July 19, 2021

Calling the point

In another lifetime, I used to referee karate tournaments. Although they could get kind of rough, especially for higher-ranking adults, they weren’t like today’s full-contact mixed martial arts or submission matches. The idea was to give regular people of all ages and levels a chance to safely compete with peers.

A full point — or “ippon” in Japanese — was awarded for a controlled legitimate technique correctly applied to a legal target area.

Grappling wasn’t permitted, although some foot sweeps or takedowns were allowed, with points awarded if they were followed up immediately with a strike or kick to the downed opponent. (I guess you could say “don’t kick ’em when they’re down” didn’t apply here. It was more like don’t take ’em down unless you’re going to kick ’em — in a controlled way of course.)

Although, after visiting karate’s birthplace in Okinawa, I came to doubt whether it should ever have become a sport, I took something valuable from that experience. No matter what I thought of a competitor, their teacher, fighting style or uniform, I tried to set aside stylistic rivalry, which was rampant, watch every match as closely as possible and call the point if I saw it.

In these days of polarization and political tribalism, I think we’d be better off as a state and nation if people made a habit of “calling the point” or recognizing positive ideas and actions of people across our divides when we see them, even if we must struggle over others.

Not that I expect anyone to care, but, in that spirit, I’d have to award two points to actions recently taken by the West Virginia Legislature. Really.

The first was passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 202, a resolution calling on the federal government to release $8 billion to the state for job-creating mine reclamation projects. In addition, the resolution calls on Congress to pass the RECLAIM Act, which also would make funds available to deal with mine-related damage and to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Lands program, which is to expire in September.

Although it passed with the support of Republican supermajorities, it also was supported by Democrats, community organizations and environmental groups. The United Mine Workers union has supported similar measures for years.

This realistic, solutions-oriented approach is a major step forward from the theatrical hissy fits of previous years. And it could actually happen, bringing huge benefits to coalfield communities and the state’s economy and environment.


The second point goes to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, who recently announced the creation of a bipartisan Food Insecurity Work Group consisting of six Republican and six Democrat delegates. It’s dedicated to “utilizing every tool at West Virginia’s disposal to help reduce hunger throughout the state.”

The group is chaired by Delegates Larry Pack, R-Kanawha, and Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, both of whom take the group’s mission seriously.

In a House news release, Pack was quoted as saying, “We have plenty of evidence that shows us how deeply connected hunger is to other issues, such as overall health, mental health, academic achievement and economic prosperity. ... We are committed to putting in the time and energy to truly understand not only what specific roadblocks are out there hurting our West Virginia families, but also what solutions we can implement in the near future.”

For that matter, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution in the 2021 regular session requesting a study on summer and nonschool-day food programs by county boards of education, something hunger advocates have been calling for since 2019.

This could be another big deal for West Virginia, where it’s been estimated that one in seven residents and one in five children are facing food insecurity, a problem that was highlighted by the school closings and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m hopeful that the work group and community partners can come up with some real solutions.

It’s good to remember in times like these that people can sometimes set aside differences to confront real problems in a practical way.

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