Fayetteville, are you woke?

02woke1Amid the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014-16 came a resurgence of an age old concept – one that is vital not just to individuals, but to communities everywhere. Being “woke” or “staying woke” became the battle cry for the cause.

The word “woke” and the phrase “stay woke” have continued to gain popularity since then, and in ways that involve more and more Americans. Originally, “woke” or “stay woke” referred to advising African-Americans to stay aware and focused on those issues that pertain to racial or social justice. The African-American Vernacular English expression “stay woke” means stay focused on issues of importance and do not get distracted by meaningless diversions.

Now, the word and term are catching on in a broader sense. Are you woke? Are you staying woke? What is the level of your wokeness? I guess we can thank millennial activists and social media for launching this term into our mainstream vocabulary. For this brief editorial, I am going to define the word “woke” as a byword for general social and political awareness. Even though the phrase was used almost exclusively in the context of Black Lives Matter referencing racial concerns and concerns over social justice, its broader meaning began taking hold around 2015.

The term morphed into a more general term meaning just being aware of your surroundings. So, using this more generic definition of “woke,” I ask: Fayetteville and Cumberland County, are you woke?

In other words, are you aware of the social and political environment? And, if you are woke, what are you doing to get involved and to influence the outcomes of these social and political  situations? Or, are you going to choose not to be woke, meaning that you intentionally make an effort not to be aware of your social or political surroundings or the elements that influence them?

Unfortunately, the majority of our local population is not woke. And, it really isn’t their fault. It is difficult to stay woke in our community when we lack the traditional vehicles of communication that are enjoyed by other communities. It’s difficult to stay woke when you don’t have a local TV station or other traditional media outlets providing a continual thread of unbiased news and information. Yes, Fayetteville and Cumberland County is a news media and information desert. It is way too easy for people not to stay woke. In fact, it takes major effort to stay woke.

I do feel that Fayetteville and Cumberland County do a great job when it comes to being aware of social issues like addressing homelessness and fighting hunger and drug-related problems.

I’ll conclude by saying that the leadership of Fayetteville and Cumberland County are highly aware of the factors affecting the social, political and economic environment of our communities. The question is whether they will communicate with each other to convert this awareness into positive and tangible initiatives.

Let’s all hope so. There is so much opportunity for growth in our community, not only economically, but for love, fairness, understanding, tolerance, goodness and happiness. It all starts with a conversation. Not an indictment.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly. You can bet that we are woke! And, the fact that you are reading this publication means you are, too.

Add a comment

A modest proposal with apologies to Jonathan Swift

04a modest proposalWatching the news about the startling situation on America’s southern border regarding separating children from their parents got me to thinking about our old friend Jonathan Swift. Some folks say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So, I am sincerely stealing an idea from Jonathan Swift from his 1729 essay about what to do about the children of the poor people of Ireland.

For those of you who may not have been English majors, allow me to briefly summarize Johnny’s proposal. He was concerned about the plight of the Irish poor who could only survive by begging. His suggestion was that Irish children be sold to be eaten. To quote him, “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well-nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or broiled: and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”

When his essay came out, some folks did not realize that it was satire. Undoubtedly there will be some of my gentle readers who may take offense to Johnny’s essay and likewise this very column. Kindly be aware that no migrant Hispanic children were harmed in the writing of this column, although the same cannot be said of 2,300 Hispanic children separated from their parents on the Mexican border.

I am not suggesting that migrant children be eaten. As Nixon once said, “That would be wrong.” However, seeing the fenced wire cages the children are being contained in did remind me of the treatment of calves who are destined to be veal. You keep the calves in one place, don’t let them move around much, and they are much tenderer and tastier than free range calves. I hope that whoever is in charge of storing the incarcerated children did not take Jonathan Swift literally.

The cages also reminded me of the “Twilight Zone” episode where benevolent space aliens come down to Earth with cures for diseases and all manner of misery. They start taking humans to a new paradise planet where the humans are told they can start a new and better civilization. Earth scientists manage to translate the title of a book the aliens left behind as “To Serve Man,”  which sounds pretty nice. Sort of like a summer camp in an abandoned Walmart Superstore. Unfortunately, “To Serve Man” turns out to be a cookbook.

But what should be done? Laura Ingraham compared the Walmart Supercenter where the children are being housed to summer camp. Our compassionate friend and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said, “Womp, Womp!” when confronted by a story about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her parents. Sympathy abounds in Corey’s breast. The government is calling the detention centers where babies and toddlers are being kept “Tender Age Shelters.”

George Orwell would be proud of that phrase. As you may recall, George once said, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” “Tender Age Shelters” is a triumph of political language. I salute whoever came up with that phrase. Both sides of the immigration debate cannot hear each other over their shouting opposing slogans. Sad.

The news last week began with TV personality Samantha Bee making an ill-considered remark calling Ivanka Trump a feckless cupcake due to Ivanka’s silence on the new zero tolerance policy requiring child/parent separation at the border. Great offense was taken by the Right, as no name-calling has ever come from our president about his perceived enemies. Perhaps if Bee had referred to Ivanka as a feckful cupcake, then all would have been well.

Under the law of the Conservation of Energy, the total amount of feck in an isolated system remains constant. Feck can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transferred from one form of feck to another form of feck. Either one is full of feck, or one is without feck. Feck is in the eye of the beholder. If you have feck, you are a good person. If you are without feck, you are a bad person. Too bad Bee didn’t understand the distinction. Or, as a disinterested observer might say, “What the feck?”

I leave you with these conflicting thoughts.

Let he who is without feck cast the first stone. Ask not for whom the feck tolls. It tolls for thee.

Add a comment

Judicial election preview for Cumberland County

05cumberlandThe filing period for judicial races in Cumberland County opened this week. The Fayetteville Observer is reporting that longtime incumbent Tal Baggett is being challenged by former Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Young Evans. Other District Court judges may face challengers. Rumors abound about potential filings, but they always do in District Court races. It’s best to wait and see who files.

One rumor that has been circulating for a while did come true last week, and it will set up a collision of power, party and politics in what may be the most interesting judicial election in recent  memory. District Court Judge Lou Olivera announced that he will run in Superior Court District 12C against Mary Ann Tally or Jim Ammons. The “or” is what makes this an interesting race.

Earlier this week, after it was announced that Olivera had filed, I previewed the race on my blog as a three-way race with the top two vote-getters winning. This is how it has taken place in past  elections in District 12C. Instead, it appears that due to a complex array of events in the legislature and the federal courts (that would fill up most of my space to explain), Olivera may have to choose which sitting judge to challenge. The un-challenged judge will simply keep his/her current seat, assuming no one else files.

A quick summary of the three candidates and what may happen:

Jim Ammons is the chief resident Superior Court judge, clothed in the immense power of his office, but he left the Democratic Party several years ago and will be listed as “unaffiliated” on the ballot. Ammons has held a judgeship in Cumberland County since 1988 and has a campaign machine that has been oiled and tuned over the decades. To put it simply, he wins, repeatedly.

Mary Ann Tally is the Democratic stalwart, a former Public Defender with a family name that runs deep in Cumberland County. Her mother-in-law, Laura, served as a legislator and a North Carolina senator for decades. As a judge, Tally has been popular with the local bar and is seen as effective, hard-working and fair. She’s going to get Democratic votes and is the only woman in the race, an inherent advantage.

The wild card, Lou Olivera, left the Democratic Party in 2014 and will run as a Republican. He should receive party-line support as the only (R) in the race, but he may get more than that. Olivera received national attention when he spent the night in jail with a veteran he sentenced. His celebrity and time on the District Court bench provide him with strong crossover appeal. Olivera may get votes from both sides of the isle.

If Olivera runs against Tally, it will set up a classic Democrat versus Republican showdown. The lines and differences will be easily drawn. Due to the success of Democratic women in judicial races in Cumberland County as of late, Olivera would have a tough road.

The more interesting and more likely scenario is Olivera running against Ammons. This race would be inherently unpredictable. Both men have name recognition in the community. Who will get the Democratic votes with no Democrat on the ballot? Who will the women of Cumberland County choose? It’s a toss-up if there ever was one.

For me to predict the outcome, I need to know the following: can Olivera pull minority votes in November despite having an (R) beside his name on the ballot? Can he do it in this particular election, a Trump referendum of sorts? If so, he may unseat a sitting Superior Court judge. If not, he picked a really bad time to become a Republican.

Editor’s note: Matt Richardson is an attorney at The Richardson Firm and covers Fayetteville and North Carolina politics on his website:

Add a comment

Change is the only certainty

03ChangeYears ago, in another life, I attended a presentation by a well-known and respected North Carolina demographer whose talk was entitled “The Browning and Graying of North Carolina.” He addressed our state’s growing diversity and aging population to an audience of “mature” North Carolinians, mostly white and mostly over 50. The demographer expounded on when white people would become a minority in North Carolina and what an aging population means for the workforce, health care and our culture. The United States Census Bureau says this will happen nationally in 2045, though our demographer said earlier in North Carolina.

Suddenly, a man in the audience shouted, “I just don’t believe that!” The demographer brandished another chart, and again the man blurted, “I just don’t believe that!” Patiently, the demographer talked about trends that were long since underway, but when the man shouted for a third time, the demographer looked calmly at the audience and asked us to look to our left and look to our right. “Are any of you people going home tonight to have a baby?” he asked pointedly. The answer was laughably obvious.

Score one for the foresighted demographer.

Newly analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that in 2016, more whites died than were being born in North Carolina and 25 other states. This was true in only four states in 2004. Part of this has to do with North Carolina’s aging population, but other factors include declining birth rates for millennial women since the Great Recession and deaths by despair – drugs, alcohol and suicide – especially among whites between 30 and 59. The change became apparent in rural areas before it became a statewide fact. For example, in Martin County in northeastern North Carolina, deaths now exceed births for both whites and blacks. In the 1990s, Martin County had 12 public schools, but that number has declined with the loss of about 40 percent of its school-age population.

Writing in The New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise said this. “The change has broad implications for identity and for the country’s political and economic life, transforming a mostly white baby boomer society into a multiethnic and racial patchwork.” Pundits of all stripes speculate about what the change means for our politically divided nation, with many asserting that a younger and more diverse electorate will bring a more progressive agenda. Maybe so, but there is certainly no assurance of coalitions forming among diverse groups or that they will even vote with the same frequency that older, whiter voters have over time. Donald Trump is our president, and Democrats in New York just turned out an established and ranking member of Congress in favor of a young woman of Puerto Rican heritage. At 28, she will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Both political realities prove that anything is possible.

What I understood the demographer to be saying all those years ago to the rude and disbelieving man is that population trends are like tides. They start, and they build until they wane, or until some other trend overtakes them. They are neither positive nor negative. They are just facts to be dealt with, not handled. We can no more change them than we can change our world’s rising sea levels.

The browning and graying of our state and country is the latest chapter in the evolution of a still-youthful nation. It will continue no matter how you, I or the grumpy old guy feel about it.

Add a comment

Trump and Trudeau: Where the rubber meets the road

04justin trudeau 8X10 colourHate him or love him, every indication is that Donald Trump understands that his first responsibility is to the citizens of America. Where the rubber meets the road in living up to that responsibility is not always a comfortable place. Trump hit one of those uncomfortable places in his recent dispute with Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada.

The dispute resulted from the president placing a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on steel imported to America from Canada and some other countries. I have no idea where the situation will stand when this column is published, but, for now, I find it instructive for thinking through, and appreciating the need to think through, the difficult issues of our time. Doing so is  essential to America surviving and thriving. In this context, allow me to share what I hope is productive and accurate thinking through of this U.S./Canadian tariff dispute.

A tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. In this case, the tariff is on aluminum and steel. One might start by asking why Trump imposed the Canadian tariffs. Kate Dangerfield wrote the following in an article titled “What U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs mean for Canadians — and their wallets.”

“The tariffs were originally announced March 1 when U.S. President Donald Trump said that the United States was being treated unfairly. He said the import taxes will help protect American jobs and boost the U.S economy.

The Trump administration also cited national security interests for implementing the tariffs, saying the military needs a domestic supply for its tanks and ships.”

In making the unfairness argument, Trump points to tariffs Canada imposes on milk products that it imports from America. Josh Wingrove and Erik Hertzberg wrote about this in an article titled  “How Canada’s Sacred Cows and 270 percent Tariffs Set Trump Off at G-7.”

“Canada essentially allows two avenues for dairy imports – those within quota, and surplus stuff. It’s the latter where tariffs spike, because Canada’s whole system is built to avoid a surplus – hence its name, ‘supply management.’

“Take milk, for instance. Within quota, the tariff is 7.5 percent. Over-quota milk faces a 241 percent tariff. Other over-quota rates include blended dairy powder at 270 percent. Duties rise to as high as 314 percent for other products, according to data from the World Trade Organization. Canadian officials argue that all countries subsidize dairy, including the U.S. – Canada essentially does so indirectly by closing its borders and capping production. If you’ve got a slice of the quota, though, the tariffs don’t apply.”

The bottom line of the statement above is that Canada makes it difficult for American dairy farmers to sell their products in that country. Even though the case is made that Canada has more reasonable tariffs on other products, it is clear that their aim is to protect jobs in that nation. Trump argues that, to protect jobs and build our economy, America must do the same until more fairness in trade practices is in place.

An even stronger argument for the aluminum and steel tariffs is that unobstructed access to these products is required for our national security. That is, we should not depend on other nations to supply these products that are critical in building ships, tanks and airplanes that are essential to an effective military. Further, these materials are needed for other projects that impact our  economic well-being. Information at indicates America produced 82 million metric tons of steel in 2017. Even though this was a 3.5 million metric ton increase from 2016, it was a dramatic decrease from 98.2 in 2006. Various other references show that in 2017, America imported 36.9 million metric tons of steel, with 17 percent of that amount coming from Canada. This means, in 2017, we imported an amount of steel that equaled 45 percent of what was produced in America. At 17 percent, Canada provided more steel to us than came from any other country.

Thinking through these facts says we are dependent, and seemingly growing more dependent, on other countries for a product, steel, that is essential to our national security and economic  well-being. This does not grab me as a wise course. Similar analysis can be done regarding aluminum.

As I understand it, the kinds of concerns presented above, coupled with the large trade deficits America has with many countries and high tariffs assessed on our exports, Trump forthrightly  argues that America is being treated unfairly by many of our trading partners. The failure of countries, such as Canada, to take steps to rectify the situation resulted in the steel and aluminum tariffs. Trump pressed the case at the recent G-7 Summit in Canada. The G-7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Trump left the meeting early and flew to Singapore for what proved to be a historic and promising summit with Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea.

A section of the communique released by the G-7 at the conclusion of their meeting appears to address Trump’s trade concerns. It states, “We acknowledge that free, fair, and mutually  beneficial trade and investment, while creating reciprocal benefits, are key engines for growth and job creation. We recommit to the conclusions on trade of the Hamburg G-20 Summit, in particular, we underline the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism.”

Despite the commitment reflected in the preceding quote Trudeau held a news conference as Trump was flying to Singapore. In an article titled “In Context: What Justin Trudeau said that made Donald Trump angry,” Manuela Tobias quoted Trudeau as follows:

“I highlighted directly to the president that Canadians did not take it lightly that the United States has moved forward with significant tariffs on our steel and aluminum industry, particularly did not take lightly the fact that it’s based on a national security reason that for Canadians, who either themselves or whose parents or community members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in far-off lands and conflicts from the First World War onwards that it’s kind of insulting. And highlighted that it was not helping in our renegotiation of NAFTA and that it would be with regret, but it would be with absolute certainty and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us.”

Trump and several members of his administration voiced very strong opposition to Trudeau’s news conference comments. Trudeau, as the president is flying to Singapore, makes this statement that, in my estimation, is totally contrary to what he agreed to in the G-7 Communique. Instead of negotiating, he is retaliating. Beyond that, his dismissal of our national security concern does  not reflect serious consideration of that concern. The president tweeted that Trudeau was “dishonest & weak.” Here was an American president on a mission to help save the world from a  nuclear disaster. Trudeau picks that time to undermine the president while claiming to be a friend of America.

For me, thinking through all of what is presented above produces this conclusion: America must make every effort to ensure the well-being of our citizens; maximize self-sufficiency in producing products that are essential to our survival, security and prosperity as a nation; and only trust countries that prove themselves, by actions, deserving of our trust.

Making these things happen requires leaders who do not collapse when the rubber meets the road.


PHOTO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Add a comment

Latest Articles

  • Picking’s back but the game has changed
  • Fall football preview: Terry Sanford
  • Fall football preview: Westover
  • Fall football preview: South View
  • Hope Mills calendar of events
  • Fall football preview: South View

Up & Coming Weekly Calendar