It’s been an unusual few weeks since the last edition of Athens Now hit the stands and the ‘net. For openers, Hanukkah “snuck” up on me, and as some of you know, it coincided with Thanksgiving for the first time since 1888, and won’t do that again for nearly 70,000 years. Our family is Christian, and for about 10 years we have attempted to celebrate Hanukkah and are pretty lame at it. We have a family tradition, and that is, we have our family Thanksgiving on Wednesday, and go help feed other folks on Thursday. I found out about the holiday overlap just a couple of days before the feast, and had to scramble to pull it all together. We had a menorah in the middle of our table, and offered our deepest thanks for all our blessings. As I am putting this edition to bed, it is the last night to light the menorah, and I learned a new and harrowing thing about Hanukkah this year that has stuck with me for days.
Most people are aware that the Festival of Lights, (which is also referred to as the Feast of Dedication in John 10, and was attended by our Savior,) was celebrated in remembrance of the Maccabee victory over Antiochus Epiphanes. Somehow, however, I had missed the story of the extraordinary sacrifice of a woman who watched her seven sons killed one by one by Anitochus’ men, and who encouraged them to stand firm for God, and not give into the threats, lies, and false promises of release in exchange for their acquiescence. After the youngest died, so did the woman, but there is no consensus as to how. Some say it was from grief.
Such courage can only be described as stunning, and, as if I didn’t have enough to think about, I then became aware of another significant piece of history that occurred much closer to our own back yard, and not all that long ago. In Athens, TN, in the year 1946, there was a citizen led uprising that came to be known as The Battle of Athens. The short version is that McMinn County had been run by corrupt officials for years, and the problem had reached a whole new low while the men folk were away fighting the Axis powers. When they returned from the war, they peacefully tried to redress their grievances over the voter fraud and intimidation that was occurring throughout Athens. There came a point, though, when all peaceful means were no longer working, and the Battle of Athens began. Shots were fired, people were wounded, the porch was blown off the jail, and the corrupt officials surrendered. Then, order was restored, and life pretty much went back to normal without the corrupt political machine making life miserable.
Even Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the event, and said the following: “The decisive action which has just occurred in our midst is a warning, and one which we cannot afford to overlook.” Decisive action. The woman with the seven sons took “decisive action.” The GIs who had just been in harm’s way on foreign soil were not about to let their American town go the way of fascism and took “decisive action.” There were other similar incidents in 1948, and I have to wonder, will America see a resurgence of such activity? Unfortunately, I think it’s more than possible, and we’ll have to wait and see.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner