I’m not sure most people understand just how alarmingly high the rate of child abuse is in this area. That is particularly true in Bristol, Virginia, which has the fifth highest rate of child abuse in the state, with 12.8 cases per 1,000 children. Washington County ranks 33rd in the state. So we should be especially grateful to those who have made it their mission to help these children and make sure those responsible are held accountable and prosecuted. It’s a difficult job that exposes them to horrors most of us, thankfully, never know about. One of them is Brad Roop, a detective whose work with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to these cases. As longtime county Sheriff Fred Newman pointed out, it takes a special individual to work these cases. To sharpen his skills, Roop trained as a child forensic interviewer at the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Alabama and received extensive training on child abuse investigations, abuse reconstruction techniques and traits of an abuser. Earlier this month, Roop received an Unsung Heroes Award from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The award recognizes Virginians who have dedicated themselves to serving victims and fighting for their rights. Detective Roop deserves our congratulations and appreciation.
Some of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s past actions have been questioned by many over the last couple of tumultuous months, but he deserves credit for his budget amendment that will result in the restoration of the driver’s licenses of people who couldn’t pay court fines and fees. On July 1, driver’s licenses will be reinstated to 627,000 Virginia residents — including 7,000 in Southwest Virginia. The change was approved April 3 by the General Assembly during a reconvened session. It’s a blow against a regressive policy that unfairly penalizes those who can’t afford to pay the fines and sets up a vicious cycle in which they can’t drive to work to try to make the money to pay them. It also unfairly affects others, like children, who depend on that person to get them to a doctor’s appointment or even soccer practice. Northam said the policy “criminalizes poverty,” a circumstance with which all too many people in this region are familiar. It’s the right thing to do.
On a personal note, it’s hard to believe it’s been three years today since the death of Prince. You either get Prince or you don’t — there’s no middle ground. In my opinion, he was underappreciated, a true musical genius. Consider this: He was a singer whose vocal range was legendary. He wrote all his own songs, the music and lyrics. He taught himself to play more than 20 instruments and mastered several. Only in recent years have people come to appreciate the depth of his talent on the guitar. On many songs, especially the early days, he played all the instruments. The only reason he had a band was to go on tour. He arranged and produced all his records. His music — the sound — is a fusion that is unique, unmistakable. And here’s the kicker — he didn’t read music and only had one music lesson as a child. He was gifted beyond measure. Over the years, I have been lucky to see a number of bands and singers, but Prince was the best live performer I’ve ever seen. I only saw him once — the “Musicology” tour in Knoxville in April 2004. He was electric, mesmerizing, a whirlwind you couldn’t look away from. I’m grateful to have seen him. As a personality, he was bold, outrageous at times, not afraid to be himself and he seriously never cared what others thought. He was an original, flamboyant and, yes, overtly sexual in the early days. But there’s much more there and I invite you to dive deeper into the music. No one realized until after his death the extent of Prince’s philanthropy because unlike many stars these days he didn’t take cameras and broadcast any of it on social media. He helped a lot of people, especially children. He was never involved in a scandal, though he was an icon for nearly 40 years. Prince was a puzzle, mysterious and completely unpredictable. I admired his spirit. He had what so few entertainers have these days — a true mystique. I will end with words often attributed to Prince: “For people who don’t understand why others mourn the death of artists, you need to understand that these people have been a shoulder to cry on. Our rock. They’ve been family, friends, leaders, teachers and role models. Many have taught us what we need to know and what to do when times get rough. They’ve helped us move on. They’ve pushed us out of bed. They’ve helped us live when nobody else had the time to. Artists have inspired us in endless ways and have been with us through stages in our lives. We’ve made memories with them. So when they die, a part of us dies.”