This town has not done a good job honoring Bessie Smith. We built a blues hall. Then when we didn't really want blues performances, we turned it smoothly into a "cultural center" when the only thing cultural about Bessie was her blues.
I think the Riverbend folks wanted to honor her when they came up with the Bessie Smith Strut, but it never was a "strut." It was an inch-along, frontal lobe-to-posterior crawl down M.L. King Boulevard with a few blues music stages, but there were always enough drunks in the crowd to keep you nervous. Statistics show that 2 percent of the population is insane, so one never knows when that 2 percent is drunk and going to act up.
We are security freaks in a gun-crazy society. We are unwilling to accept the risks our addiction to guns imposes. We do our silly little security checkpoints in public buildings and cancel our struts, seeking peace when there can be no peace. You cannot have your security and your gun phobia too.
Yes, sir, I believe in the right of every citizen to bear arms. I have one. If someone broke into my home, I would try to use it. I would not figure they were there to study the Sunday school lesson with me.
But let's accept it; we are not just an every-citizen-has-the-right-to-bear-arms society. We are gun crazy. So many people are armed with assault weapons of all kinds that peace of mind in public is a thing of the past. We will either get used to that fact, or there will be no more struts or large collections of people in public places at public events from this time henceforth and forever.
I wonder if we just have a secret desire to kill the Strut by our talk about insurance liability. The more we talk about the dangers, the more nervous the insurance companies will become. If you've had five heart attacks, don't tell the agent when you apply for life insurance. This is not some deep, dark secret. It is Common Sense 101.
The questions our debate about the Strut raise to me are do we really want to honor Bessie, how can we best do it, and what kind of event would be most enjoyed by our people.
Don't get hung up on the word "Strut" since it never was a strut. Do creative thinking, and think of all the ways we could honor Bessie and have a good time with relative peace of mind. Even Norway, with one of the most sterling planetary records on violence, had Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 people and injured 150.
Instead of a Strut, why not a Bessie Smith Extravaganza with a truly great blues artist on the main stage and merchants on M.L. King providing the barbecue and other specialties.
Why not give a Bessie Smith trophy to the best blues artist/band and let them open for the big star? Why not give a Bessie Smith Strut trophy to the best blues dancer or dance troupe and let them do their thing onstage?
Listen friends: This is Chattanooga, the city of the possible. We have the best creative minds here, and we can both honor Bessie and have a good time!
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.