Garthia Elena Burnett: Even a good marriage has bumps along the way

April 13, 2010 9:33:00 AM

Garthia Elena Burnett -


Someone once told me, "Getting married isn''t for the faint of heart." 


Three years and lots of (figurative) bumps and bruises later, I know exactly what he meant. 


But through good times and bad, however many years may pass us by, we remain promised to each other. 


The city''s union to its mayor is different; we put him in office for four years and are allowed the opportunity to then kick him out if we so choose. 


In marriage, theoretically, you''re in it for the long haul, for better or worse, ''til death -- sometimes even if it comes to blows. 


The mayor of Columbus'' literal blows exchanged with, or just offered to, Councilman Kabir Karriem at City Hall April 1 have garnered calls for both to resign. 


What really happened, only a select few know. But we do know this: There are no innocent victims here. Both men were active participants. 


It''s a far cry from the celebration of victory resonating throughout the city when she elected her first black mayor in 2006. 


Smith promised unity, racial reconciliation and to be the "mayor for all the citizens of Columbus," starting to deliver almost immediately on those promises. 


Karriem''s run for councilman was an easy victory. 


He won effortlessly over Kenneth McFarland in the primary and won a strong victory over Jay Jordan in the general election. 


The win electrified him and much of his ward; he had widespread support. 


Now, hopes of one day running for mayor could be dashed in what will be remembered as one of the most embarrassing moments for Possum Town. 


Decision-making between our elected leaders should never be handled with fists. Were they working for a private company and started brawling at the office, both men might be out of a job. 


In this case, Karriem, the next day filed assault charges against the mayor, prepared for an ugly he-said, he-said bout in court. 


Three days later, the councilman continued to wage war against Smith, accusing him in a press conference of being a "playground bully" and running the city by intimidation. 


Smith, apparently provoked by the accusations and media attention, then pressed his own charges against Karriem. 


There were several points at which all this could have been avoided. 


Mistake 1 Wrong Time: Karriem went to see Smith at 9 o''clock at night; he was looking for a confrontation, maybe not physical, but confrontation nonetheless. 


Mistake 2 Wrong Approach: Harsh words and body language usually foster and excite more of the same. 


Mistake 3 Wrong Action: Finger or no finger, decisions-making for the people who put you into office -- or most anything else aside from boxing matches -- should never be settled with fists.  


Mistake 4 Wrong Reaction: Making such serious public accusations and pressing simple assault charges only added fuel to the fire. Both men looked to be in good condition Monday, with no bumps or bruises to show for their tussling. 


So, mistakes made, they should have worked out their differences behind closed doors, sitting down and listening to each other like grown-ups. 


Even with repeated public apologies, dropping the charges and the agreement not to bash each other to the press, the damage is done. 


The city''s relationships with both men are tarnished. 


The wise man Solomon said, "He who finds a wife, finds a good thing." 


The city''s marriage to Robert Smith has been a good one, overall. 


He''s worked to beautify the downtown area and supported efforts to clean the streets of Columbus of gangs.  


But his time espoused to the Lowndes County seat has been marred by this scar that may never heal. 


Karriem made a strong start as councilman, eager to learn and ready to make changes to better the city. He saw through the addition of a police substation near Sim Scott Park and continues to encourage pursuit of big-name retailers. 


In our marriage, my husband, Micah, and I try to be forgiving. We have no choice. Both of us are so far from perfect.  


And there are some deal breakers in the contract, of course -- just as there are for Columbus'' husband and its groomsmen. 


For many, the latest of the Columbus Follies are deal breaker enough. 


I hope one day, when we''re old and gray, my husband can say, despite the rough patches, he agrees with Solomon and truly did find a good thing. 


What will the fair Friendly City say about its groom?