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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK: Leaders can’t be followers

Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 10:38 am

 The Facebook realm is a dangerous one. No one knows that better than me.

Now we can add Coffee County Commissioner Barry West to the club.

Commissioner West’s comment on Facebook last week insinuating the best thing to do with Muslim’s is to just take aim at the end of a shotgun (I’m sure you’ve seen the story by now either on our website, The Huffington Post, The Tullahoma News, Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Tennessean, etc.) was a bit, to put it lightly, out of line.

Back in the 40s in Germany we called that a holocaust. Surely that’s not what West meant? Doubtful.

In fact, I would say it was a case of click before you think and we can all be accused of that at some point or another in our lives. In today’s world that’s the new way to say someone is talking before they think. But shouldn’t thinking before you click be a little less complicated than thinking before you speak? There isn’t anything forcing you to hurry up and share a photo and add a “humorous” title to it. A conversation is a little different. The other person does expect you to respond at some point. Hopefully a lesson was learned here – maybe two lessons.

1.Think before you click. 2.Nothing funny about killing innocent people because of religious affiliation. The backlash certainly proved it wasn’t “humorous” at all.

Mr. West has since apologized but some of the excuses used by Mr. West were a little perplexing to me, though. As an elected official I think it’s safe to demand that Mr. West exercise a maturity level that is on the same level that an elected official should be. I know it’s hard to find a good example in Washington (see comments about legitimate rape, budget impasse, gun reform, etc.).  

I’m not talking about the comments directly – although I found them distasteful. If someone of Muslim faith posted that and said “let’s aim at the white people” it would lead to a massive manhunt with dogs, helicopters and assault rifles. But I’m talking about the aftermath and Mr. West’s insinuation that he was simply sharing a photo. He didn’t create this. Why was he being singled out? 

How old is that excuse? It’s an elementary excuse coming from an elected official. How can an elected official, who is expected to lead us, do his job if he is such a follower? 

“If Billy jumped off a bridge would you jump off the bridge?”

I remember when I first heard those words of wisdom. I was in elementary school.

Then I grew up.

Josh Peterson is a Tennessee Press Association award-winning writer and photographer and is the editor of the Manchester Times . He can be reached by email at or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29.