Do I Miss Being in Retail?

Posted September 21, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

People ask if miss my store, or downtown Franklin, or Main Street, or men’s clothing retail? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. To explain this requires a chronological narrative. Main Street, or downtown Franklin, was my second home. I was raised inside a retail store from the age of two. I had assumed I would live into my late 80s and die of a heart attack on Saturday night or Sunday morning at the end of a busy week on my way to church on the same street. I don’t know if anyone else was continuously employed on Main Street for more than 52 years. Ralph Duke (Gray Drug’s) had more years, but not continuous.

In the years between 1975 and 2003 at our Fourth and Main location, several new clothing stores opened and closed, and all of the older stores selling men’s clothing closed. Cool Springs Galleria opened in 1991, with 5 department stores with 116 to 207 thousand square feet, and 165 other smaller corporate stores.

The demise of men’s specialty clothing stores began in 1988 with casual Fridays and casual dress for church. This came at a time when imported designer labels were replacing quality apparel. Between 1981 when Paul Pigg retired until 1988 our sales grew at an average annual rate of 9 percent. Beginning in 1989, the casual dress trend had a major impact on quality men’s clothing stores and sales declined each year until we closed in 2003.

Marketing strategies changed. I was a novice in computer technology and social media. I bought one piece of software and with my one course of Introduction to Electronic Data Processing I maintained a customer base that in 1988 included 4500 customers. Instead of a spread sheet with cells, it was designed in fields for data input. From this I had a mailing list by zip code, subdivision, alphabetized, for printable track-feed labels. It also enabled a printable continuum of customer data. On a single line it included—name, total purchases, date of last purchase, name of spouse, coat size, pant waist and inseam, style preference, brand preference, neck size, sleeve length, collar preference, and random personal information.

Unlike department stores we did not advertise sale merchandise. We began twice-a-year clearance sales on the first business days of January and July. All of our customers received a letter about 5 days before the sale began. This gave them a few days to buy basic merchandise that we did not reduce, and preview the upcoming sale items.

To understand sales in men’s clothing you have to carefully plan your markup strategy. Even though I was an English major in college, I had minors in Business Administration and Economics. I took a course in Principles of Retailing when I was 51 years old after 35 years experience in retailing. The professor taught us the textbook formula for calculating markup. In the “olden days” small retail stores often sold merchandise at a 33 1/3% markup. As rents and salaries increased markup eventually became 40% and later 50%, which was known as “keystone markup.” Merchants multiplied cost by two. Men’s clothing stores had two clearance sales a year, at the ends of seasons, in January and July. This usually included only seasonal merchandise or out-of-style items which were reduced 20% to open the sale and 50% for final liquidation. For many years that worked well for men’s clothing specialty shops. Today, stores have fictional suggested retail prices and sequential markdowns on in-store or designer labels.

The opening of manufacturing plants in third world countries and the closing of American factories changed that. Garment workers in some factories are paid 25 to 50 cents an hour to produce apparel with designer labels or prestigious brand names. I can explain that with an experience at a clothing store in Nashville. Between the closing of Pigg & Peach and my working at Dillard’s, I needed to purchase an all-weather raincoat. One of the Nashville discount stores ran an ad for all topcoats and all-weather coats at half-price on Friday and Saturday only. My wife decided to buy one for me for a gift occasion. She went to that store on Thursday, before the sale, to look. They had a coat she liked with a “suggested manufacturers retail” tag at $350. It also had a removable sale ticket on the sleeve at $149. She asked about the Friday and Saturday half price sale and purchased the coat that day for $149, rather than the $175 weekend sale price.

The change in retail in Downtown Franklin was influenced by Cool Springs Galleria, and the free standing big-box stores. Main Street stores that sold “consumer items” were replaced by shops that catered to a tourist clientele and sellers of food and drink. We went through that period of closing the office supply store, the drug stores, the shoe store, the hardware store, the locally owned groceries, and the furniture store, and finally the men’s clothing store.

No retail business can survive without great employees. The long list of college and high school students who spent their summer and Christmas breaks as part time employees, included the names of some of the most successful business and professional leaders in their respective fields. The skilled hands of Louise Mason and Martha Putman, fine tuned every garment in our alteration department. Wayne Sims, former manager of National Stores for many years across Fourth Avenue on the other corner, joined Pigg & Peach in 1987, and was part of our team for 16 years. Main Street stores truly are family businesses with a dedicated and loyal extended family.

I miss the retail that I knew and understood. I miss being part of Streetscape, of the Main Street Festival, of Dickens of a Christmas, the Jazz Festival, Pumpkinfest, and other events I helped create and promote. I miss owning a building on Main Street. Most of all, I miss the people. I miss being a landmark, a point of reference, and a source of information and public relations for Historic Downtown Franklin.

Taking the Keys Away from Pope Francis

Posted September 20, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

In Chapter 16 of the book of Matthew we read of Jesus giving Peter (Simon Bar-jona) the “keys to the kingdom.” Peter fell out of favor with most of us in the Church of Christ when he denied any knowledge of Jesus. We do not accept the theory of Papal Succession and we see no relationship with the inception of the Holy Roman Empire. We think of ourselves as having two origins—one defined in the second chapter of Acts and another in something we call the Restoration Movement which is another story. We never felt any allegiance to the Pope. We read with indifference the list and the names and the numbers of popes and study the conflict with kings in European and Eastern history.

Normally, I would be considering the Papal visit to America within the purview of the First Amendment and separation of church and state. As an international celebrity Pope Francis is deserving of a cordial welcome. Technically, he is a head of state, whether it is religious or secular. I have some reluctance about his being invited to speak in the House or Senate, but since we allow the presence of a chaplain I assume we could consider Pope Francis among the other Catholics who have been welcomed there. We gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a similar venue, and I think Rick Warren and some other televangelists may have been there a few times.

I have not heard serious opposition to the visit among members of the Church of Christ. Over time we have come to treat the Catholic Church as we do the many Protestant denominations, and those which come as Evangelical, Charismatic, Community, Non-denominational, the People’s Church, or the new Church of the City. We have finally admitted we are one of many religious sects within the broad umbrella of Christianity.

Many in the Church of Christ in former times regarded the Pope as the Anti-Christ. I thought of “the keys to the Kingdom” as metaphorical or symbolic. Now we watch from the sidelines while the Evangelicals, Republicans, Conservatives, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, and many televangelists are protesting his visit. They have labeled him as a liberal, a leftist, a Marxist, a socialist, and questioned his legitimacy. They have lifted his words from a literal context in the Bible and used them to discredit him.

Historically, I have thought of the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church as being conservative. We both believed in the Virgin Birth and the divinity of Jesus. We are Trinitarian; we are insistent on premarital celibacy; scriptural on rules for divorce and traditional marriage; strong on ritual and procedure for attaining salvation. However, we have more closely identified with the Reformation though we believe no one got it right until the Restoration Movement of Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone.

The Church of Christ has insisted on congregational autonomy. Each congregation is governed by elders and deacons with duties clearly defined in the Book of Acts and the ensuing Epistles to the early churches and individuals. We are bound to a single document, the New Testament. In addition to the recorded practices of the Church in the first century, we are bound to the teachings and examples of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels. Churches of Christ are more closely concentrated in the South or Bible belt. For many years our fundamentalist and literalist rules attracted a conservative membership. Even in the days of Franklin Roosevelt, the labor movement, and the coming of social security and Medicare the Church clung to its conservative base. Through the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War it maintained a southern tradition of segregation, male dominated family structure, and a national patriotism defined in the Christian Nation affirmation.

Our opposition to the Pope did not follow the liberal and conservative divide. I don’t think we identified the Pope with any similarity to Jesus. As a clothier, I saw his attire as ostentatious. We questioned the pomp, the artifacts of gold, the giant cathedrals, the processionals, the entourage, the music, and the splendor of the Catholic image.

This was not the church of Jesus who came to save the poor, the persecuted, the stranger, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the peacemaker, and the downtrodden. The Catholic Church has been a paradox of ministering to the poorest among us in many underdeveloped countries, a concurrent contrast with its storehouse of riches and ostentation. The Church of Christ has also been a paradox of southern politics of conservatism concurrent with the teachings of Jesus on charity, compassion, tolerance, and ministering to the least of these.

I don’t understand the metaphorical reference in Matthew 16 to giving the “keys to the Kingdom” to Peter or why the Catholic Church had any claim of rights in the declaration of Papal succession. However, I am hearing the same message coming from Pope Francis that I read in the Gospels having come from Jesus. I don’t know if these are the keys. His words have evoked opposition from organized religion and from government. I hear echoes of the voices of the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin Council, the scribes, Pilate, Caesar, the Jews, the money changers, the magicians, the sorcerers, and the Roman Legions. I don’t know what Jesus was referring to when he proffered this gift to Peter or even have a clear understanding of the Kingdom to which they provided or denied entry or membership. It would be a rare moment that I would come to the defense of a Pope, but I don’t want the Evangelicals, Republicans, Conservatives, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, and televangelists to take away the keys to the Kingdom. I don’t know if he has them. I don’t know if Peter lost them in his disavowal of Jesus. I don’t know if the ones passed on to the successive Popes were authentic. I think they are metaphorical for the words and power of Jesus and if Pope Francis believes he has them, don’t take them away from him. Let him visit and speak in peace.

Pigg’s Men’s Shop, 1949-1971

Posted September 15, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

My earliest memories of Main Street included grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware stores, and Rose’s Five and Ten Cent store. After World War II, a venturous investor, Oscar Godwin came to downtown Franklin. With some local financial backing, he opened a car dealership, a restaurant, and a men’s shop. In 1949, Godwin’s venture left the Harpeth Bank owning among other assets, The Men’s Shop at 414 Main Street in a building owned by Mattie Armistead, widow of the founder and mother of Bill Armistead, publisher of the Review-Appeal newspaper which was next door. I think the rent was less than $100 a month. I remember in 1970 increasing it to $125 with a five year extension of the lease, and our agreement to fund any repairs and improvements.

Columbia, Tennessee had a very successful men’s clothing store, Pigg & Parsons, owned by two generations of the Pigg family and Cliff Parsons. A nephew/cousin of the store owners, Paul Pigg, had been in a partnership in Florence, Alabama and later in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He learned that the men’s shop in Franklin had closed and negotiated a purchase from the bank and acquired primarily fixtures with very little inventory.

In the years following the war rationing, manufacturers were returning to domestic production and retail stores had the challenge of finding suppliers and merchandise for stocking stores. The store opened in September of 1949. From the stories Paul Pigg told, customers were lined up for the opening and bought mostly white dress shirts which had been hard to find during the war.

The building was 14 x 84, wide enough for a center entrance aisle, a low display fixture on each side and shelves and hang rods behind. These were the days before “browsing and shopping.” Customers were “waited on.” Dress shirts, mostly white, were packed three in a box without plastic wrap or open display. The basic opening price was $2.95, with a better shirt at $5.00. The hanging suits were by Sewell Manufacturing Company, the Joseph & Feiss Company (Cricketeer) and the top line, Hyde Park at $59.00 in Dacron and wool and $65.00 in all wool.

With my humble and rural upbringing, quality men’s clothing had little meaning for me. I remember having gone to Nashville with my grandfather once for him to replace the only Sunday suit he owned at one of the three or four men’s clothing stores on Sixth Avenue.

I had worked at the dime store, Jenkins’ Ben Franklin part time during three years of high school (Hillsboro, Williamson County), one year at David Lipscomb College (Lipscomb University) and one year full time. Each fall as my friends went off to college, the idea of “clerking” in a dime store became less attractive. I knew, or thought, I could one day own a store on Main Street in downtown Franklin, but not now. I wanted to “go to college.”

My closest friend, and pick-up basketball buddy, Porter Maxwell lived on West Main and he and I walked to the “county center” behind the old Franklin High School which later burned on Columbia Avenue. Porter worked at Pigg’s Men’s Shop in the summer of 1956 and referred Mister Pigg to me as a possible full time employee. I don’t remember much about the interview. I remember it was intimidating. It was a cultural shift from “mass retailing” at the dime store to becoming clothier for the business and professional civic leaders who were the movers and shakers of Franklin. This was an experience similar to the generational history of young men destined to own a family business. Paul Pigg was 43 and I was 20.

In the fall of 1957, the unrelenting desire to go back to school led me to consider a lesser costly state school—Middle Tennessee State (then College) University. I contacted Vergil Jenkins at dime store and asked if I could come back and work part time. Vergil and Anne Jenkins were almost like family, and I could have eventually probably been part owner of that store. When I told Paul Pigg, his response was to let me work at Pigg’s Men’s Shop part time, which was a more challenging job and maybe twenty-cents an hour more pay.

I arranged my schedules to attend school Monday/Wednesday/Friday and work at the store three days a week. In the second semester of my senior year 1960, I was unable to schedule two courses I needed to complete my English major and graduation. I dropped out after a month and went to work full time, only fifteen hours short of a degree.

By 1962, I had developed a clientele and some retail skills, and began to be recruited by local business men to open a shop with their backing. The most serious offer came from Lewis Aita, the local Ford dealer. At the time Paul Pigg’s mother was terminally ill and he was spending a lot of time away from the store. He and I had a long conversation, and I agreed to stay, forming a partnership, with incremental purchases of interest in the business, starting with 10%. In 1971, when we chose to form a corporation, for tax reasons, we were an 80/20 partnership and we officially sold our ownership to the corporation that we chartered under the name Pigg & Peach, the funny name that would eventually become the 4th and Main landmark that would survive until 2003. I became the minority stock holder and by default the vice-president. With that came my name on the sign hanging over 414 Main Street and the intrinsic frustration of being a minority stock holder and vice-president with someone 23 years my senior with different ideas about retailing, and no immediate plans to retire.

Anarchy, Protests, and Civil Disobedience

Posted September 6, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

At our meetings of the Jaycees we often quoted or recited the phrase that we believed “America was a government of laws, not of men.” During the same period of my life, we were engaged in a period of civil disobedience in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. As a Main Street merchant and Sunday school teacher I was limited in my public protests. My opposition came in the written word of letters to the editor and writing a play performed by Pulltight Theater.

Rarely have I been angry at the government of the United States. My anger was more at the culture and the practices enabled by the men and the laws they enforced. As a white person with a position of status in the business and civic community, I was not denied access to lunch counters, schools, or the normal privileges of life. I had access to an Army Reserve unit and was not likely to be sent to Vietnam to die among the conscripted victims of an unjust war. There were really no laws for me to violate in protesting injustice.

The principle of civil disobedience has a long history dating back to the Boston Tea Party. During the sixties, one Supreme Court Justice wrote a book in which he offered guidelines for civil disobedience. To disobey a law, one should have moral or religious objection to a specific law, but retain respect for the rule of law. The disobedience should do no harm to another person or property. The violator should then should submit to the legal authority and challenge or accept the provisions of punishment.

The long march to justice and equal rights has been marked by martyrs and peaceful protests. Conservatives and Liberals have often been at cross purposes in defining the role of government. Even in the drafting of the Constitution we immediately added ten amendments to protect states and individuals from the tyranny of a federal government. Our current campaign for President has evoked the voices of a dissident populace advocating a smaller, less imposing government. They speak of opposition to taxation, regulation, religious oppression, Supreme Court decisions, and mandates of change in conflicts of government and public opinion.

There is a counter ideology that government has a role in protecting the weak from the strong; the poor from the rich; and minorities from majorities. There is a continuing debate about the freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly for redress of grievance as guaranteed in the First Amendment. Within that debate are several contradictions. Some believe there is a war on Christians and churches; other believe government sanctioned religion is an oppressor. We disagree on gun control and gun rights; cruel and unusual punishment and criminal justice; legal and illegal immigration; conflict of rights of the unborn and the rights of women; and the rights of corporate access to fossil fuels and clean air and water. We speak in catch phrases of contradictions—traditional marriage and marriage equality; reproductive rights and abortion; military intervention and diplomacy; true conservatism and bigotry; patriotism and appeasement; and economic freedom and socialism.

We identify the many offending tyrannies—the federal government that denies states’ rights; state governments that impose regional and anachronistic rules on local government; and the local government of mayors, aldermen, commissioners, and school boards which meddle in the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Historically, we have identified several natural tyrants—government, the military, unions, corporations, and religion.

We like to believe we can lift the chains of oppression at the table of reason and the halls of government. Sometimes the arbiters are members of the judicial system. Sometimes we resort to violence by and against those whose task it is to defend our rights. We impose political correctness about whose lives matter and whose rights are endangered. We also decry the imposition of political correctness that infringes upon our freedoms of speech and identity.

When all else fails we take to the streets and the public square. We block traffic and doorways. We display bold signage of freedom of rights and speech juxtaposed with symbols and words of bigotry and prejudice. At some point we cross the line, and in moral or religious defiance we commit acts of civil disobedience. The annals of history record acts of bravery and heroics of men and women whose disobedience has effected civil rights, voting rights, gender and racial equality, and tolerance and accommodation of individuals with disabilities, anomalies, exclusion, or denial of respect.

At times we have affirmed our individual rights as a business or public official to deny service or accommodation to persons whose race, gender, sexual orientation, life style, national origin, or outward appearance we find offensive.

There have been times when protest and civil disobedience became the tyrants. The destruction of property; attacks on the police and public officials; acts of violence, looting, and arson create anarchy in which no one is safe or secure in the community in which they live.

While we affirm our rights as individuals, we accept the premise we are a government of laws. People of faith affirm allegiance to both divine law and civil law. We live in a spiritual kingdom and a secular republic or democracy. Within this dual allegiance we often commit sins that violate divine command and crimes that violate civil law. Crimes against civil law are adjudicated in civil courts with possible punishment in a civil criminal justice system. Sins are often judged by persons who share church membership or the broader interpretation of conduct dictated by a religious document. Ultimately sins are judged by the God to whom the person of faith is committed. Punishment is usually delayed until the end of one’s life. People of faith are consistently rebuked, defended, or forgiven for sins of the flesh, moments of anger, or inappropriate behavior.

Some people believe we are a Christian nation. Others believe we are a secular nation, governed by elected or appointed officials who are Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, or secular moralists who vote or enact laws consistent with universally accepted moral standards, separate from ecclesiastical law. Again, I defer to my opinion that we are governed by law, logic, and love, and that neither civil nor ecclesiastical law can function effectively without logical interpretation of law and some affection and respect for fellow earthly creatures.

Demography and Truth in Labeling

Posted August 26, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

Demography is “the statistical study of human populations.” We usually think of it in polling, politics, and marketing with the word, demographics, “the characteristics of human population segments, especially for identifying consumer markets.” Each human is a complex composite of multiple demographic labels.

For product marketing we establish categories by gender, age, and income. For clothing we come in sizes–regular, long, short, petite, plus, children and adult. Some characteristics are permanent acquired at birth, some acquired, and some transitional by preference, enlightenment, or maturity. In political polling we like to identify people by level of education, offering statistics to imply intelligence or mental ineptitude. We measure religion by affiliation or frequency of church attendance. We establish names for age groups—boomers, millennials, or generation X or Y, to define our decades. Children get in free, pre-teens with a child’s ticket, and seniors get 10% off on Wednesdays. Target caught some grief for eliminating gender signage.

Some Liberals have relabeled as Progressives for a better image. Some Republicans prefer the labels Libertarian or Conservative. We tend to divide Christians as Evangelicals, Catholics, and Liberal. We identify race by country or continent of origin, or some standard of skin tones. By the time you add marital status, sexual orientation, gun ownership, home owner or renter, occupation, pro-life or pro-choice, religious or spiritual, theist or atheist, we all have a multiple demographic profile.

We have heard and read statistics until we believe we can anticipate what someone thinks by the combination of demographic identities. As a mens’ clothier I spent years studying the science of apparel profiling. It probably was more accurate than most of the data in marketing and political studies.

There are two layers of visual demography, the clothing that covers one’s body and the anatomy and skin tones that identify us by race and gender. The content of the mind and heart which determine what we buy, how we vote, and what we believe are not so obvious.

Consequently, we have adopted the practice of affixing labels. For polling purposes, the pollsters have to depend on information derived from the interview. If the person says he or she is a Republican or Democrat, the interviewer would not have immediate access to voting records. If the person affirms membership in a particular Protestant denomination, the interviewer would assume that to be accurate.

The confusion in labeling and demographics is that some labels are affixed by the wearer and some labels are affixed by others often from prejudice and misinformation. Labels that an individual might wear with pride might be viewed by others as offensive or inherently inferior. Our religion and our politics are acquired characteristics, more cultural and academic than genetic. There may be some exceptions for geographic isolation and generations of inbreeding. There is also cyclical generational rebellion to parental indoctrination. This is also complicated by our attitudes about unity and diversity, and the quest to expand our sphere of influence to those who disagree or are perceived to be different.

Labels identify characteristics of choice and those derived at birth from a loving and indiscriminate God, and the principles and anomalies of reproduction. With our limited knowledge of each individual we often think of demographics as dichotomous. We tend to divide people into two, usually contradictory, categories or opinions. We think liberal and conservative, with some assumption of party affiliation. We think of things as spiritual or secular, of good and bad, of right and wrong, or right and left. We have affixed the prefixes of exclusion—un, anti, and non to identify our adversaries, and those who are “not our kind of people.”

We have created bumper stickers, buttons, lapel pins, hats, caps, and religious headgear to establish immediate agreement and distrust. These affirmations of affiliation have created a propensity for pointless conversation among the argumentative, and a concurrent silence among the timid and the apathetic.

Earlier this week one of my friends who wears the label conservative with the same comfort level with which I wear the liberal label responded with some words of wisdom to a speech I had made. He made a passionate appeal for us to learn to respect each and listen to each other. He thanked me for having liked something he posted on social media. I find the same warm feeling when one of my conservative friends likes or agrees with something I write.

The best form of labeling, and the most meaningful designation of demographics, is the name that our parents bestowed on us and validated on a birth certificate. There is a line from a song from a movie that includes the phrase, “me, a name I call myself.” When someone prefaces a sentence with “I think” or “I believe” logic should tell me those ideas are essential parts of who they are. Unless those ideas have the potential of harm, or include hatred or ridicule, they should go unchallenged. More importantly, when they include an obvious truth or a premise worthy of consideration, they deserve some commendation or invitation to rational dialogue. Labels should not be impermeable barriers between friends, or denial to access at the table of reason.

Our National Rightness and Wrongness

Posted July 23, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

This essay began as a response to a friend who told me America was in decline. I asked for specifics and this was the response, “Looser morals, more bitterness, more racial tension, less respect for those who hold different opinions, more persecution of Christians, etc.” I may agree on three of the five. Other friends suggested it would be more optimistic to write about what is right about our country. I decided on the words rightness and wrongness. This is not as much about the country as it is about us.

The introduction of sixteen, so far, Republican candidates for President and maybe five Democratic candidates confuses the dialogue with the attempt to interchange right and left and right and wrong, to identify liberal and conservatives political positioning. Left and right seem to be more than directional and relative, but have become standards for absolute ideology and mutual exclusion.

I have been distracted from national politics by our local school board events. In a live interview on Channel 4, prior to the board work session, I made a reference to “mean” people who were trying to terminate the contract of our superintendent. The use of connotative subjective words should have no place in rational debate. Someone asked me if I would have been as emotional if we had a “right leaning” superintendent being opposed by detractors on the left. The “right-wing, or mean people” reference only included the people trying to run off our superintendent and would not include the majority of our parents who are Republican and conservative.

I think it is true that not only the United States, but Williamson County now suffers from “more bitterness, and less respect for those who hold different opinions.” The history of school board elections in Williamson County has usually been one at a time challenges to incumbents considered less competent or less responsive to parents and students. One year, 1992, the entire Franklin Special board was defeated by an angry electorate over two emotional issues. The 2014 Williamson County school board election is hard to explain. The right wing Americans for Prosperity, with or without permission from six candidates, introduced Barack Obama into local elections throughout Tennessee to demonize Common Core State Standards. “Why is our school board letting Obama run Williamson County Schools?” The intent to remove Dr. Looney was prominent in an email circulated among the inner circle of right-wing activists and the candidates. The parents, teachers, and community and business leaders responded and rallied in defense of the schools and the Superintendent. So far the candidates have not been willing to offer any public disclaimer of the mailers.

When President Obama was elected in 2008 we all acknowledged that some people voted for him only because he was black, and some people voted against him because he was black. The accusation of “more racial tension” may be less relevant than “disrespect for those who hold different opinions on race.”

Activists who believe the United States is in decline frequently attack public schools as the cause. This movement is nationwide, but most volatile in southern and conservative state legislatures. One of our school board members warned of a potential “progressive track much of our education has taken.” Some people would make our children crucibles for the forging of young minds in shaping the future of our country. Our teachers and schools, and our superintendents, are under attack. Even Williamson County the highest performing school district in Tennessee, with an upper middle class, highly educated Republican electorate, lost much of its prestige in one election, and is at greater risk of future partisan elections that could diminish our quality of education.

I approach the religious accusation in the original paragraph with moral trepidation. This is not about religious freedom. Religious freedom is alive and well in Williamson County. In one or more incidents following the election, the new board members introduced establishment of religion into school board discussions. In the speech by the board member who resigned there is a reference to “the diminishing influence and positive effect of the Judeo-Christian ethic/principles upon which much of the greatest nation in history was founded.” Much of the conservative opposition to and exodus from public schools, began in the 1950s, and accelerated in the 1960s, and has found a new commonality with advocates of vouchers, charter schools, and home school parents in school districts across the country. Opposition to Common Core Standards was a rallying initiative. Public schools are under attack in 30 or more states, under the label of education reform, cutting funding and transferring funds to non-public schools.

The religious right has had a major impact on conservative politics. Their effort to impose a fundamentalist and literal religion into academia has put at risk the integrity of scientific and historical accuracy and reasoning skills among our students. There is no increase in religious persecution in the United States. I would even argue there is no decline in morality from former times I have known. There is less respect and more bitterness for persons who hold different positions, and don’t know how we get past that. This may be a sufficient identifiable wrongness from which we rally to find our rightness. I was dissuaded from repeating the claims of “what is wrong with our country.” My daughters are teachers in public schools. My grandchildren are students in Williamson County schools. They wear t-shirts that read “Be Nice.” We teach moral values, and ethical behavior. If you believe the United States and Williamson County are in moral decline or mired in wrongness, you probably won’t convince many people in Williamson County. It serves no beneficial purpose to demean the educators, business leaders, people of faith, and creative thinkers who are taking this country and this county to new greatness and rightness.

Shock and Awe; Degrade and Destroy

Posted July 7, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

A few days ago, I watched a ten-minute video of our bombing of Baghdad, on March 21, 2003 in what we called shock and awe in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The bombing followed an ultimatum from President Bush for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq. We watched on television the bombardment of the many palaces of despotic splendor and other government buildings. It was a spectacular light show of military pyrotechnics.

This event was a year and a half after we watched the destruction of the World Trade Towers. We have now spent thirteen years of memorial tributes to the brave fire and rescue people who gave their lives on nine-eleven. We have built a memorial to the thousands who lost their lives in this horrendous act of inhumanity, and continue to read their names written in the black granite on which we document the losses of wars and terrorism.

Standing on the rubble of the Trade Towers, President Bush made an appeal to the resolve of the American people and united our country in a patriotic support for a war on terrorism. Thirteen years later President Obama is appealing to the American people and Congress for support of possible military involvement in Syria to degrade and destroy another Islamic group similar to and more inhumane than those who drove the planes into the towers and the Pentagon.

In our 11 year occupation of Iraq, America has grown weary and disillusioned with the series of events in Iraq and Afghanistan and the loss of life and capital and the untold loss of life of Iraqis and Afghanis beyond the losses that have touched our lives and divided our nation politically. We question the decision to invade a country that had done us no wrong, on a deceptive warning of potential risks of mass destruction. We overthrew a dictator, dismantled an army, shifted the advantage of Sunni and Shiite in a religious war, and found no semblance of victory or establishment of a democracy in a world that we do not understand.

Our moment of shock and awe, followed by a decade of boots-on-the-ground combat, has now brought us another political strategy that we call “degrade and destroy.” This is a combination of diplomatic appeal to the Islamic nations and our Western allies to condemn the new Islamic State terrorists and limited missile attacks to destroy those who rape women, kill children, and behead journalists. Our reluctant Commander in Chief, who opposed the two wars, and made a campaign promise to bring them to an end, struggles with the semantics of a war on terror that has no political, religious, or geographic borders.

We are also hearing the voices of those who believe we solve all of our national security problems militarily. We are hearing the same voices of those who gave us shock and awe who were poised and ready to degrade and destroy President Obama for whatever he might have proposed in his speech.

I looked for a definition of “degrade.” I found it to mean “to reduce in rank or status; to dishonor or disgrace; to reduce in worth or value.” This requires diplomacy and some reasoned humanitarian restraint on the part of the President, the Congress, and the military. For this we need the help of the Islamic countries in the Middle East to show some outrage for those who bring dishonor to their religion, and commit acts of cruelty in the name of their god. The more we can degrade ideologically, the fewer we have to destroy militarily in the name of our God. Read the rest of this post »


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