By G. Wayne Dowdy
In this week’s letter to Colonel John McLeod Keating, managing editor of The Memphis Daily Appeal during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, your correspondent addresses the threat of extremism, the strength of democracy, and the ongoing presidential election.
Dear Colonel Keating:
A couple of weeks ago the City of Memphis installed a turn arrow at the intersection of Southern Avenue and Goodlett, which is also a crossing for the old Memphis and Charleston railroad. Driving in Memphis is more like participating in a Wild West show than taking an orderly transportation route, and that is certainly true when navigating Southern at Goodlett. People routinely turn into the wrong lane, cut in front of drivers and speed through the intersection, making the possibility of an accident more likely.
This simple act of installing a turn signal has made the intersection safer and will no doubt save lives. I thought of this turn arrow when I heard of the foiled plan by a so-called white supremacist militia to kidnap the governor of Michigan, overthrow the duly elected governments of several states and spark a civil war. Thankfully most Americans were shocked by this treasonous plot and offered them no support.
Anyone who has ever tried to get help from a bureaucrat or a straight answer from a politician knows how difficult it can be to force government officials to address a problem or make a change. And there are many examples of entrenched power running roughshod over the needs of the people. In August the University of Memphis announced plans to build five four-storied buildings to house 523 students at the corner of Deloach and Central. This would no doubt cost millions of dollars and destroy many single family homes. Then two months later university officials explained their plan to fire hundreds of support workers to make up for a $50 million loss due to the pandemic. It is not hard to conclude that forcing valuable workers onto the unemployment line during a public health crisis to pay for a building they do not yet need is a cruel move that will do little to improve the long-term stability of our economy.
However, that doesn’t mean I should kidnap the university president and blow up the administration building. Instead I exercise the power granted to me by providence and the Constitution to pressure the university into changing course. Some will dismiss this authority as an illusion while others claim political power must be seized by violence. I would invite these cynical souls to drive down Southern Avenue and turn onto Goodlett. There they will see a small example of the people and their government working together to improve Memphis.
Meanwhile early voting has begun for the presidential election. From now until November 3rd the American people will decide what party controls the national levers of our government for the next four years. When they stand before a machine to cast their ballot, they also strengthen the Constitution, protect our liberty, and prevent the triumph of extremists who long for civil war and the overthrow of our democratic republic.
your faithful correspondent