Battles won at all costs

Some members of the Pine Bluff City Council never miss an opportunity to gin up false controversy. Seems we couldn’t even have one meeting in 2013 before the legendary myopia and silly self-interest choked the life out of potential progress.

The fodder for the dust-up du jour concerns the appointment of retired Pine Bluff Police Department Lt. Jeff Hubanks as interim chief of the agency. At the close of Monday night’s council meeting, some angry villagers attempted to position the issue as one of racial prejudice and gender bias. Their argument is ludicrous on face.

In the first instance, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, a white woman, was elected in an overwhelming mandate for change — by a community that is comprised of largely of people who are not white. Moreover, Hollingsworth has a staff and advisers who appear to be a good mix of both black and white individuals.

As to charges of gender bias, we’re unsure how a woman replacing another woman with a man equates to inequity, but then again, logic doesn’t always govern these sentiments.

While the selected interim chief is indeed white and male, the predicate assumptions of Hollingsworth’s detractors are based solely in empty speculation. Neither Hollingsworth nor anyone from her staff has stated an official number of how many black candidates and how many white candidates were considered. The again, if we as a city are actually trying to move beyond segregation and racism, why would such numbers matter? Only a person invested in naïve accounting would think that a predominantly black community must have narrowly proportioned black leadership.

Apparently, the broader community doesn’t think so; otherwise somebody other than Hollingsworth would be sitting in the big chair. Even so, the predictable detractors quickly piped up.

Another equally dismal aspect of this farce concerns Assistant Chief of Police Ivan Whitfield. For some, Whitfield, a long serving and respected police supervisor, was the necessary and only permissible heir-apparent. But he wasn’t chosen as interim the last time the city was in this predicament so we’re not sure why he or others have come to the conclusion that he should have been chosen this time or at least considered.

If anything, the appointment of a retired member of the command staff insulates current command staff from any potential intrigue, and it ensures a continuity of leadership.

But none of that is nearly as important as the symbolic victory some demand. Apparently, none of these folks has ever read the story about the ancient Greek General Pyrrhus of Epirus.

Pyrrhus was a great general. He led many campaigns against the encroaching Roman army. In one such encounter, he fought against the Roman General Publius Decius Mus. After days of horrible fighting, Pyrrhus’ forces were decimated. He had lost most of his generals, his cavalry and a large portion of his foot soldiers. He had nonetheless “won.”

In the battle’s wake one of his officers commended him on the great victory. Pyrrhus’ response, “One more such victory will be the death of me.”

From this we get the term “Pyrrhic victory”… to win at any cost. That’s exactly what some would do here. Instead of allowing the police department to move forward with its well-qualified temporary leader, they would rather play the race card, mine ordinances for disqualifying (although historically ignored) technicalities and generally let the people suffer. While nobody can stop their fool’s errand, we’d just as soon not pay the delivery charge.