Article Comment 

Voice of the people: Ben C. Toledano




Takes issue with choice of stories 


If and when the forts of folly fall, then, and only then will we realize the destructive nature of so many of our current problems, among which are the highly partisan antics of the press. What in the world is going on?  


How should we interpret certain "news accounts"? Two examples of our confusion are articles which appeared in The Commercial Dispatch on Sept. 12 and 22, 2013. The first is entitled "Funeral planned for Connecticut slave who died in 1798." The deceased, known as Mr. Fortune, will be given "an elaborate funeral" after his skeleton lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Hartford. One of the organizers said: "It's a long overdue honor. We're not just remembering one man. His body is representing all of the slaves that came [sic] over here and worked in this country." Quinnipiac University, in its recent examination, was not "able to determine his cause of death" but found evidence of a neck fracture around the time of the 1798 death "not associated with hanging." One might ask why a man's death from natural causes in Connecticut in 1798 should be of interest to the readers of a local Mississippi newspaper today.  


Example Two is The Dispatch's front page story of Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, entitled "What REALLY happened to Jimmie Lee Griffith." Mr. Griffith's body was found on Sturgis-Louisville Road in Oktibbeha County, on Sept. 24, 1965, only 48 years ago. There have been three official investigations of the death, one by State officials and two by Federal agents, the first in 1965, the last in 2012. The Dispatch reports "The case has never been solved" and "the evidence to suggest his murder was racially motivated is scant." So why is this very lengthy story timely, noteworthy, and of great interest? 


Over and over again, we bite our tongues and decide not to speak out, not to protest outrageous conduct and statements by so-called political leaders. Grin and bear it seems to be the order of the day. Whether because of intimidation or laziness we are fearful of speaking out. We keep our deepest concerns to ourselves and suffer in silence. If we are as helpless as all that, then there is no realistic basis for hope of improvement. Who is unafraid to be labeled, to be vilified, to stand up for our vital interests? What has become of the adage used when we were younger, the one about "sticks and stones"? Today we let words hurt us. How sad that is.  


Of critical importance to all of us who live in this beautiful and historic town is where we are headed unless steps are taken to reverse our direction. Are we destined to become another Macon, once a vibrant town? Is political leadership to be based solely upon racial population percentages, or should qualifications matter at all? We constantly hear black politicians say that they represent the black community and not the community at large.  


What is likely to happen if things continue to move along racial lines is a declining young working population, a constantly decreasing tax base, fewer businesses, and fewer jobs. Where will the funds come from to properly sustain the community? 


We are fortunate to have a locally owned newspaper. Yet we continue to suffer from its refusal to tell it the way it is. Articles such as those of Sept. 12 and 22 are not only harmful and counterproductive, but they represent a default in responsibility, one which could well lead to the ultimate demise of our very special place.  


Ben C. Toledano 





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