Lisa Watson is a modern-day Apostle Paul.
According to Christian tradition, Paul was travelling to Damascus when a voice from heaven and a bright light interrupted the trip. The episode led to his conversion and, indirectly, to the creation of most of the New Testament.
Watson, a speaker on the Tea Party circuit, also experienced a conversion. A self-described former member of the Left, her moment of truth included a voice and new outlook on life. Something was missing in Watson’s life, she said, and one evening, she sat down to watch “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.” This is how she described the aftermath (as reported in my local newspaper).
“By the time the show is over, I’m actually lightheaded. I curled on the side of my bed dizzy. And I heard a voice. The voice said, you are being lied to. My mind is racing. I’m thinking about everything he said.”
Fiscal Conservative Gone Bad
Watson presented her views in a small, inexpensive Eaton, Ohio venue ($25 an hour). The parking lot was filled on the night she advocated for a non-government funded approach to education — schools, she envisions, being operated by preachers and unpaid volunteers. The overall theme of her message (based on the newspaper article) was ‘public schools are the enemy — because they are liberal — and they are educating your children.’
She presented this message in a county:
- That has supported a conservative political agenda for more than a century.
- Where, in 2016, three out of four voters chose Trump.
- That struggles to get ‘outsiders’ to teach — or substitute teach — in their school systems.
- Where the local branch of the community college shuttered after less than a decade of service.
- Where 11 percent do not graduate high school
- Where 9 percent have an associate’s degree
- Where only 14 percent have a 4-year college degree
Despite the lack of liberals in our educational system, and because of the lack of liberals in the community, her fear-based message resonates here.
Poor Choice of Venue
In a movement that prizes frugality above all else, the low-cost of the structure may have been a deciding factor, but Watson, and her supporters, could not have picked a more inappropriate edifice for the speech.
She presented the repressive ideology inside the Eaton Youth Center, located on the corner of Decatur Street and Park Avenue. When the building was constructed by Preble County youth, from reclaimed material, in the late 1930s, it was funded by the federal government as the activist government was seeking was to give young, unemployed individuals in small communities employment, and purpose. The head of the National Youth Administration, which funded the venture, said the building project was the ‘practical expression of the belief in the democratic form of government.’ In a Sunday edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the director said he was ‘especially proud of the Eaton Youth Center.’
But more desecrating than an ignorance that government involvement — and not unpaid volunteers — brought about the creation of the Youth Center — is the slap in the face of Stephen Decatur.
A Real Hero
Stephen Decatur, the man the street is named for, was the epitome of bravery. He faced a true enemy — as opposed to Watson’s manufactured ones. Decatur’s enemy was not his neighbors or fellow citizens.
In 1804 Decatur, and about 80 men, were commissioned to blow up a captured American ship. It was a suicide mission since the ship was anchored in a heavily-guarded enemy harbor. They embarked on the mission at night, without guns, so they would not alert nearby ships, and engaged in bloody hand-to-hand combat, before capturing the ship, setting it on fire, and escaping with their lives. The act was instrumental is changing the tide of the Tripoli War.
Preble’s Real Problems
Decatur’s history is obscure, so I would not expect Watson, or local members of the Tea Party to know it, but local organizers do know that Decatur Street is not heroic. If Watson, or her organizers, had researched problems affecting Eaton, and Preble County, they would have known that Decatur Street is home to much of Eaton’s drug activity.
About a month after Watson spoke, police agencies in Preble County conducted a ‘drug interdiction sting’ and posted the results on Facebook. In the comment section, one resident listed a Decatur Street home, close to the venue, as a drug house. But even a cursory look through the Eaton police reports demonstrate that Decatur Street has a drug problem.
Watson is correct on one thing — our society has problems in need of solutions — but she is woefully wrong on where she is placing the blame.
In Preble County we could start by:
- Improving wages for residents
- Creating more affordable housing
- Treating chemical addiction as a mental health issue, instead of a crime
- Removing blight buildings
- Developing amenities that improve the quality of life
- Upgrading our infrastructure
- Removing echo chambers and creating a community
- Solving the drug issue by going after distributors, and not focusing on small-time users/dealers
- Having employers create careers, instead of temporary jobs, so workers can build a future here