Tennessee editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Nov. 6

The Tennessean on the need for civility:

Talking about civility is not easy and it was especially difficult during the contentious 2018 midterm elections.

Negative ads ate away at the reputation of many decent candidates seeking public office.

Factions preferred to listen to their own messages and drown out the voices of those who opposed or questioned them.

Citizens are feeling tired, maybe wounded, and wary of politics.

But the election is now over. Despite the partisan rancor, now we need to accept the results and choose a better path to move our cities, state and nation forward.

That better path means vigorously practicing citizenship and all the responsibilities that come with it.

Civility is part of that, and it is not simply manners. It is about listening, exchanging ideas and treating all members of the community with respect and dignity.

It is not fake niceness or indifference. And it is the antithesis of name calling, hate and violence.

Civics is also a part of practicing citizenship and it means being informed about what happens in the community.

It is wonderful to see an uptick in voting, but while fear and anger are great motivators, a habit of informed and sustained voting is much healthier for our republic.

Participation is essential. This tells our leaders what we think, but it also tells them that we care.

At the Oct. 27 Civic Saturday event in South Nashville, artist Kate Tucker delivered a "civic sermon" to the audience where she challenged people to participate and not be mere bystanders of the democratic process.

"We are in a time where much is being asked of us," Tucker said. "We cannot just trust the process, we must participate in it. We must act intentionally, in spite of circumstance, as the great leaders of the Civil Rights Movement did time and time again. Their faith in the Constitution and in the American dream was undergirded by a moral fabric evidenced in the principles of nonviolence — love over hate, courage over fear, hope over despair."

Love, courage and hope — and civil discourse — are key to ensuring we can heal.

We must demand that our leaders embrace this call in their actions and their words to lead us to a better path.

Online: https://www.tennessean.com/

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Nov. 7

Johnson City Press on the Rural Area Medical Clinic and the need for affordable health care:

Thank goodness America has folks like the volunteers who worked the Rural Area Medical Clinic at the fairground in Gray.

Over three days, the RAM clinic provided 777 patients with medical, dental and vision services, amounting to an estimated $544,750 in care they otherwise could not afford.

Take Brian Gibson, for example, who received dental and hearing services. He told Press Staff Writer Jessica Fuller that without RAM, he would have to go without medical care.

"One trip to the dentist is $800," Gibson said. "I just can't afford that."

Fuller also spoke with Reese Thornton, who brought along his guitar to pass the time and entertain other patients. Thornton said he receives Medicare, but he is only able to get one dental cleaning per year under the program. He also said Medicare won't cover the cost of his glasses, so he also receives vision care through RAM every year.

"A lot of people, you know, they're just barely making it," Thornton said.

We applaud RAM organizers, care providers and support volunteers from churches and other organizations who helped fill the gap for Gibson, Thornton and others who are barely making it.

But why do we still have that gap? Why must the world's most advanced country have such pop-up free clinics to help the uninsured and underinsured in 2018?

RAM operates more than 60 mobile medical clinics across the country and the world, with the majority occurring in rural U.S. communities. Half of those clinics are in Virginia and Tennessee.

Appalachia is not the inaccessible, vastly underdeveloped region it was a half century ago before the James H. Quillen College of Medicine was established. The resulting medical infrastructure, which includes Quillen's clinics in several rural outposts, met the goal of improving access to primary care and specialists in the region.

Much of that infrastructure is in danger, however, precisely because the United States cannot get a handle on the exponentially rising costs of health care and affordable access across the socioeconomic spectrum. Costs have forced dozens of rural hospitals to shut down across the nation in recent years. Tennessee has been disproportionately affected with eight closing since 2010.

Ballad's merger has helped Northeast Tennessee weather the storm for now. The system was even able to live up to its commitment to building a new rural hospital in Unicoi County. But all hospitals and clinics in Tennessee are at risk, and thousands of people remain without coverage.

Regardless of the politics around Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act, it's clear to us the nation must do better.

Everyone benefits from a healthier society in that prevention and maintenance ultimately affect such areas as workforce readiness, education and other factors in economic well-being. Access to care is an investment.

We look forward to the day pop-up charitable clinics won't be a necessity, but until then, we are thankful for RAM.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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Nov. 7

Greenville Sun says let's quit injecting politics into every sphere of our shared existence now that the election is over, and let's stop treating our neighbors as though they are nothing more than their political positions:

Another election has passed.

It is commonplace among prognosticators, campaign managers and spin doctors to say that "this" election is the most important in the history of the country. It is hard to gauge such claims, given the difficulty of stepping out of the moment and judging it fairly against all the moments of our history.

It is not hard to say, though, that the country is as divided as it has been in generations. The 2016 election was a turning point, and the viciousness of our politics has only increased since then. ...

So what to do with the likely coming gridlock now that Democrats have likely taken control of the House of Representatives and Republicans have maintained control of the Senate?

Here's a suggestion: Let's take a break from resting so much on the mantle of politics.

This is not to say that politics is unimportant. The business of governing a country never ceases, and some questions can only be answered via politics.

But the degree to which we all are so consumed by politics must lessen, lest we be overcome by our own political venom. The 24-hour cable news networks thrive on the division sowed by their talking heads and endless commentary — most of it playing to its target audience. Little of the content on CNN, MSNBC or Fox News seems geared toward helping people think and understand the world in which they live. It all mostly seems to be predicated on telling their audiences things they already believe.

Some days it seems social media exists only to drive the wedge between Red America and Blue America even further. Hiding behind our avatars and manufactured profiles, it's easy to click "share" a little too fast on information that simply isn't true. Or to hurl insults toward someone who — if he or she were to call you up on the phone or show up at your door — you'd never treat so poorly. The safe barrier of our electronic devices tends to make us more outspoken than we are — or should be — in real life.

Our plea: Now that this election is over, let's quit injecting politics into every sphere of our shared existence, and let's stop treating our neighbors as though they are nothing more than their political positions.

In his 2016 book "The Fractured Republic," conservative commentator Yuval Levin offers some thoughts on how we can mend. From the introduction: "The middle layers of society, where people see each other face to face, offer a middle ground between radical individualism and extreme centralization. Our political life need not consist of a recurring choice between having the federal government invade and occupy the middle layers of society or having isolated individuals break down the institutions that compose those layers. It can and should be an arena for attempting different ways of empowering those middle institutions to help our society confront its problems."

This is not to say that the differences between conservatives and progressives should be forgotten. Levin's point is that both sides can bring something of their worldviews to bear for the greater good. But that requires living with one another — and sharing in those "middle institutions" — in good faith and earnestly seeking to help one another solve common problems.

"And countless Americans of all parties and no party are practical, experienced experts in putting family, faith, and community first and helping one another in hard times," he writes later.

Having come through such a nasty election after another not-so-nice election two years ago, how do we do this?

By taking politics a little less seriously. By investing more time building real "community" here in Greene County.

... Spend time with their teammates and their parents. Encourage their coaches and resist the urge to be "that parent" no one wants to be around on game day.

Pour yourself into your church, club or civic group. Give of your time for a cause and get to know your peers — just for the sake of getting to know them.

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Or, just spend more time with family and friends.

Whatever it looks like, find something that reminds you that politics is not the end-all, be-all of our existence with each other, that politics is not the only lens through which we ought to view life.

Election Day has come and gone. Hopefully you did your civic duty by casting your vote according to your convictions.

Now do your civic duty by not worrying about how your neighbors cast theirs.

Online: https://www.greenevillesun.com/