By Ray Knapp
In the fall of 1970, the North Georgia State Fair was in full swing about five miles from where we lived in Marietta. It is famous in that region with upwards of 300,000 people attending from all over the U.S. One evening I loaded the family in our station wagon and went to the fair. Fortunately, in the crowded parking lot I found a space near the main gate.
Entering, our 3 year old, Cindy, suddenly disappeared amongst the crowd. I was in a real panic, and then I spotted her running towards a group of people waving Maddox banners. In the middle was State Governor, Lester Maddox, holding an axe handle aloft and resting his other hand on a barrel filled with them – for sale.
For some reason the Maddox crowd parted, and Cindy ran straight to the governor. Spotting this cute little girl, he scooped her up and asked if he could count on her vote when she grew up. I do not know what she said, however, she reached for the axe handle, and Lester let her hold it.
She showed appreciation by whacking someone. The crowd cheered in delight at her antics. Cindy was having a grand time in the arms of arguably the utmost racist governor to hold that office since the Civil War. The axe handles were to symbolize that any black person with the nerve to enter the Pickrick, Maddox’s fried chicken establishment in Atlanta, met Lester barring the way with an axe handle in hand.
Fortunately, nothing noteworthy occurred in Georgia while he was in office. Maddox was considered something of a “loose cannon,” and kept citizens on edge; afraid he might say or do most anything.
Being the state’s top dog, wielding tremendous powers, you don’t want an irresponsible person in that position during a national crisis. Some governors are in that boat today, not as a racist, but ill prepared in handling this crisis. I personally think President Trump opened Pandora’s Box when he told governors, “You’re going to be calling your own shots.”
Tennessee’s (R) Governor, Bill Lee, has not ruffled too many feathers with his handling of the pandemic – at least never making any national derogatory news. I think governors are all trying their best, but not without controversy.
News on TV showed a woman sentenced to jail for opening her hair salon a week early; police tackling a woman for refusing to wear a protective mask in public in New York, and near riots occurring in Michigan, Wisconsin, California, and other states.
People are finding out that states are not as united as assumed and state governors wield a lot more power than previously thought. People felt a jolt when they could not go to the beach, get a haircut whenever they pleased, or keep their business open – thanks to executive orders, or rules imposed by a state governor
Some feel these imposed rules and restrictions as an erosion of civil rights. Erosion of civil rights is something not to take lightly. Thankfully, a majority sees it as elected leaders doing what they think is best for their constituents, or riots would occur nationwide. Best, or not, going through a food line to keep from starving, people are demanding all businesses reopen so they can get back to work; pay their bills, and get back to normalcy.
Handling the pandemic has a myriad of problems and is a balancing act to prevent a full-blown pandemic or a full-blown depression. Opening businesses too soon could cause more deaths from the coronavirus; keeping businesses closed too long will cause a depression.
With public unrest running high over money for food, shelter and other bills has persuaded governors and the federal government to open things up again in stages – they, in turn, are hoping creation of a vaccine or medicine happens that cures the virus – or that it just dwindles away.
With states gradually relaxing guidelines and other restrictions, the overall public mood has improved. While not euphoric, it is at least cautiously optimistic. Following social distancing, and other CDC guidelines, virus containment is possible and just maybe it will not reemerge with a vengeance.