get to that in a moment.

No, whether you think Griffin's far-right positions are 100 percent credible or crazy, we must all embrace her right to have a position.

It's the quid pro quo place that many conservatives were finger-wagging when Kaepernick, the former San Francisco quarterback, decided to take a knee during the national anthem last football season.

It's his right, one side said.

Well, does that not make it Griffin's right to protest what she believes to be wrong?

Of course it does, and the truth of the matter is while neither would embrace the similarities, we should all be wary of the polarization.

For June, she has long since been a caricature of herself. Her good points of faith and debate are often negated by her extreme stances on all issues. She banged the drum — and won an auction — for the Ten Commandments in governmental places.

She has become, depending on your view, a light-carrier or laughingstock on local talk radio shows.

A lot of folks have said the same about Kaepernick, who exercised his First Amendment right to kneel during the pregame national anthem.

Sure, he has every right to stand, sit, speak or roll over during any song anywhere. He even tried to convince everyone that his protest of the anthem and flag presentation was not against the troops but against police officers and their treatment of minorities. Those opinions were at least clouded by Fidel Castro T-shirts, socks with police officers as pigs and the knowledge that Kaepernick did not vote.

The talking points of the extreme are malignant. And sadly, they are magnetic, sucking more and more of the middle to one side or the other, based in large part on which side is less offensive.

Don't you see? Meaningful conversation between folks in either party is watered down by the wild machinations of the extreme.

That's where we are. And it's sad.

It's also fixable.

Challenge yourself to listen to a divergent view, and listen for connectible points rather than confrontational ones.

Ask questions rather than make accusations.

Yes, June and Kaep have every right to make any statement they want. That does not mean those statements are without ramifications; freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility after all.

But as the headline makers are throwing haymakers from each side, finding ways to embrace, and more importantly understand, the other side, has never been more important.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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