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Things Fall Apart

5 “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
— William Butler Yeats

“But things don’t just fall apart, people break them.”
—Robin Wasserman


It is increasingly difficult for this American, and perhaps for you too, to feel that our nation is at a pivotal moment in our history, a moment at which we are deciding which direction we want to take as a nation. Harvard
Historian Jill Lepore’s astounding book, “These Truths,” posits that the United States was founded on two contradictory pillars — the idea of natural rights and liberty and the reality of human slavery. She goes on for 29 hours in the audiobook version to explain how these truths have shaped us since 1619 and continue to shape us today.

The innate tension between these two pillars has rarely been clearer than today in our divided nation. Two wildly controversial issues make this division crystal clear.
Since America decided, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass murders in 2012, that our guns, especially military-grade assault weapons, are more important to us than our children, mass shootings have become so commonplace that we hardly notice them. The Washington Post reports more than 300 mass shootings in the United States in 2022, about 20 since the Uvalde Elementary School murders in late May. Ask yourself how many of those you are even aware of, much less knowledgeable about.

Shocking as mass shootings used to be, the numbers of people injured and killed in them pale compared to the everyday gun-related deaths across the country — murders, accidents and suicides. If we define mass shootings as those in which at least four people die, they account for less than 1% of all gun deaths, yet our reaction to this is increasingly “ho hum.” We are the only nation with more guns than people, 393 million to 330 million, according to a 2018 report by the Small Arms Survey. This imbalance will only grow as we Americans have been on a gun-buying spree since COVID began, and we can now manufacture our own, do-it-yourself unregistered weapons at home.

And then there is the other divisive issue, a woman’s right to control her own body, a right recently rescinded by a highly politicized U.S. Supreme Court decision. No matter what side of the abortion issue one falls on, it is impossible not to acknowledge some of the absurdity of the current situation. Some states ban abortion altogether, recognizing a fetus as a person.

A pregnant woman in Texas took advantage of this point of view by driving in the High Occupancy Lane of a freeway. When a law enforcement officer pulled her for being the only person in the car, she announced that her unborn child was a person under Texas law, making her HOV driving legal. The officer ticketed her anyway, and her court date falls on her due date.
Internet memes take this legal head-butting even further by encouraging Americans to call the IRS and demand a tax deduction for their fetus, for pregnant women who are imprisoned to sue for wrongful imprisonment of their fetus, to check with the Fire Marshall on occupancy regulations because pregnant women now count as two people and to demand life and health insurance for their fetuses. In other words, a fetus is either a person, or it isn’t. We cannot have it both ways.

This American is sad, alarmed and apprehensive about our nation’s future. We must find ways to dial down the heat in our national conversations, respect each other even when we disagree and get out of our silos and actually talk to each other.

Marianne Williamson, author, spiritual leader, activist and 2020 presidential candidate, said this, “don’t be concerned that things appear to be falling apart: This has to happen for something new and wonderful to emerge.”

I hope and pray she is right.

Early Voting misses the mark

4 Ok, Fayetteville City Municipal elections are fast approaching on July 26. By now, most are aware that voter turnout has been pretty lackluster during the Early Voting period, which began on July 7 and runs through Saturday at 3 p.m. on July 23.

As I write this, less than 1300 residents have made it down to the Board of Elections on Fountainhead Lane in downtown Fayetteville. Observers say that is disappointing and pathetic, but I say it's engineered and self-inflicted! It makes you wonder what the Cumberland County Board of Elections were thinking when arranging the Early Voting period or if they were thinking at all.
Many others are speculating such negligence could only be intentional with the intent to design and engineer a voting period that fosters low turnout to shore up and protect the incumbents. This would make a great debate, with plenty of evidence substantiating this notion. Our current nine districts form of city government and the Board of Elections couldn't have made it more difficult for Fayetteville residents to participate in one of America's most cherished rights, the right to vote.

Voting disincentives are many. There is only one inconvenient Early Voting location in Downtown Fayetteville. Some residents in outlying districts must travel 12 to 15 miles and 30 to 45 minutes to reach the polling location. Voters only get to vote for two out of 10 candidates, not making the journey downtown worthwhile. The only (inconvenient) Early Voting location in downtown Fayetteville closes at 5 p.m. and does not provide those voters who are getting off work at 5 or 5:30 in the evening an opportunity to vote. However, 5 p.m. is when the county election officials get off work.

There were too few relevant candidate forums and no debates, especially at the district level. Consequently, voter awareness of the candidates and the critical issues that impact the residents of Fayetteville is lacking.
During the past several weeks, I have fielded many personal calls and requests from friends, family and residents asking me, "Who should I vote for?" Even though many newspapers and media outlets across the country endorse political candidates, Up & Coming Weekly does not.

However, here are my assessments of all 20 candidates. These are based on their achievements, community involvement, work ethic, integrity and overall willingness and desire to represent all Fayetteville residents of all districts. These candidates know and love this community and have demonstrated their advocacy for doing what's in the best interest of Fayetteville's citizens, businesses and organizations while enhancing our quality of life through better and more efficient government.

I have bolded the candidates demonstrating the values I feel Fayetteville needs to move successfully into the 21st century.

Mayor
• Mitch Colvin - incumbent
• Freddie de la Cruz
District 1
• Kathy Keefe Jensen - incumbent
• Alex Rodriguez

District 2
• Shakeyla Ingram - incumbent
• Tyrone A. Williams
District 3
• Mario (Be) Benavente
• Antonio B. Jones - incumbent
District 4
• Thomas C. Greene
• D.J. Haire - incumbent
District 5
• Johnny Dawkins - incumbent
• Frederick G. LaChance III

District 6
• Peter Pappas
• Derrick Thompson
District 7
• Brenda McNair
• Larry O. Wright, Sr. - incumbent
District 8
• Courtney Banks-McLaughlin - incumbent
• Michael Pinkston
District 9
• Deno Hondros
• Yvonne Y. Kinston - incumbent

Most of my preferred candidates, not all, favor term limits and adding four at-large seats to the Fayetteville City Council. This would give Fayetteville citizens six votes when choosing municipal leadership, rather than only two (one for Mayor, four for at-large council members, and one for their district).
Many pundits are calling this a "friends and family" election, meaning that because of the collective barriers to voting mentioned above, the winning candidates will be determined by how well they turn out the vote. One thing you can count on, and I have said this many times before, is that we will ultimately end up with the Fayetteville leadership we deserve.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Proposal to change Fayetteville council structure not about race but democracy

4 Publisher's Note:
Unfortunately, lies and misrepresentations of the Vote Yes initiative are creating a significant injustice for the Black community, by the Black community.
In essence, this proposal to add four at-large seats on the council with five district seats is not a racial issue by any stretch of the imagination. Approving and passing this proposal will allow every Fayetteville citizen to have a voice in choosing Fayetteville's elected officials.

Under the current system, citizens get only two votes. Under the proposed plan, each citizen would receive six votes. One for Mayor, one for their district council member, and four at-large council members. Every citizen benefits!

Much discussion lately has been aimed at low voter turnout at the polls during election time. The presumed blame falling mostly on “apathetic and lazy citizens.” Not so. With 10 elected officials running our city, we ask citizens to leave their homes, families and places of employment and travel to a precinct polling location to cast a ballot for only two out of 10 candidates. Fayetteville residents obviously do not see the value in that, yet those currently on the city council ignore this fact so as not to weaken or jeopardize their position.

As a result, thousands of residents are being represented (or misrepresented) by unqualified candidates elected by only a few hundred votes or less.
For our community to move forward into a prosperous 21st century, we need good ethical people with common sense, intelligence and leadership abilities.
Without it, crime, overall community safety, homelessness, affordable housing, infrastructure and stormwater issues and trash-litter problems will continue to escalate throughout our city.
— Bill Bowman, Publisher

 

The term “democracy” comes from two Greek words: "demos" (the people) and “kratia” (power and authority). So, democracy is a form of government that gives power to the people. Lately, America's democracy has been strained at all levels.

First, there's the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee hearing about an effort to overturn the 2020 elections. Second, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued some controversial opinions this term: upended a 50-year-old precedent on abortion, expanded gun rights for the first time in a decade, bolstered religious rights, notably those of Christians and declared that a violation of Miranda does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution.
Passionate opinions have caused demonstrations on both sides of the issues. Democracy is a model form of government, but it's not a guarantee.

Life won't always go the way you want it to sometimes.
Democracy is supposed to allow all citizens an opportunity to have an equal voice, and it achieves that purpose most of the time. Democracy is imperfect but inherently and highly flexible.

What happens in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., gets most of the attention, but local government is the most important for several reasons.
First, municipal governments impact constituents far more frequently and positively than either state or federal legislators. Second, citizens can have far more influence at the local level than they ever will at higher echelons.

One-stop voting for Fayetteville's municipal election is from July 7 through July 23. The General Election is July 26. Voter turnout is predicted to be very low. The power rests with the people, but that power can't be realized if citizens don't vote. Fayetteville elected officials are presently under a council-manager form of government.
The council comprises the mayor and nine council representatives elected to single-member districts. Lately, the question has become, as Fayetteville is evolving, should it continue with all single-member districts, or is the time ripe for change? A Vote Yes Fayetteville initiative recently secured 5,007 signatures from city residents to change the Fayetteville City Council from nine single-member districts to a combination of five single-member districts and four at-large districts.

If the Vote Yes initiative is successful, Fayetteville City voters could cast six votes — one for Mayor, four for at-large council members and a district council member. Fundamental fairness dictates Vote Yes supporters deserve an equal voice, and we expect this matter to be on the November ballot.
The current council has 10 members — eight are African American, including the mayor. The mayor and several African-American council members have voiced concerns about the proposed change.
It is rumored heavily in the Black community that racism is behind the call for change since eight out of 10 present members of the council are African American.

Vote Yes supporters, including two former mayors, two former mayors pro tem and two past Fayetteville City Council members, deny the race allegation. The Vote Yes initiative began the signature collection process a year ago.
Is the proposed change about race? Thus far, the allegations appear unfounded. I know players on both sides of the issue, and I believe this is more about trust than race.

I fully understand some members of the Black community holding the white community as suspect, but declaring unfounded fears as racial motivation is unfair to both sides of the process.
Again, democracy ought to give power to the people and provide an opportunity for an equal voice.

Pause the racially-charged rhetoric and let the people decide at the polls. Indeed, the ability to raise enough money to run at large is not racial. It's economics.

Welcome to Room 237

5 Trigger warning: Today, we enter Room 237 at the Overlook Hotel. There is a 100% chance that this column will irritate certain readers. If you think that the Former Guy was the greatest President in American history, tear up this page, mutter some curses and buy a copy of “Guns & Glory.” You ain’t gonna like the rest of the column. I will wait while the room empties out. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Everybody out of the pool?

Remember in Stanley Kubrick’s movie version of Stephen King’s “The Shining” when Mr. Halloran is talking with Danny about what happened in the Overlook Hotel? If you don’t recall, not to worry. I will mansplain it to you. Danny is a little boy who has moved to the Overlook Hotel, where his father is going to spend the winter as the caretaker for the empty resort. Danny has the supernatural ability to ‘shine,’ which lets him see events that happened in the past. Danny correctly intuits there is something bad about the Overlook. The hotel cook, Mr. Halloran, tells Danny that a lot of things happened at the Overlook, and not all of them were good. Danny asks, “What happened in Room 237?” Halloran says, “Nothing happened in Room 237. But you ain’t got no business going in there anyway. So, stay out! Stay out!” Naturally, Danny ends up in Room 237.

The year of our Lord 2022 is the chronological equivalent of Room 237. This year we are all in Room 237. A lot of stuff happened in 2022. As Mr. Halloran said, not all of it was good. Instead of one of my usual ridiculous columns about cheese caves or Putin’s digestive production, today we will stare at mass shootings and the Supreme Court's decision on abortion. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

These topics have no common ground between opposing parties. They tend to offend. This column was written the same day of the Highland Park mass shooting. Accordingly, I am cranky about gun violence while producing this stain on western literature. By the time this doggerel hits the streets, there will probably have been yet another mass murdering. They seem to be rolling in about every 10 days. It is difficult to keep track of the latest fresh horror without a program. Mass shootings prove once again that crocodile tears, thoughts and prayers are not a defense against a moron with a grudge and an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.

Mass shootings claim elementary students, parade watchers, church goers and grocery shoppers. The mythical good guy with a gun doesn’t stop the slaughters. They keep happening. At Uvalde, a whole passel of good guys with guns stood in a school hallway while a moron with a gun killed kids and their teachers. If the cops are afraid to go against a moron with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, arming Beaver’s teacher Miss Landers at Mayfield Elementary with a pistol ain’t gonna stop said armed moron.

The argument that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is a catchy bumper sticker, but it’s wrong. The slogan’s premise is the gun just lays there and does not hurt anyone. It is not the innocent gun’s fault. Big Tobacco could make the same argument about cigarettes. A pack of cigarettes just lays there and does not hurt anyone. But when someone picks up the pack and starts smoking, the innocent little cigarettes kill people. When a moron picks up a gun and starts shooting, the guns kill people.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, removing abortion as a federal constitutional right. This delighted the anti-abortion folks and angered the pro-choice side. For the foreseeable future, all Supreme Court decisions will be based on simple arithmetic: six is greater than three. The religious beliefs of the Court’s six are that abortion is murder. Other people disagree. We have entered the wonderful world of living in a theocracy. When religion becomes law, there will be a bad moon rising. Trouble is on the way.

Guy A says: “My religion says I can’t do that.” Guy B responds: “OK.” Then Guy A says: “My religion says you can’t do that.” Guy B replies, “Buzz off.” (Dialogue cleaned up). When Religion A tells nonbelievers in Religion A, they must follow Religion A’s beliefs we are in Shiite versus Sunni territory. Any readers left? Are you mad yet? The six can change any rules to suit their politically and theologically correct thoughts. Math rules. Unlike when Jimi Hendrix sang: “Now if six turned out to be nine/ I don’t mind, I don’t mind.” Lots of people gonna mind while the six change all the rules.

So, what have we learned today? Math conquers all. Six is more than three. The current Supreme Court can overturn any precedent it chooses. It’s always too soon to talk about gun control. Apologies for this rant. This column tries to avoid doom scrolling. Get your bad news elsewhere. My ability to ignore reality faltered briefly, resulting in today’s fuss. Goodbye to Room 237. A return to ridiculous
topics next time.

A call to unity: We must endure and even flourish

27I don’t get to use the word flabbergasted much. It simply means greatly surprised or astonished, but it sounds more striking, so I’m going to use it today.

Flabbergasted. That’s the state I’d have to say I’ve found myself in more than once in the past couple of years.

As I see and hear the responses to local, national and international events from people who I’ve worked with, worshiped with, and even shared meals with, I’ve had multiple occasions to realize just how little I know about the people I thought I was close with, and I’m, well, flabbergasted!

Publicly, I’m a fairly low-key guy, so you’re not likely to trip me up after a reckless social media post or outburst at a gathering somewhere.
The river runs deep, though. I’ve just learned to listen more than I speak.

Moreover, other than emergencies, I believe a little thought goes a long way before action.
So when I see the public outcry and people tearing one another down in response to wars, sanctions, Supreme Court decisions and new legislation, I am often greatly surprised or astonished — especially when it comes from people I’ve locked arms with.

I take the collective charge to the Church (capital C) seriously. Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about us staying on the same page: Ephesians 4:1b-6 ... I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

This is clearly a call to unity. It’s a call for us to remain friends and continue working together toward honorable goals no matter how much we may disagree.
It’s a call to recognize that though many things may attempt to divide us, through humility, gentleness and with patience, there is little that can succeed in doing so.

There is no doubt that we live in a world and culture that adopts rules and enacts legislation that runs counter to the Truth of who God calls us to be. Yet, we must endure and even flourish.
I’m with you, friend. I don’t agree with everything I read in all caps on social media the other day, but I understand you better and am still willing to talk it out and work together for a better tomorrow.

 

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