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Out again! Eternal flame extinguished on apathetic election day

The darkened flame mirrors both voter ambivalence and the loss of a sense of honor.

The flame is out -- again!

Light’s out. Again.

Just when we thought the Eternal Flame was finally going to remain lit, its blaze was doused again — on election day.

Apart from being completely irritated and totally digusted with a city that can’t seem to get its collective act together long enough to keep one itty-bitty little thing ablaze (such as a monument that honors all American soldiers), there is another irony, one that I, as an American citizen, find disgusting.

The city seems to have no problem lighting the flame for commercial events. The flame blazed when the new downtown fountain was lit. It blazed during the last three Riverfests and Rivers and Spires festivals. It blazed when nothing was going on downtown but city government as usual. Because we (Clarksville Online) check every single day, we know when the flame is lit. And when it isn’t.

It was off on the fourth of July, even as the Vietnam Vets staged a striking ceremony honoring their fallen. It was re-lit after the 4th of July passed, and blazed right up until the eve of primary election day. It has been lit while the Legion Street-turned-Strawberry Alley construction is underway. Now the city managed to keep the new streetlights ablaze throughout the daytime hours this entire week. Water continues to flow through the lovely new fountain on Public Square. Only the flame, the best and brightest of our symbols, seems eratic.

It is primarily the holidays, the last two Memorial Days, Veterans Day, Flag Day, and days related to the rights our soldiers fight and die for (like Election Day and our right to freely vote) — that see the flame conspicuous by its darkness, a collective slap in the face to soldiers and their families.

Ever since the American Revolution, soldiers have fought and died to protect and preserve our freedoms, including our right to vote, one of the most basic rights and privileges we as Americans cherish. Or used to. We seemed to have lost that concern.

So here we stand, on the brink of still another presidential race, and what happens? People in their thoughtless, mindless apathy fail to vote (as an 11.86% turnout indicates), and the soldiers who have for centuries fought to preserve such rights, and help establish them for other nations, stand dishonored by that apathy. The darkened flame mirrors both voter ambivalence and the loss of a sense of honor.

On Thursday night, as I left the Riverview Inn in the shadow of the unlit flame and in wake of the narrow defeat of Tim Barnes by incumbent Rosalind Kurita, I thought of a larger issue, that of individuals who care enough to take up the challenge and run for public office, and the individuals who have the courage to work tirelessly behind the scenes for both challengers and incumbents, who face daunting tasks in the running of America at every level. The ability to hold office, or to run for office, the bloodshed it has taken over centuries to secure and sustain those rights, are tied to that flame, the one that was out, again, Thursday night. The blackened space at the top of ‘Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Clouds’ is an embarassment to the city — and we, its residents.

I don’t want to hear the lame excuse that “the wind blew it out” (that’s been used before by a city councilo representative on a windless witless day). I don’t want another round of pass the buck by city officials who apparently are too incompetent to fix the problem permanently — they are solidifying the “top spot” in that. If the city can’t cut it, maybe some business that makes its living off the backs of military paychecks in Clarksville will step up and address the problem. Or just maybe, citizens, veterans included, could make enough noise that the city will have to take successful action. Don’t apologize to me, to the people of Clarksville, to the soldiers of Fort Campbell. Just fix the darned flame.

Fort Campbell troops might consider posting a soldier a day — an honor guard — to stand downtown at the base of the flame with a candle and sign that reads “Thank you Clarksville for failing to honor us and our fallen brethen for our dedicated service.” Maybe some military wives, husbands or mothers with family deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan might want to take turns sitting at the flame during the day, every day, until it is re-lit PERMANENTLY. Maybe guilt or public embarassment will fuel the flame.

I am ashamed that more folks are not stepping up and deluging city hall with complaints, writing letters to the editors of local media, or otherwise showing some pride and honor towards our troops and the freedoms they fought for.

What will it take for Clarksville to keep one simple symbol ablaze to honor our troops and our military history?



  1. How does the flame on Kennedy’s grave remain lit? What about the Olympic torch? It seems we have the technology, but refuse to address the problem. Perhaps renaming streets, slogans and spending millions on capital projects in a “tight” budget year has clouded the vision of the elected officials. Christine, I’m really starting to like your articles and I appreciate your vigor and enthusiasm.

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