Thursday, July 10, 2008

L.F. Eason, You're My Hero

L.F. Eason III, former director of the North Carolina Standards Laboratory, resigned rather than lower a flag to honor the late Jesse Helms. Here are some excerpts from his NPR interview (on today's All Things Considered) that made me admire the way he stood up for his convictions:

"I gave the option of either not putting the flags up or to put them at full staff...I didn't feel that I could support anyone who had voted against every civil rights act that came before him and filibustered the Martin Luther King holiday...yes, the bricks and mortar are the state's, the flag is the state's flag, but I feel that everything that comes from that lab, good or bad, I am responsible for...I said, 'If I can't take them down, I can't work there,' so I agreed to take retirement..."

"...I'm a North Carolina native. I love this state. I feel very strongly that the amount of racism, segregation, and all that we have in this state wouldn't be nearly what it is today if it hadn't been for Jesse Helms...The first time he was elected, I was still in high school, and a good friend of mine just dropped to his knees as soon as he saw me and said, 'Yessir, Massuh, I be pickin' your cotton now, 'cause Mister Jesse's in office.' "

"What have you heard from the folks you worked with...especially the people who disagreed with you?"

"Well, so far the nominations for president are balancing out the death threats...From my counterparts in other states, in other countries, the response has been a hundred per cent supportive...People have said this is a brave thing. I have to agree with my detractors here: it's not brave. It was a very safe decision for me at this point in my life."

That may happen to be true, but it's still much easier for good people to stand by and do nothing than to go against the grain in order to uphold their own convictions.

The Charlotte Observer notes that Eason wrote the following to North Carolina Governor Mike Easley and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler: “I … understand that my decision is not acceptable. You cannot ignore that fact. There is the law, but there is also a higher law I must follow as a matter of conscience.”

Thank you, Mr. Eason, for not obeying orders even when it would have been much simpler to do so. Some points will always be worth making.


Thanks to Big Ass Belle for this possible contact information for those who want to express support of / solidarity with Mr. Eason:

L.F. Eason III
c/o:The Standards Laboratory
4040 District Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607

Or comment on a piece in the Huffington Post at this link:


Anonymous said...

You can also contact Eason's supervisor Stephen Benjamin (the one who basically gave him the ultimatum) at:

(919) 733-3313


1050 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1050

T. said...

Thanks for the information!

Anonymous said...

BIG DEAL, the guy was gonna retire anyway, now if he had to spend some time in a North Carolina Prison, or lose his retirement, maybe that would be admireable. And anyway, Jesse Helms was a Great American, its thanks to him theres not quotas that limit Asians to 1% of Medical School spots.

T. said...

Perhaps you missed the last paragraph of Mr. Eason's interview, or didn't even bother to read the post, in which he freely admitted, "It's not brave. It was a very safe decision for me at this point in my life." The cost of his decision is hardly the point. I imagine he would have taken the same stand against paying tribute to a racist even if his job had not been at issue.

People should speak out against injustice and in advocacy of what is right whether or not it turns out to be a "big deal" for them, cost-wise. Mr. Eason did, and it is admirable precisely because many people remain passive in the face of wrongdoing, or worse, embrace a kind of arrogant cynicism or moral relativism that deems things like racism acceptable.

By any measure, Senator Helms' record in the U.S. Senate was one of unrepentant bigotry, racism, and xenophobia. Just the OPPOSITE of what one would want a great American to be.

T. said...

A reminder: As stated on the main page of this blog, I try as much as possible to allow free expression of people's opinions here; but if people express themselves disrespectfully, offensively, or obnoxiously, I WILL delete their comments.