If you break your silence, you probably need to say something. Yesterday, Kristine LaLonde, the District 18 council member who both represents Belmont and works there as a professor, issued a long-awaited — and now widely ridiculed — statement about ... well, who knows what exactly? We can assume that she meant to address how the school treated former soccer coach Lisa Howe, who lost her job after she revealed her sexual orientation.
But LaLonde doesn't mention the coach by name. Instead, LaLonde merely reveals that she has worked in her capacity as a professor toward "ensuring that Belmont’s policies of inclusion and non-discrimination are clear and powerful."
I don't think she's quite there yet.
If we weren't talking about someone's livelihood here and the uncertain financial prospects of a mom-to-be, LaLonde's statement would be laughable. Not only does it come long after Howe lost her job, it's impossibly vague, mentioning faculty meetings and campus discussions without addressing the actual wrong that occurred.
But LaLonde doesn't delve into any more detail about the coach — of course, it's hard to do that when you won't bother to name her — and instead chooses to use the controversy as a feel-good moment to assert her own "support for full equality and inclusion for all people." That should already be a given.
What LaLonde doesn't seem to understand is that for her Belmont-Hillsboro constituents, what happened to Howe is profoundly unjust. More specifically, it's a civil-rights issue that demands leadership, particularly from a professor who actually teaches leadership classes. But since this story broke, LaLonde has pulled a Palin, avoiding reporters and their unpredictable questions in favor of issuing a rambling script that means nothing and achieves less. Christine O'Donnell's tweets have more substance.
LaLonde needs to tell us a little more. If the council member does think that Belmont can push away a successful coach because she's a lesbian, then she needs to explain that to a district which, three years earlier, elected Tennessee's first openly gay office-holder. On the other hand, if she does think that Belmont mistreated Howe, then she needs to state that and say what she's going to do about it. Helping Howe get her job back and signing onto the Jameson-Hollin measure are as good a place as any to start.
Politicians have a harder job than bloggers. They know things we don't. When they take a stand, stuff happens. Things change, and the people you anger are louder than those you help. LaLonde sought out these responsibilities, however. Obviously, she's in a tough position given that she works at Belmont. But she had to know when she signed up to run that at some point in her tenure she'd have to choose between her constituents and her employer. Too bad she didn't tell anyone which way she'd go.