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To the Editor:

With the August election looming, signs for Murfreesboro Councilman Eddie Smotherman have popped up in yards throughout my neighborhood. I knew nothing about him and was unsure how to vote. Sadly, the candidate’s behavior at a recent NAACP candidate forum filled in the blanks most miserably.

Councilman Smotherman failed a simple test of moral and political leadership when he chose to leave a candidate’s forum hosted by the NAACP instead of wearing a mask. Consequently, he won’t get my vote, and he shouldn’t get yours.

Exercising our democratic rights is critical in the best of times, and in the midst of a pandemic, it feels, to me at least, downright courageous. I’m reluctant to get my hair cut, so the idea of sitting in a forum in an enclosed space for an extended period with other people right now feels especially risky.

Despite the risk of such an event right now, the forum organizers looked for a way to exercise this important democratic right in a way that would serve the forum’s purpose while keeping participants as safe as reasonably possible.

Candidate Smotherman undoubtedly has heard the same advice from public health experts that the rest of us have. Masks serve to protect others, especially those at greater risk, and by wearing them, we drastically reduce the spread of COVID-19. Ultimately, wearing a mask means fewer people die.

Councilman Smotherman is quoted by Murfreesboro Post reporter Jason Reynolds as saying, “My feeling is my liberties and my rights supersede anybody’s social preference.”

Mischaracterizing the simple public health countermeasure of a mask as a “social preference” is laughable at best. But let’s consider the feeling-based choice he’s making.

The councilman chose low political theater over the health and safety of citizens willing to give him an ear as to why he deserves their vote. He chose some juvenile sense of personal freedom over the freedom to choose compassion for the people he wants to represent. He made the selfish choice, not the altruistic one.

Eddie Smotherman had an opportunity to make a common-sense moral and political decision that showed he cared about the community he would represent. He chose something else. Don’t vote for Eddie.

James Summar

Murfreesboro

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