We wonder if certain activists who seek change today ever hold up a mirror to themselves to see what other people see.
We're not referring to people who in the American tradition protest peacefully what they believe to be wrong but those who believe hate, violence, destruction of property and intimidation will win them what they seek.
Chattanooga, unfortunately, has seen and heard too many instances of the latter in recent days, in a response to the violent death of unarmed black suspect George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, and we believe most city and county residents do not believe riots and violence are the appropriate route to changes people want to see.
Among the occurrences:
* May 30: Vandals burn two cars and spray-paint the bust of slavery-opposing Confederate Gen. Alexander P. Stewart on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn. Stewart's image was erected in the 1910s for his peacemaking role in creating the Chickamauga National Military Park.
* May 31: Protesters assemble at the home of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and draw chalk body outlines in the street and write the words "I can't breathe" in the driveway.
* June 9: Protesters extend Chattanooga City Council meeting to seven and a half hours with recitations of individual grievances.
* June 9-16: Protests use vile language on social media to project what they believe is their triumph in extending that council meeting.
* June 16: Protesters use vile language during the Chattanooga City Council meeting when council members limit public comment after the extended meeting the previous week.
* June 17: Vandals dump red paint on the steps of Chattanooga's City Hall.
* June 17: Protesters said to be with the Democratic Socialists of America honk car horns and shout through bullhorns outside the cul-de-sac home of Chattanooga City Council Chairman Chip Henderson.
Other actions have seen protesters steal police riot gear, throw rocks or fireworks at police, vandalize lampposts at the courthouse and spit on police.
We have made the point on several occasions that most people strongly favor seeing the excessive use of force by police end when less lethal techniques could be employed or a situation could be calmed without escalation.
However, when they see violence being used to encourage violence not to be used, they become less sympathetic. What is the point, they rightly ask, of destroying property, attempting to bully officials and trying to dominate conversation to make a point for less hurt and pain?
We believe county and city officials — and the general public — have heard the pleas for recognition and understanding that things in black America and white America are not the same, and that some change is needed.
To that end, we believe police forces are and will update policies and improve techniques to diffuse future situations differently. And we believe governmental bodies will become more responsive in allowing input from all citizens in certain decisions the bodies must make.
However, we don't believe decisions will be made because certain groups "demand" them, we don't believe intimidation is an effective motivator, and we don't believe violence and vandalism will ever advance the cause of any group.
What can and will advance the cause of groups, though, is elections. Hamilton County residents will elect five school board members in August; state representatives, a congressional representative, a United States senator and the president of the United States in November; the Chattanooga mayor and city council members next spring; and the Hamilton County mayor and Hamilton County Commission members in 2022. In other words, those who protest can make additional points at the ballot box by electing government officials they believe will be more responsive to their desires than those currently serving.
As it happens, this is Juneteenth, which is celebrated in many places in the United States to mark — technically — the date when it was proclaimed in the state of Texas that all enslaved persons were free. Since that date, June 19, 1865, it has come to be celebrated as somewhat of a black independence day. And throughout the history of its celebrations has been a strong encouragement to vote.
In Tennessee, according to recently released data of Census Bureau population characteristics from the America Community Survey, 43% of 3rd District voters cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm elections. That was higher than the country's lowest congressional voting rate of 29% but significantly lower than the highest of 70%. In other words, there is plenty of room to effect change.
We echo the Juneteenth sentiment, believing voting to be one of the strongest and most effective forms of protest available to people of all ideologies in the country. It is certainly one in which protesters never have to worry about looking in the mirror afterward.