You only need to be a casual observer of the news to have noticed how our super-fast Internet has transformed life and business in Chattanooga. The gig has helped to create a climate of innovation, as well as spurred millions of dollars in investment, making us the envy of other cities across the globe.
Similarly, you only need to be a casual observer of the news to know that we’ve dealt with our fair share of-how do I put this?-challenging moments lately. Local headlines have been filled with various examples of abuses of power, violations of the public trust, conflicts of interest and other instances of impropriety.
Why am I mentioning these things? Am I trying to be a downer? No. Absolutely not. I love Chattanooga. I really do. We do a lot of things right, and we have a lot to be proud of.
But it’s important to put things in perspective, and, from my perspective, it’s important to point out that our collective integrity is far more important than our impressive Internet.
In short, we could use a little more of it around here.
We’re all human. We all drop the ball sometimes.
But when we drop the ball, we need to own it. We don’t need to hide evidence or blame the blameless. We don’t need to form public relations posses or twist arms. We don’t need to make scuzzy, behind-the-scenes phone calls or send threatening emails. We don’t need to vilify the media for doing their jobs when they point out when we fail to do ours.
No, we need to fix things. We need to be upright and accountable. We need to do what’s right instead of what will get us ahead. We need to play things straight instead of playing politics.
Having integrity means doing the right thing, no matter what. It can also involve taking risks. You might risk your popularity. You might risk your career. But if success means blaming someone else to compensate for your mistakes, then it’ll only be a matter of time before someone else succeeds by blaming you. If you have to lie or mislead to protect your “good life,” how good can your life really be?
Yes, having super-fast Internet is fantastic. It’s convenient and useful. It creates buzz and opportunity. It makes us a beacon. It allows us to read our fawning press, share it quickly, and then virtually (and just as quickly) high-five each other via our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds.
But it’s a mixed blessing. Despite the worldwide attention we’ve received, Chattanooga is still, in many ways, a small town. There has long been the feeling that everybody knows everybody else, and the gig has only amplified that feeling. When something great happens, we all hear about it-fast. And when something bad happens? Same thing. Suspicion and distrust spread just as quickly (if not more so) as praise and acclaim, and all that we do right-which is a considerable amount-is increasingly at risk of being overshadowed by what we don’t.
So, yes, let’s celebrate our successes and keep moving forward. Let’s invest in technology and innovation. Let’s invest in infrastructure and education. But, above all else, let’s invest in some integrity.
Former Chattanooga Pulse Editor Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) news, culture and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him at billcolrus.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.