A mosque and cemetery have been announced for Newton County, igniting a firestorm in our community this week.
If you are looking for outrage or fuel for that fire, you are not going to find that within the pages of this newspaper. If you are looking for a determination of who is right or wrong, you are not going to find that within the words in this editorial.
We are your community newspaper. We started publishing six months after the Civil War ended and continued to publish through the Great Depression, the boll weevil epidemic and the Civil Rights movement. We have seen and reported on this community’s challenges and changes amidst turbulent times. We have seen our community struggle and we have seen our community succeed.
We know that this community is stronger than our weakest link and more resilient than the loudest naysayer.
But we also know that sometimes we forget that amidst the drama when news cameras come to town.
And be assured, there will be cameras. The nation is watching, Newton County.
We are being watched to see “how they react.” We are being watched to see if “they really did say that.” We are being watched to see if we strengthen our community by setting a high standard for discussion and debate or weaken it by letting buzzwords and hotheads prevail.
We have been thrust into the limelight and the moment before us is to decide how we will react.
This is not a time to lose our heads, Newton County. This is a time for intelligent speeches from the podium, not fear mongering masquerading as legitimate opposition.
Yes, with a mosque, cemetery, possible school and more, there are a lot of questions.
Questions are good. Answers, facts and logic are better.
What is not good is finger-pointing, smoke-and-mirrors diversion tactics, and straw-man arguments.
There is no place for that in Monday’s scheduled town hall meetings at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. Two sessions that night are limited to 300 people in attendance for each, meaning a lot of people will be there. A lot of people are eager to hear more, and a lot of people are eager to be heard.
A lot of people will be watching.
We ask you to represent Newton County well with a peaceful gathering.
Let’s all promise each other that we will leave our online personalities at home and, above all, be respectful.
All citizens have the right to sell their land to whomever they choose for whatever purposes chosen, under the rules and regulations of the governing body. All citizens have the right to practice their faith in whatever way, measure, and method they choose to follow, under the rules and regulations of the governing body.
All citizens have the right to voice their concern, in a public forum (not just rumor spread via social media) and to their elected officials. But those elected officials have the responsibility to protect the rights of all their citizens, under the rules and regulations of the governing body.
Once we start to mess with that, we have given up on a system that has its rules and regulations in place to protect its citizens, our communities, our schools, our businesses, our churches, and our land. We urge you to not throw the baby out with the bath water.
So stay calm in order for cooler heads to prevail. It does little good to fight for our community if we cannot act neighborly.
We won’t know what a civilized, respectful conversation can yield until we actually have one. We won’t know what tomorrow will yield until we actually get there.