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  1. Filename: A14-MAIN-AJCD1031-AJCD Date/Time created: Oct 30 2013 8:42:25:886PM Username: SPEEDDRIVER13 Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 MAIN 14AAJCD14ACyan Magenta…
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  • 1. Filename: A14-MAIN-AJCD1031-AJCD Date/Time created: Oct 30 2013 8:42:25:886PM Username: SPEEDDRIVER13 Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 MAIN 14AAJCD14ACyan Magenta Yellow Black A14 CREDIBLE. COMPELLING. COMPLETE. THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION THURSDAY, OCT. 31, 2013 14ACyan Magenta Yellow Black AJCD File name: A14-MAIN-AJCD1031-AJCD Date/Time created: Oct 30 2013 8:42:25:886PM Username: 3 Today’s moderator: David Ibata Inajournalismcareerspanningmorethanthreedecades,DavidIbatahas writtenaboutpolitics,transportation,urbanplanningandtheenvironment, andhasbeenanewseditor,deputysuburbanbureauchiefandInternet producerattheChicagoTribunebeforejoiningtheAJC’sbreakingnews teamin2007.HewasnamedAssistantEditorialEditorin2012. TOPIC SCHEDULE Monday Schools Tuesday Transportation Wednesday Regional economy Thursday Leadership Friday Qualityoflife As might be expected in a state with as freighted a history as ours, a plan to move the statue of Thomas E. Watson — lawmaker, populist, poor folks’ champion, white supremacist and religious demagogue — from the steps of the state Capitol has prompted wide-ranging reactions. An Anti-Defamation League official is glad to see the statue go. The CEO of the Atlanta History Center says we should not sanitize history, but learn from it. To comment, go to: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward ByShelleyRose It’s about time. The imposing — some would say forbidding — statue of Thomas E. Watson has stood at the front entrance of the Georgia State Capitol since its unveiling in December 1932 and has withstood numer- ous efforts to remove it over the decades. Now, at long last, Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered its relocation to a less visible park across the street from the Capitol grounds. The Anti-Def- amation League applauds this move. Watson was a powerful Georgia political leader and journalist who began his ca- reer as a populist, arguing for better living and work- ing conditions for rural Geor- gians, black and white. But as the beginning of the 20th cen- tury neared, he evolved in- to a demagogic bully, rallying Georgians around his fiery de- nunciations of blacks, Jews and Catholics. Watson railed against them repeatedly in the pages of his magazine, The Jeffersonian. He helped revitalize the Ku Klux Klan and is credited with organizing its first cross-burn- ing. He wrote about the “su- periority of the Aryan” and stood “squarely for white su- premacy.” His anti-Semitic attacks on Atlanta Jewish business- man Leo Frank — accused of the 1913 murder of 13-year- old Mary Phagan — were so poisonous that many believe he inspired the ha- tred that led to Frank’s lynching. An article pub- lished in The New York Times the day after Frank was killed report- ed that Watson’s writings about Frank “pre- clude their reproduction in any respectable newspaper.” It’s no wonder, then, that the Watson statue has sparked so many cries for its removal from the Capitol. Some critics of the move ac- knowledge Watson’s contro- versial past but argue that it is problematic to try to erase our history — good or bad. They contend that the statue can serve today as a remind- er that Georgia’s past does in- clude a dark side represent- ed by bigots like Watson. But the Capitol must represent fair and equal government for all. The statue’s current promi- nent display implicitly endors- es Watson’s dark side, convey- ing an official message of ex- clusion and marginalization to many Georgians. Such a mes- sage is simply unacceptable in the 21st century. We recognize that moving the statue from the Capitol grounds is a symbolic gesture and would not greatly change the practical status of race re- lations in Georgia today. How- ever, symbols matter. Hav- ing the Watson statue occu- py a place of particular honor, standing at the main entrance to the Capitol building where it cannot escape the notice of thousands of schoolchildren and others who visit the Capi- tol every day, sends the wrong message. Surely we don’t want to hold him up as an example of a great leader in our state’s history. The statue needs to be moved to a place where Wat- son’s historical significance can be remembered, but his message of hate and bigot- ry can be distanced from our state government. Ironically, it appears that the plaque on the Watson stat- ue will survive its relocation. It reads, in part, “Honor’s the path he trod ... a champion of right who never faltered in the cause.” Whatever he tried to accomplish for good early in his public life, by embrac- ing bigotry and hatred, Wat- son chose an eventual path of dishonor. Now is the time to show the people of Georgia that we are distancing ourselves from these beliefs. It has been over 90 years since Tom Watson’s death. It is time to remove his statue from our state Capitol grounds. Shelley Rose is associate director oftheAnti-Defamation League, Southeast Region. Statue move distances Ga. from Watson controversy GUEST COLUMN The statue of Thomas E. Wat- son stands at the state Capi- tol. Watson, 1856-1922, was a political leader and journalist in Georgia who transformed him- self into a symbol of bigotry. Atlanta Forward What is Atlanta Forward? Ourregionisanimportantpartofacomplexworld. Onthesepages,wewillbringyouawidearrayof viewpointsandinsightsontheissuesyou’vetold usaremostimportanttoyou.We’recommittedto bringingyousmartworkbysomeofthebestthinkers inmetroAtlantaandbeyond.Wewanttoinvolveyou intheconversation,too,soletusknowwhatyouthink. THURSDAY CONVERSATION: LEADERSHIP BySheffieldHale Putting anyone on a pedes- tal is a tricky business. Who we commemorate says just as much about the culture and point of view of the majori- ty in political and econom- ic power at the time as it does about the object of veneration itself. As a monument ages, it develops a history separate from its subject, particular- ly when popular opinions and perspectives change. The impulse to remove monuments as time passes and perspectives change is natural. On one hand, a once- celebrated individual can come to be regarded negative- ly in the light of current cul- ture, opinion and attitudes. It seems reasonable, therefore, for those who are personally offended by that person (and that belief system) to object to the community support that they believe is implicit in leav- ing the monument in place. Others may wish to distance themselves from that past and prefer that the nuisance sim- ply be removed, since it pres- ents an embarrassing remind- er of some aspect of our col- lective history. After all, it is much harder to wave a bloody shirt after it has been dry- cleaned. As natural and well-intentioned as these impuls- es are, I believe they do not serve our communi- ty well. Although these controver- sies may serve as a cautionary tale for the erection of new monuments, once erected, these physical embodiments of cultural and political views should be re- tained for the lessons they can teach us over time about our- selves and how we have grown and changed as a people, a community and a country. Preserving such monu- ments is not the same as im- plicit support of an ideolo- gy, but instead, with broad- er interpretation, should be viewed as a type of historical way point that helps us under- stand our current situation in relationship to our past. Inscriptions on monuments beg for context. Today, mod- ern technology, such as QR codes, can direct the observ- er to a broader historical and cultural context of the monu- ment. This modern technolo- gy and its interpretive author- ity can be updated, provid- ing evolving perspectives over time. The great story of this na- tion is not that we have always been enlightened by current standards, but that we have evolved in our treatment and acceptance of one another. An honest examination of our his- tory requires us to confront a painful, ambiguous past — an examination that for many is difficult, challenging and dis- tressing. That examination can also be provocative, stim- ulating and inspiring. We cannot change our his- tory. But, we can learn from it. Controversial history should not be sanitized. Instead, this is an opportunity to address the underlying issues that of- ten divide us. Rather than cen- soring the past, let us bridge the divide and use the chang- ing interpretation of history to open ourselves to perspec- tives that can allow all of us to learn from our past and create a better Atlanta. The past has much to teach us about who we are, and where we are — if we let it. Sheffield Hale is president and CEO oftheAtlanta History Center. We can learn from history GUEST COLUMN Scan the QR code to go to the Thomas E. Watson entry in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, an online program of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partner- ship with the University of Geor- gia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO and the Office of the Governor. »Jointhediscussiontoday:Shareyouropinions and ideas at blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/. Shelley Rose Sheffield Hale Controversial history should not be sanitized. Instead, this is an opportunity to address the underlying issues that often divide us. The statue needs to move to a place where his historical significance can be remembered, but his message of hate can be distanced from our state government. READERS WRITE FEDERAL FINANCES Economist apparently has no fear of debt Regarding “Pay no heed to prophets of a financial apoc- alypse” (Opinion, Oct. 26), Paul Krugman seems to say the U.S. can spend as much as it wants; borrow as much as it wants; print money endlessly, and there should be no wor- ry about the debt. I’m so re- lieved. So, what’s all the fuss about the debt? Plus — if it’s good enough for Uncle Sam, it’s good enough for me, right? I can spend as much as I want, not bud- get, and not worry about how much debt I am in. Thanks, Paul Krugman! PAT MURPHY, FAYETTEVILLE GOVERNANCE Here’s a way to give teeth to ethics panel Enough already, with letting the politicians run Georgia’s ethics commission. We should set up the com- mission with five retirees as commissioners. They would not have any connection with political parties, and have no involvement with, or income from, vendors that do (or want to do) business with the state or any other political entity within the state. Another re- quirement would be that their income would be from sourc- es like Social Security, mutu- al funds, federal bonds and blind trusts — with no consul- tant fees. They would have to be willing to work for mileage and per diem meal expenses. They would have the fi- nal word, by majority vote, on guilt or innocence regard- ing complaints brought be- fore them. Fines for noncom- pliance with ethics rules, de- termined by the Legislature, would be collected before the guilty party would be allowed to participate in any political activity. The agency respon- sible for collection of fines would be determined prior to commencement of commis- sion activity. The group would also have a secretary and two investigators, certified and bonded, that they chose. BOB DRUKTANIS, SHARPSBURG HEALTH CARE ‘Wasteful’ coverage is just part of insurance Jerry Ellig’s recent take on the ACA as “wasteful” in cov- ering things not everyone is asking for is missing the point (“ACA works by giving what you don’t want,” Opinion, Oct. 28). Every insurance plan, re- gardless of property cov- ered (including policies for your body) includes cover- age for things you may nev- er use, never asked for, and/ or don’t want. What it does do for me as a taxpayer, howev- er, is to help share the load of those not insured with those who are paying to be insured. The ACA will help move health care from emergency care and bandages to the full spectrum of preventative care, and to higher-quality outcomes. I would ask the Mercatus Center, which market solution offers real freedom and pros- perity? PATRICK THOMPSON, WOODSTOCK ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Letterstotheeditorshould be no longerthan 150words and must include a daytime phone numberforverification.Theymay be edited forlength and clarity, and maybe published in print or otherformats.Email submissions are preferred. Email: letters@ajc.com. HowtosubmitanOpinion column: Submissions should be 600words orless.Email columns to Opinion EditorTom Sabulis at tsabulis@ajc.com. Columns submitted to theAJC maybe published,republished and made available in theAJC or otherdatabases and electronic formats.
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