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Greg Edds: Recommit to respect, common decency in Rowan County

By Greg Edds

Last week we all watched in disbelief as a Minneapolis police officer callously took the life of Minnesota resident George Floyd. Our entire nation was horrified at what we saw.

That a sworn officer of the law could do something like this and that his fellow officers could stand by and do nothing has forced us to ask ourselves some difficult questions: What has happened to respect and love for one another? Where is our compassion and sense of decency? At what point did these men, sworn to serve and protect, surrender their conscience and abandon their love for their fellow man?

Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend considerable time with our sheriff, his staff and many of his deputies. I am extremely grateful for our local law enforcement men and women and for their past and continued commitment to protecting our families and our community. But let me say this as clearly as possible: Our Board of Commissioners expects that every man, every woman and every child in Rowan County will be treated equally, with professionalism and with the respect that our residents deserve as citizens of this county and as fellow human beings. There is no room whatsoever, zero, for racism of any kind to be exercised or tolerated within county law enforcement. Period.

I fully believe that Sheriff Kevin Auten and his staff embody that principle and that they are completely committed to upholding and promoting that high standard.

As a child I was taught that we have all been created by a loving God, that our lives have a divine purpose, and that each of us have equal value and great worth. In elementary school, I memorized the words contained in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, proclaiming to the world the absolute and undeniable truth that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights …” These words are as fundamentally true today as the day they were written. Their principles are settled. They are not open for debate. They are the central reason for our nation’s existence. Our equality and our rights, as the author so rightly observed, are “self-evident.”

As local elected officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and North Carolina. As a person of faith, I am commanded to “love my neighbor as myself.” We are to be “devoted to one another. In love, honoring one another above self.”

George Floyd’s death reminds us that we have not lived up to our nation’s highest ideals. We must do better.

A man that was an inspiration and a friend to so many in this community, Alex Clark, recently passed away from ALS. One of the most challenging things Alex ever said to me was: “When I learn to look at you as my brother, I learn to look at you as my other self. Therefore, regardless of life’s circumstances, how can I possibly come to hate myself?”

Alex and I referred to our relationship as an “unlikely friendship.” Our personal lives were separated by age, race, friendship circles, life experience and, yes, even politics. In today’s climate, those are tough odds. But we made a conscious commitment to spend time together. That investment in time created trust, trust created friendship, friendship created a mutual love for one another, and that love created acceptance, forgiveness and understanding.

Another dear friend, Tony Hall, speaks to me often about seeking perspective and making the conscious choice to view life’s most difficult issues through another man’s lenses, how it’s more important to hear than to be heard, talk less and listen more.

Minneapolis sits 932 miles from Rowan County, but the death of George Floyd has brought tremendous personal pain to so many in our community and across our country. As a community, we clearly see that. We feel it in our gut.

As a community, let’s recommit to treating one another with respect and common decency. Exercise compassion toward one another and to those in need. Recognize the divine spark that lives within every person you come into contact with. Be generous. Practice mercy. Put away hate. Love your neighbor as yourself. Talk less. Listen more. Pray for our community. Pray for our nation.

Greg Edds is chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

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