by Suzi Parker and Kim Cottrell
When national scandals are revealed, it’s easy to think of them as someone else’s business. When they occur at the state level, they hit a little closer to home and it becomes harder to resist the primal reaction to defend and avenge and strike out with words or anger or to become demoralized and lose hope for humanity. These days, it feels like there is no place to hide from the news of one more black man killed by police, one more elected official exposed for fraud or dishonesty, or the one more celebrity who took advantage of privilege.
Many of us don’t want to hide. We want our elected and appointed officials to be people of integrity. And we often expect our homegrown celebrities to be people more or less like us with common values. But sometimes, the perpetrator of a scandal lives close to home in our city council, in our state government, or down the hall in our own home, and the grief, dismay, and embarrassment can seem overwhelming.
At times like these, we might do well to resist the urge to hide or the desire to binge on media take downs, and instead circle around those officials who are working hard to build family groups, communities, and societies. In times like these, they need even more support to continue their good works.
For example, in Kim Cottrell’s home state of Oregon, the previous governor, John Kitzhaber, resigned in January 2015 amidst a federal investigation on public corruption charges, the first of its kind there. A long-time Kitzhaber supporter, Cottrell needed to shore up her flagging spirits and tune out the negative messaging and rumors she was being inundated with by the media. She paid close attention to her favorite state legislator, Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, following her Facebook posts and email updates to get a sense of the repercussions of Kitzhaber’s resignation. She also reached out to Rep. Keny-Guyer, sending appreciation for her hard work. Keny-Guyer is an anchor, steadily focusing on the work at hand and collaborating on groundbreaking legislation in Oregon. And by engaging with Keny-Guyer, rather than remaining focused on Kitzhaber, Cottrell was able overcome that media-fed sense of shock and despair.
In Arkansas, Suzi Parker’s home state, the number of recent news stories about the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame has been enough to make any dedicated Arkansan suffer doubt and deflated confidence, as police officials and others there are being painted with the broad brush of helping to cover up a case of sexual abuse. The admission by Josh Duggar that he molested a variety of girls, including some of his sisters, when he was a teen, is a train wreck that many in Arkansas can’t stop watching or discussing. It’s especially embarrassing when someone, like former governor and presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, stands behind him, offering public support. Fortunately, these individuals are not representative of the good citizens of Arkansas.
To make that easy for her fellow Arkansans, Parker has compiled this list of people in her home state who are holding fellow Arkansans up, with honor and integrity — people who should get much, much more attention than a house full of Duggars:
- Kathy Webb. A former state legislator who was the first openly gay elected official in the state, Webb fights for the equality of all Arkansans. She now serves as a member of the Little Rock city Board of Directors. More importantly that politics, she leads the fight against hunger in Arkansas as executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.
- Mark Zweig. A Fayetteville, Arkansas, entrepreneur, Zweig is a business professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Even cooler, however, is Zweig’s project of creating “unique, large public art projects in the form of residential architecture.” He takes old houses and renovates them into works of art using state-of-the-art enviro-friendly materials. He also inspires followers on his Twitter feed with inspirational quotes such as, “Get up, get out of bed, decide today you’ll get ahead! Go for the gold, friends!”
- Bill Eginton. Eginton is the owner of Arkansas Record & CD Exchange in North Little Rock, Arkansas. When people gave up on vinyl, Eginton didn’t. He makes people happy simply because he stayed in business during tough times and never abandoned vinyl records or his passion for music. Now, his Record Store Day and his business have become a must-visit for music lovers around the country. You can’t help but be happy and forget the outside world when you’re in this time machine of a store.
- Aaron Reddin. Reddin has been described as a “crazy, guerrilla homeless advocate.” But with a huge homeless problem facing Little Rock, Reddin, a former Marine, decided to take the bull by its horns and make a change. He created The One, Inc., an umbrella organization, to help the homeless in the Little Rock metropolitan area. With his project The Van, Reddin and his team seek out the homeless and help them find assistance and hopefully, eventually a better life.
- Mary Steenburgen. A native Arkansan, Steenburgen, an Oscar-winning actress, and her actor husband, Ted Danson, often visited the state. They have been instrumental in many local and national charities. The couple co-own the popular “South on Main” restaurant in an area of Little Rock that is seeing health revitalization. Steenburgen is a keen supporter of arts in Arkansas, and in March, she wrote a letter distributed by the Human Rights Campaign against the last legislative session’s discriminatory religious freedom bill.
Maybe you live in a state where scandal and mayhem capture the headlines, and who doesn’t these days. If so, we suggest you widen your focus and pay attention to the dedicated private individuals and the public officials who work hard to improve conditions of life for everyone.
Who are the leaders who hold up the positive things in your community when the notorious ones are getting all the attention?
Suzi Parker, TBS’ resident mixologist and culture editor, is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Echo Ellis: Adventures of a Girl Reporter,” “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” and “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes.” She writes frequently for The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Beast, The Economist, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker. You can reach Suzi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kim Cottrell is an author, educator, and Feldenkrais® practitioner in Portland, Oregon. Kim blogs at ahealthystepmother.com and contributes to The Broad Side. She was a long-time contributor to Walk About Magazine and is a guest blogger on various sites. She is now hard at work on her first book Collies, Cloaks and Cauldrons: Tales to Warm a Stepmother’s Hearth. To schedule an interview or book a speaking engagement with Kim, send email to email@example.com