Can We Talk?

by By Larry D. Smith, Publisher, The Community Times
Larry D. Smith Larry D. Smith

As I look at turning 70 this year, I thought by now I had written my last column on people getting out and protesting some of the many issues we face every day. I was hoping in this age of technology, we would have enough tools to solve disagreements and misunderstandings.

Yes, we have our public and personal differences, but now we can vent on Facebook, YouTube, and many private and public websites. Moreover, we can express our opinions on these sites without turning to gun violence. Thus far, in 2023, we have had 160 gun violence incidents in communities across this nation, and that's not counting acts of Black-on-Black shootings that happen every weekend in communities from coast to coast. These acts of violence continue to kill our children, young adults, and even seniors while leaving others with lifetimes of gun-related health issues.

What have we come to when human life is worth less than a candy bar or the time it takes to talk to a professional? We spend more time learning hatred than practicing love. I hear a lot of chatter about "Let's Talk" and "Helping Florence Flourish" and know the people behind these efforts mean well.

I believe they want the best for every Florence citizen and for citizens across the nation, but after talking for over five years about the issues plaguing our communities, isn't it time for us to demand action and accountability from those we elect to represent our interests?

There are good people on both sides of gun issues in our community. But we are at the point where we can't continue to think talking to those people who are not creating gun violence, that we can solve problems in the places where gun violence exists.

It's okay to help people who need home repairs but can't afford materials and labor costs. But eventually, you will have to ask, "Do I want to save houses, or do I want to save the people living in them from the life-and-death challenges they face 24/7 in some of our communities?"

You go to church with people who put their heads in the sand or look the other way every week. You sit next to them at work. You shop in grocery stores and sit next to them in restaurants. So what do you say when the person next to you makes a racist or violent statement? Do you try to correct them or look the other way? Better still, what do you do when that person is in your home? Do you try to correct them or ask them to leave? Finally, what do you do when your favorite elected officials spread racism or hate? Do you call them on it or laugh at their racism and cruel jokes because everyone else does?

Yes, we want to be liked by everyone in our group, but at what cost to your self-respect and the good of our communities? As long as people have been on this earth, they have had inevitable and personal disagreements. But at the end of each day, most of us want a quality and safe place to live, quality education for our children and grandchildren, and affordable healthcare to celebrate good health every day. However, little or nothing will change unless we speak up on issues important to the community and not just where we live.

If your community doesn't have the means to support the same quality of life in the broader community, we may need to raise revenue so both communities can have the same quality of services.

I would be willing to pay a little more to ensure poorer communities have the same police protection, fire protection, quality roads, and public services as people who live on the other side of town. However, we must ensure the larger community facilities on both sides of town are well-protected. This protection includes metal detectors, a more substantial law enforcement presence, video cameras, tighter gun control laws, and required classes for everyone before purchasing a semi-automatic rifle or a handgun. We cannot just give people a driver's license because they show up at the DMV. We know that, like guns, automobiles can kill.

Do we need to start marching again for what is right in our communities? The truth about the Civil Rights movement is that it was a collective movement with people from all positions in life. Similarly, if we are going to stop gun violence and the other ills in our communities, doing so will take that kind of public outcry. We don't have to agree on all social aspects, but we must learn to agree on the issues important to our children's and our community's growth and development. Unfortunately, some of us have spent so much time holding others back that we are now seeing the slowing of growth in the general communities.

Note to Editors: I pointed out the work of groups like "Let's Talk," "Building Bridges," "Helping Florence Flourish," and other organizations working in this and other communities to improve the quality of life for some of our underprovided citizens. I am not suggesting these groups' roles are not important. On the contrary, their members are good citizens who contribute to the positive efforts in our communities.

Please speak up and share your concerns when it's not always popular or cool. Just remember we have to live together on this rock spinning around the sun every day.