Thou shalt not

Crush­ing com­mand­ments

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Mike Masterson Mike Masterson is a long­time Arkansas jour­nal­ist. Email him at mmas­ter­son@arkansason­line.com.

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.

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