Chattanooga: A Polluted City

Friday, August 11, 2017

I remember first moving to Chattanooga when I was 18.  Excited to move south, I was eager to complete my college education and then launch out into the real world.   

Having grown up in Madrid, Spain, I was accustomed to pollution, given Madrid’s awful track record in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  But despite this, one of the first things I noticed as I settled into my new home city in Tennessee was its own pollution.  It was just a decade earlier when Chattanooga had been declared to have the worst air pollution in America, and there was no avoiding the dirt, filth and smog. 

But nearly 40 years later, one of Chattanooga’s claim to fame is the way in which it acknowledged its worst standing in America.  As the #1 polluted city, Chattanooga put a plan in place to tackle the scourge for which it had become known.  Government officials, agencies, businesses, and civic leaders all came together to lead in confronting the literal cloud that hung over them.  Today Chattanooga is known for its vibrant and rejuvenated downtown and is now regularly acknowledged for the beautiful city it has become.   

But in spite of the pride Chattanoogans have for the city we all love, there is another pollution that is much more serious than the smog and dirt that permeated our air just a few decades ago. 

I was recently reading in the Bible in Numbers 35:33 (in the Old Testament) and I came across this astonishing statement:  “Murder pollutes the land.”  Stop for just a moment and let that statement sink in.  I wonder how many of us have ever truly considered the impact that a murder has on a city, or nation?   

Of course, murders happen everywhere.  But in some places murders happen in more frequency.  Chattanooga is one of those places.  Sadly, in 2016, Chattanooga ranked as the #9 most dangerous cities in America for crime (in the under 200,000 population category).  Much of the reason the city known for conquering its air pollution problem, sank to a #9 ranking in crime, is due to its increasing murder rate.   

If murder pollutes the land, then Chattanooga is being polluted at an ever increasing rate.  But unlike the air pollution of the 60’s and 70’s, the impact of murder is a permanent one.  The loss of a life is perhaps the worst kind of tragedy that one can experience.  The families, friends, neighbors and co-workers of a murder victim are forever changed.   

Americans are known for our interest in cleaning up our environment, protecting our natural resources, and generally tackling problems until we find their solution.  But to date, the pollution of murder in Chattanooga is not seen as a crisis for our city.  And until it is, or until we begin to recognize that murder is polluting our land, I fear we will continue to see this scourge poisoning our lives and that of our fellow citizens.   

I have come to realize this truth over the years: "That on which we focus we excel." 

To date, Chattanooga has offered much lip service to tackling the scourge of murder in our midst, but the focus has been lacking.  And by focus, I mean across the board, from all corners of our community.  The underlying factors that brought us to a #9 rating did not happen overnight, anymore than sinking to the worst air polluted city in America did.  And just like reversing our air pollution took a multi-disciplinary approach, likewise, saving lives by reducing our murders will require the same.  Government officials, agencies, courts, business leaders, churches and individuals must all come together to lead in finding the solutions.  And we must continue to do so until the solutions work.  Unless or until we do, the pollution of our city will continue, and likely worsen. 

In the second half of the verse in Numbers we read this:  “No sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.”  While it may sound insensitive or old fashion to some, the truth is that prompt and commensurate punishment is a strong deterrent to crime.  So when it comes to the taking of life, the way to purify the land from this pollution is to execute the one who took the life.  This is harsh, but this is justice.  And this is God’s remedy. 

Finally, I have learned that what we see on the outside flows from what is in the inside.  The murders and other crimes we continue to see proliferated through our city and nation are merely a symptom of what is inside us.  Until we clean up the pollution inside our own lives, we will never clean up the pollution of murder, as hard as we try. 

So what about it Chattanoogans?  Or for that matter Americans, since murder happens across this land.  It’s time to step up and tackle the pollution of murder in our midst. 

“…for murder pollutes the land.” 

Mark West



True Unity

I and my better half had the experience of unity in it purist form  tonight .  We went to one of our favorite restaurants close to  Hamilton Place .  We were seated at our favorite table and were greeted by our wonderful waiters and waitresses.  Next to and behind us was a group of African Americans just enjoying their evening to the fullest. ... (click for more)

How Is Corker Different Than Trump? - And Response

Corker has voted with Trump 90 percent of the time. It's difficult to see how Corker will play the maverick card with a straight face, but he'll try and succeed with those who believe politicians regardless of the facts.   Though it does give one pause. If Trump hadn't been called out on so many positions, does anyone believe Corker would be grandstanding now? What's ... (click for more)

Excitement Builds As Tennessee Valley Prepares For Monday's Eclipse

Sandra Nicholson, director of the Edu-Care Daycare Center on Signal Mountain, is as ready for  Monday’s  historic solar eclipse as she’s ever going to be. It took some doing, she said, but she has finally enough pairs of NASA-certified solar safety glasses for everyone in her family.  She’s just one of the tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley area residents ... (click for more)

Berke, Hinton Moving To Have City Removed As Trustee Of Confederate Cemetery

Mayor Andy Berke on Friday said he has asked City Attorney Wade Hinton, on behalf of the city of Chattanooga, to file the necessary paperwork "to confirm the city is no longer listed as a trustee of a Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street." Mayor Berke said, “Our action today makes it clear that the city of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Boyd-Buchanan Wins Hixson Invitational

The Upperman Bees came to Chattanooga on Saturday, hoping to improve on their second-place finish from a year ago in the Hixson Invitational volleyball tournament. The Bees were again the best in their pool as they defeated teams from Hixson, Grace, McEwen and Notre Dame. They got a note of revenge in the Gold division semifinal with a 25-13, 25-17 win over defending champ ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins Showdown At The Sunsphere Volleyball

The Baylor Lady Red Raider volleyball team got its season off to a great start this weekend by winning eight straight matches and claiming the championship hardware in the Gold division of the Showdown at the Sunsphere tournament in Knoxville. Baylor had wins over King's Academy, Farragut, Heritage, Siegel, Oak Ridge, Brentwood and Hardin Valley with another win over Heritage. ... (click for more)