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'For what it's worth': Monuments and school name changes

The needle hits the vinyl just right, and the music and lyrics pierce the air, rising above the crackling sound of an album.

“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” It’s Buffalo Springfield from 1967, and the song is “For What It’s Worth.”

The arguments leading up to removing Confederate monuments in Longview and Marshall and the changing of the names of Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high schools in Tyler were not without plenty of heated words — in paper, on social media, at meetings and, of course, in the heat.

The song continued, “There’s a man with a gun over there ... Telling me I got to beware.”

There was no shortage of guns, legally carried by members of the public, protecting the monuments. There was no shortage of bullhorns and speakers in Tyler.

My mind wanders and I hear, “There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Young people speaking their minds. Getting so much resistance from behind.”

The past few months has seen youth standing up for change. And you know what? They made sense. What was socially acceptable for many of us adults the past five decades does not sit well with them.

I was always told as a young sportswriter trying to break in the business, “The best stories are in the losing locker room.” When the announcement was made Thursday night that, by a 7-0 vote, the Tyler ISD board of trustees decided to change the names of John Tyler and Robert E. Lee high schools, there was some celebration.

The reporter covering the meeting for the Tyler Morning Telegraph scurried for comments from those who wanted to keep the schools’ names. They heard the result, then put their signs under their arms and quietly walked to their cars. Two of the most vocal proponents of keeping the names who flooded my inbox on a daily basis are now looking for a new name that will please both sides. I wasn’t expecting that.

In Longview, an indelible photo ran on the front page of the July 11 paper of a Korean War veteran who collected 300 signatures to keep the monument on the Gregg County Courthouse lawn. In the mid-afternoon blistering heat, he walked up and shook hands with a man who wanted the opposite. One was white, the other black. Who was who doesn’t matter.

The young generation is demanding change, and sometimes they are winning.

But they should remember: Some of those they are opposing played this same record in 1967. It’s easy to show grace when you win. True character shows when you lose. If a school keeps a name or a monument stays up, the first reaction is simple: Walk away with grace.

There’s other peaceful ways to make change down the road.

And on cue, the final lines of the song played, “Stop, children, what’s that sound ... Everybody look what’s going down.”

— John Anderson is the regional editor of the Longview News Journal and Tyler Morning Telegraph. Email: janderson@tylerpaper.com . Twitter: @23johnanderson .

Today's Bible verse

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE

“And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-2

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