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Kickoff set Saturday for Barn Quilt Trail

The Halifax County Barn Quilt Trail will kick off its celebration Saturday, at 9 a.m. at the Halifax Farmers Market. There will be an information table at the market where…

Mecklenburg County eyes two percent increase in real estate tax rate

Top-line 42 cent rate would go unchanged, but rising values would net fresh revenue

Mecklenburg County hosts state education leaders


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Big weekend of racing comes to SBS, VIR

Philip Morris returns to South Boston Speedway Saturday, while the Andretti family will have a presence at VIR

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Opinion

Beyond belief

SoVaNow.com / March 14, 2018
The mind reels at the cruelty and malice behind the murder of Nancy Alford and vicious assault of John Alford, pastor of Sanford Memorial Baptist Church in Brodnax, who remains hospitalized after two intruders broke into the couple’s Lake Gaston home on Friday night and inflicted unfathomable violence. Most people probably are at least somewhat aware of the particulars of the crime, but it would be understandable if one chose instead to turn away. The horror is that breathtaking.

The assailants beat up the couple, tied them up and set fire to their home. Mr. Alford managed to escape the burning house; his wife didn’t. No words can convey the evil of this crime and the outrage it inspires. At the time of this writing, North Carolina authorities had not released a description of suspects. (The murder-arson took place at the Alfords’ home in Littleton, N.C.) Amid the prayers being said for the Alfords, pray also that the perpetrators are swiftly identified, captured and brought to justice.

What a miserable week. At the same time one of our local church communities was shattered by an act of senseless and despicable violence, we also witnessed a shooting in Chase City that claimed the life of a Bluestone student, 18-year-old Evan Ashad Smith. Not even three years ago, his brother, Erik, known affectionately as Dai Dai, died in his sleep. One’s heart breaks for the depth of the tragedy that has been visited upon the family. The early Sunday morning homicide also has had a deeply unsettling effect on Bluestone, where the administration and local police have stepped up school security. (Due in large part to this shooting, heightened security measures have been implemented at all county schools.) Against a backdrop of a world that all too often seems to be spinning out of control, there’s ample reason to worry about where violence might spread next.

I wish there was something that I or anyone else could say to make it all stop. Because the cruelty of individuals towards other individuals is something broadly outside of our ability to control, episodes such as these tend to lead to moral and political cul-de-sacs, where we blame this factor or that for behavior that defies all reason. The debates go nowhere because the causes of violence are impenetrable in their breath, and frequently inexplicable in their particulars. I do think we’ve arrived at a moment of reckoning on the ever-rising lethality of our weapons of death, but that debate has nothing to do with the monstrosities that occurred this week so close to home. How any of us can heal a broken soul, and repair the ensuing damage, is a task at which we can only keep trying to find a way.

***

News of the ordinary pales at times like these, but let’s touch on a few recent headlines:

» Local Del. Tommy Wright was appointed this week to a House Select Committee on School Safety, created in the wake of the Florida school massacre a month ago. Speaker of the House Kirk Cox called for the panel’s formation in what is apparently a rarity for the General Assembly. If you believe that public policy exists to make a difference — as I do — then you should applaud this move by Cox. There’s no question that the committee is tasked with a challenge deserving of its special status.

But two things: One, if this is an excuse for a ludicrous debate about arming teachers in the classroom, the committee should be aborted immediately. One hopes Wright will not take it upon himself to drag such idiocy into the discussion. Not coincidentally, on Tuesday a school resource officer was suspended by the Alexandria Police Department after his gun accidentally discharged at George Washington Middle School in the city’s Del Ray neighborhood. Thankfully, no one was hurt. This was a trained, veteran police officer making the error. Expecting teachers to do a better job of handling guns in the classroom is such a stupid idea it makes my head hurt.

Second, Cox explicitly ruled out any debate on gun control in setting up the Select Committee. This is hardly a surprise. Cox is a Republican, and the Republican Party has latched its political fortunes to the NRA and gun-rights voters with absolutist views of the Second Amendment. Still, implicit in the idea of a Select Committee is a group empowered to look at anything that might offer a solution to the challenges at hand. It seems pretty silly to me to tout the formation of a Special Committee that in its scope of authority doesn’t seem terribly special.

On the subject of Cox, he does deserve considerable praise for working to bring about Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Cox and 18 other Republicans in the House joined Democrats to pass a budget with a version of Medicaid expansion, with work requirements and elements of private insurance, that should be able to get through both the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Alas, a bare majority of Republicans in the Senate is balking, and the two chambers convened last week without finishing work on the budget. The next step is to a special session, where the story with the budget and Medicaid will be continued.

In breaking with conservative apostasy on Medicaid, Cox has come in for abuse from Senate Republicans, especially Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, who last week gave a floor speech and attacked Cox in unusually personal terms. A long time ago, Norment was considered something of a moderate Republican, but his only true lodestar is the oily ambition that led him to throw in his lot with the Senate’s rising conservative firebrands. Unprincipled as ever, Norment thinks nothing of attacking low-income, working Medicaid eligibles as deadbeats who want nothing more than to suck at the public teat, when that’s all the Majority Leader has done in his public career. Norment is demonstrably awful — a poster child for backroom Richmond politics and, yes, outright sleaze. Kirk Cox is neither of these things. Now more than ever, the difference is worth pointing out.

Also, Cox was a high school teacher for Chesterfield public schools until his retirement a few years ago, so right there you get a sense of how he might differ from pay-to-play politicians such as Norment. On a different matter, what’s the likelihood that Cox might have something to say about the idea of arming teachers in the classroom? One wonders if instead of taking an early stand, he’s waiting for the idea to first be laughed out of the room.





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