Thou shalt not
That someone would demolish the 6-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument installed on our state Capitol grounds within a day of its unveiling says something deeply unsettling to me about society on the day we celebrate our independence.
Capitol Police arrested Michael Tate Reed, 32, on charges of defacing objects of public respect, trespassing on Capitol grounds and first-degree criminal mischief related to leveling the granite obelisk.
It feels to me as if a significant number in America today, from looting rioters to those blocking thoroughfares to the unfounded verbal and physical attacks on others, and now something as disgraceful as this act, believe mankind’s legal “Thou Shalt Nots” apply only to others.
Put another way: Only their opinion matters, regardless of pesky interference such as laws or what others may think and feel.
Police said a video was live-streamed from a Facebook account registered under the name Michael Reed, described as a devout Christian, with a driver shouting “freedom!” as he sped headlong into the monument just before 5 a.m. Wednesday. Who, I ask in the name of Moses, destroys their own vehicle on a whim?
For Reed, from Van Buren, these charges resembled another on the grounds of Oklahoma’s Capitol where authorities accused him of committing the same destructive act with that state’s Ten Commandments monument.
The prosecutor in Little Rock listed accounts of Tate’s previous convictions for driving while intoxicated and possession of drugs. Pulaski County District Judge Wayne Gruber said he was shocked by the allegations, placed Reed’s bond at $100,000. Despite the judge’s admonitions, Tate chose to defend himself during his initial hearing.
“The allegations are simply allegations. They must be proven beyond reasonable doubt,” reporter Emma Pettit quoted the judge saying. “But they are very, very serious allegations.”
I found a degree of irony in Pettit’s story which quoted Reed repeatedly uttering, “My Lord, my God,” while speaking by videocamera at his hearing. I suspect a lot of readers added the word “oh” in front of both phrases when they learned about what happened to this monument built with $26,000 in private contributions.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the bill that allowed the Christian message on Capitol grounds, says it will be rebuilt with protections.
I’ve always held conflicted feelings about placing faith-based monuments on property paid for by tax dollars from all citizens. Part of me believes there’s more positive than negative to be gained from a redemptive spiritual message in our predominately Judeo-Christian society. Yet my other half says doing so opens “separation of church and state” issues in a democratic republic that invites others (even Satanists) to legally request the same.
And yes, while Moses himself crushed the original Ten Commandment tablets, he was, after all, the lawgiver and his alone to crush.
‘Mercy, mercy me’
I knew it was going to be all I’d expected when the house lights dimmed and the stirring rock music and smooth dance moves began. And make no mistake, the Motown soul/pop era really had a hold on the audience.
And so it was the other night at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville where packed houses all week sat spellbound by Motown the Musical.
Actors portraying The Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Jackson Five, The Commodores, Stevie Wonder and the incomparable Supremes led by Diana Ross sparkled like fireworks. While none obviously could have been the originals from Motown’s heyday, I couldn’t tell it based on their voices, spins and shuffles.
I can’t list such an enormous, deserving cast here. I can offer a standing ovation to Chester Gregory, who portrayed Berry Gordy, the late-20s man whose Detroit dream came alive when he formed the Motown franchise that became America’s most successful black financial empire of its day before bigger fish began eating away at its incredible pool of talent. Others who earned standing ovations included Allison Semmes as a spot-on Diana Ross, David Caverman as Smokey Robinson, Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye, and 12-year-old Raymond Davis Jr., who moved the audience to its feet with his uncanny impression of young Michael Jackson.
And it’s impossible to ignore the dance captain Rod Harrelson and assistant Ramone Owens.
This evening that triggered many fond recollections of summer nights as a teenager enjoying chart-busting Motown superstars on records and Chicago D.J. Dick Biondi was enriched by the poignant story of Gordy’s determination to create his extended musical family with an $800 family loan. His realized Motown dream brought so much joy and racial healing to a tumultuous period in America.
I shouldn’t admit this, but I darn near found myself a candidate for a second hip transplant during a personal afterglow performance in the parking lot. Seems a 70-year-old white guy humming “Dancing in the Street” has no business attempting Temptations’ dance moves. Fortunately, Jeanetta was there to break the fall.
Reminder—This weekend marks my first Saturday column to begin appearing online only. Sunday and Tuesday columns will remain in the print edition. So come visit me on the Internet.