Let's move together in the right direction

Bill Estes
Posted 6/30/20

Much of my life has been spent as an administrator in middle management. I have spent more time than I can calculate trying to find workable solutions to complex problems. Rarely are workable …

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Let's move together in the right direction

ALMOST 50 YEARS after the end of the Civil War, a group of local Union Army veterans organized a drive to raise money for the construction of a Federal monument at a cemetery in Cleveland. Today, pictured above, it stands just a few feet from the entrance of the historic Fort Hill Cemetery where it serves as a memorial to Bradley County soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Constructed in 1914, shown at left, it was the product of a meeting – held the prior year – of the Oviatt Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, as described in the late Dr. William R. Snell’s “Cleveland, The Beautiful: A History of Cleveland, Tennessee, 1842-1931.” The memorial was rededicated in 1990.
ALMOST 50 YEARS after the end of the Civil War, a group of local Union Army veterans organized a drive to raise money for the construction of a Federal monument at a cemetery in Cleveland. Today, pictured above, it stands just a few feet from the entrance of the historic Fort Hill Cemetery where it serves as a memorial to Bradley County soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Constructed in 1914, shown at left, it was the product of a meeting – held the prior year – of the Oviatt Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, as described in the late Dr. William R. Snell’s “Cleveland, The Beautiful: A History of Cleveland, Tennessee, 1842-1931.” The memorial was rededicated in 1990.
Posted
 
Much of my life has been spent as an administrator in middle management.
 
I have spent more time than I can calculate trying to find workable solutions to complex problems. Rarely are workable solutions perfect, but administration is about keeping an organization moving forward one workable solution at a time. 
 
In both the public schools and now at a private university, I have found and continue to find wide-ranging opinions on a daily basis as to these solutions. And if my professional life has not had enough diversity of thought, for the past 14 years I have served the Second District as a member of the Cleveland City Council. 
 
Good people disagree on important issues; therefore, moving forward frequently requires measures of compromise.
 
Rarely in our modern American culture do we see compromise or moderation modeled for us. It is easy to insist on the moral purity of our own position, assert our individual rights and demonize our opponents. None of this takes much courage beyond joining the proper Facebook group where you can hear others tell you just how right you are. 
 
What does take courage is to listen to others, see an issue from another perspective and work to solve a problem together.  Simply put, I believe this to be good government and a necessity for Cleveland to flourish. To misquote a local slogan, “Man was not born to himself alone, but to his community.” 
 
This brings me to the Confederate monument.  Regardless of my personal thoughts, opinions and feelings, I recognize this is a complex issue. This statue does not exist in a vacuum, but has become part of a bigger narrative with many facets and complexities that few have the historical knowledge, time and wisdom to properly understand, myself included. 
 
This statue is not the problem, but a symbol for deep and complex problems facing our nation and Cleveland. These problems do not have easy solutions, but they are worth our attention and efforts.
 
If the monument arguments have taught us anything, it is that history matters.  How we treat people matters. We are not only debating the meaning of the past, but creating our own history in the process. Let’s write a history that shows members of our community standing up for what they believe while showing dignity and respect to those who expressed views different than their own.
 
With this in mind, on July 13, I am going to ask my colleagues on the City Council to discuss a local solution to the divisiveness of the Confederate monument. 
 
I am going to propose we take four steps in moving forward together. 
 
 
• First, I will recommend we move the Grand Army of the Republic memorial from Fort Hill Cemetery to the north side of the confederate statue on North Ocoee and Broad streets.
 
• Second, that we rebuild this GAR memorial to its original design. 
 
• Third, that we place a plaque between the two memorials directing readers to the History Branch of the Cleveland Bradley Public Library across the street for context. 
 
• And finally, that we ask the Cleveland Bradley Public Library to add a permanent exhibit in the branch focusing on the history of our community as it pertains to these memorials.  
 
As we were reminded in Sunday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, when the Confederate memorial was dedicated our community honored the people on both sides. All three speeches given that day implored the listeners to come together as a community.  And when the dedication was finished, they all sat down and had a meal.  
 
These are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction.  And maybe best of all, these are steps we can take together.
 
Let’s take these steps, let’s sit down and share a meal, and then let us get to work on the next problem — together.
 
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(About the writer: Dr. Bill Estes is dean of the Helen DeVos College of Education at Lee University. He is also a member of the Cleveland City Council representing District 2. Opinions expressed in guest "Viewpoints" do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)
 

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