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Narcissus, Echo and the Former Guy

04 IMG 7043 PittWatching Lynne Cheney get booted out of her House Congressional Republican leadership position for failing to worship the Former Guy got me thinking about Greek mythology. Lynne got her head chopped off because she refused to kiss the Former Guy’s nethermost region of his rather expansive anatomy. Either one of my Gentle Readers might rightly ask by what bizarre stretch of logic does the Former Guy fit into Greek mythology? No person could rationally compare the Former Guy to mythological characters. “Au contraire” as a snail-eating Frenchman might say. Recall Otter in “Animal House” who once said: “I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.” And as Bluto almost replied: “I’m just the guy to do it.” Jules in the movie “Pulp Fiction” once said in a slightly different context, “Allow me to retort.”

So I shall retort.

The Former Guy has been diagnosed from afar as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This begs three questions: 1. Who was Narcissus? 2. What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? 3. If the diagnostic shoe fits, does the Former Guy wear it?

Let’s begin with Narcissus. Narky, as his buddies called him, was what was known back in the Grecian Formula days as a Pretty Boy. He was even prettier than the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Narky did not care about other people’s feelings as he was too superior to associate with people or even Gods.

One day Narky was out hunting in the deep forest when he was spotted by a lovely mountain nymph named Echo. Nymphs were beautiful young female spirits. Zeus would frequently make whoopee with nymphs except for Echo. Echo’s job was to keep Zeus’ wife Hera busy by talking to Hera while Zeus was out sporting with other nymphs. Eventually Hera found out Zeus was tom catting around. She blamed Echo for covering up for him. Hera laid a curse on Echo that caused Echo to only repeat what someone had said to her. This made Echo both a boring and irritating conversationalist.

It was love at first sight for Echo when she got a gander at Narky. Narky called out: “Who is there?” Unfortunately, Echo could only repeat what Narky said. Her limited conversational style irritated Narky mightily. He angrily rejected the lovesick Echo leaving her in the woods to pine away for him. Echo’s love sickness caused her body to fade away into the ether. Only her voice remained which could only repeat words yelled into a canyon. That is why echoes were named for poor Echo.

Things did not end much better for Narcissus. He left Echo to go sit by a pool of water to get a drink. When he looked into the pool he caught his first glimpse of his beautiful self. Apparently, mirrors had not yet been invented. Having never seen himself before, he fell immediately in love with his own reflection. Narky was pretty but he was not too bright. He thought there was a beautiful young man in the pool not realizing it was just his reflection. When Narky reached into the pool to touch his beloved self, the ripples made his reflection disappear. Narky was so smitten by his own image that he could not leave the pool. He sat there falling in love with himself while forgetting to eat. He withered away, dying by the pool admiring his own reflection. There may be a moral hidden somewhere in this story. See if you can find it. Psychiatrists have stolen the story for their own purposes.

Psychiatrists have a handy book of psychiatric disorders called the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” which they use to assign patients into neat little categories of mental woes. The nutshell description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is the patient is described as arrogant, self-centered, demanding and “often have high self-esteem and may believe they are superior or special compared to other people. However, they seem to need excessive praise and admiration, and they may react poorly to perceived criticism.”

The Shrinks will diagnose a patient with NPD if five of the following criteria are met: “A grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty; belief that the patient is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high status individuals; a need for excessive admiration; a sense of entitlement; interpersonally exploitive behavior; a lack of empathy; envy of others or belief others are envious of him; or a demonstration of arrogant and haughty behavior.”

Gentle Reader, I leave it to you to decide if the Former Guy meets five of these delightful character traits to warrant a sidewalk diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One clue is that the Former Guy spent an inordinate amount of time and taxpayer dollars on his golf courses. Golf courses are known to have water hazards into which the Former Guy could have spent many hours staring lovingly at his own reflection. His cult followers mimic Echo by consistently repeating his false charges. Barry Goldwater once campaigned for President with the slogan “A Choice Not an Echo.” The Former Guy flipped Barry’s slogan to “An Echo not a Choice.” It was off with her head for Ms. Cheney who chose not to be an Echo.

Love is a many splendored thing.

What's in your arm ... or isn't?

03 Covid vaccine car windowPart of being human is the desire to organize our knowledge to understand it better, and Americans seem quite adept at this. Marketers have long since categorized us by our shared beliefs, and now a researcher has applied this technique to Americans who have not been vaccinated. We have known since COVID-19 vaccines became available that certain groups of people are getting vaccinated at lower rates than their fellow Americans, among them Republicans, people of color and rural residents. Harvard public health assistant professor Dr. Sema K. Sgaier is grouping us not by our demographic characteristics but by our shared beliefs.

Before we look at the holdouts against herd immunity, there is clearly a vast category that the Times dubs Enthusiasts, of which I am a happy member. These are folks thrilled to be vaccinated. I was so relieved to stick my arm out the driver’s side window for my jab at a vaccination site that my neighbor whose arm was out the passenger window feared my giddiness would make me hyperventilate. Most Americans fall into this category now that 60% of us have had at least
one shot.

So, who is holding out against herd immunity in our nation? Writing in The New York Times, Sgaier posits four different categories for those who remain doggedly unvaccinated.

Eight percent of them she calls Watchful. These are folks who are waiting to see what happens next. Did my cousin have side effects? What about the fellow around the corner? They are likely mask wearers and may eventually get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. They make up 8% of the unvaccinated nationally.

Then we have the Cost Anxious. The federal government has made vaccinations free for virtually all of us, but these folks are concerned about the time involved to leave work or home. Making vaccinations convenient is most important to those group, which makes up about 9% of the unvaccinated.

As always, in a free society, we have System Distrusters. They believe the system, and in this instance the health care system, treats them unfairly. They may believe the system targets people “like them” or that vaccines will secretly change their DNA. They might respond to a trusted friend or adviser to set them straight, but in the meantime, they make up about 4% of the no-vaccine-for-me crowd.

And, finally, Sgaier labels the COVID Skeptics. These folks believe COVID-19 is no big deal, perhaps even a pandemic engineered to manipulate people around the world, particularly Americans. They cite their aunt, cousin, next-door-neighbor who had COVID and is “just fine.” They make up about 14% of the unvaccinated, and will likely not take the jab, as one Skeptic told me, until “I am damn well ready.”

So how does North Carolina’s unvaccinated break down in Sgaier’s system?

Most of our unvaccinated folks are indeed stubborn Skeptics, doing their own thing no matter how it puts others at risk. Then comes our Cost Anxious crowd, who do not want to miss work or something else important for a shot. The Anxious are followed by the Watchful, many of whom will ultimately get vaccinated once they feel confident about their friends and family who have done so. And, finally the System Distrusters come in at 2.5%.

Sgaier’s research, especially when reviewed state by state, reveals a patchwork of reasons why the national vaccination rates are slowing down despite no-cost availability. Some states are all in, and some barely so. The CDC puts North Carolina at 38th in the nation for adults having at least one dose.

Americans do have the right to choose for ourselves, but vaccine hesitancy is a real thing that is affecting all of us. No one should be forced to get vaccinated, but we should all think not only of ourselves but of the greater good. The Bible puts it this way — Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Taking time to notice others can bring awareness and hope

Cho S2 press image 3 1 06Positivity with a ponytail. The music, the message and the motorcycle. These are just a couple of the taglines someone recently suggested for the daily radio show I have the pleasure of hosting on WCLN.

Ultimately, I'll probably not use either of them, but it's nice to know people take time to notice. That's something our sorely disconnected world needs a little more of: People noticing one another.

Over the past several months my wife and I have begun watching the independent video series, “The Chosen” from director Dallas Jenkins. None of us can comment with surety on how accurately the personalities of any of the Biblical figures is depicted, but the series has gone a long way to making them all more understandable.

“The Chosen” walks viewers through the early days of Jesus' time in ministry, offering backstories of the people we often reduce to supporting actors as we read the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament.

The more we learn about the environment in which these people and their stories were birthed, the better we understand the counter cultural message of the Gospel.

I think too often we conjure the image of Jesus wandering from lame to leper in a white robe with His hands held just so, speaking in language too haughty for most to comprehend.

That's probably far removed from the truth. Jesus was born into a gritty world, and a land which was dominated and occupied by Rome — an invading nation bent on ruling
the world.

As Jesus’ ministry unfolds in the first four books of the New Testament, what I see is someone who noticed. He noticed pain. He noticed suffering. He identified with those who were poor and hungry, weary from the weight of the oppressive occupation, and anxiously hoping for a heroic figure to swoop in and save them all. Ultimately that's what they got, but they simply missed it.

The Jewish people of that day had crafted a military hero from hundreds of years of stories. A hero who would defeat all the enemies of Israel, based on their current situation.

The hero who showed up, however, was a kind, understanding man who worked with common people to help them better relate to God and the people around them.

He taught them to love one another, and to treat even their greatest enemy with compassion.

Jesus taught us to do what we need to do more of to move this world and any situation toward a more peaceful resolution in every way: He taught us to notice.

When we truly notice those around us we begin to understand. We identify with their pain, we identify we their suffering, and when we notice those around us who are hungry and poor in any number of ways, we find the same hope that Jesus offered. That hope promises there is more in this world than our situation, and many ways to live a full life regardless of it.

Pictured above: "The Chosen" is the first ever multi-season series about the life of Christ. (Photo courtesy Angel Studios)   

Post-COVID-19 Fayetteville: Hear the music and smell the flowers

02 Dogwood FestivalWell, from where I sit it looks like Fayetteville is starting to come alive again after being stymied for nearly two years dealing with the COVID pandemic. We see more and more people venturing out eating, shopping and actively searching out events, activities and things to do outside the confines of their own home. Art, cultural and recreational events that were so bountiful prior to the pandemic are starting to make a comeback.

I recently received a call from Sarahgrace Snipes, the new Executive Director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival. She was very excited and eager to tell me that the City of Fayetteville has finally given them permission to use Festival Park for this year’s Dogwood Mini Fest. This event was previously scheduled to be held in April at Westwood Shopping Center, but again COVID-19 ended up being Dogwood’s party pooper. Since arriving in Fayetteville from Wilmington, Sarahgrace has literally “hit the ground running." And, standing up the Dogwood Festival’s Mini Festival at Festival Park on such short notice will be a major accomplishment. One that will be very much appreciated by this community. The Dogwood Festival is free to the public and will feature many of their traditional events like the car & motorcycle show, art and craft displays, local vendors and entertainers, and, of course, great food and a live music concert. Everyone needs to support this event on June 11 & 12.

Speaking of music concerts, Fayette-ville residents eager to be outside in the fresh air are turning out in huge numbers to the many musical concerts scheduled for the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community. Gates Four Golf & Country Club launched their Summer Concert Series on May 16 with a Beach Music Bash at The Pavilion. Their musical series of five monthly concerts will present award winning musical talent and entertainment ranging from classic Carolina Beach music to the Beatles and hits from the 60s. On July 17 they will present a Retro 80’s Rock Concert & Party. The Series is produced by the Fayetteville Dinner Theatre in conjunction with Gates Four and the public is invited. All the concerts are ticketed events but with a twist: all food, beer and wine are included in the ticket price. For the list of concert times and dates go to www.fayettevilledinnertheatre.com.

Another great outdoor music concert series was launched last week when Rock’n On The River showcased two great bands on the banks of the Cape Fear River at Deep Creek Outfitters. Hundreds of rock music enthusiasts turned out to see, hear and experience Mostley Crue and Shoot to Thrill. They did not disappoint. This concert series is produced and engineered by local Fayetteville resident Greg Adair with Healy Whlse., Up & Coming Weekly, 96.5 Bob FM and The River 106.5, and the support of dozens of local businesses. Their next event is on June 18 featuring Reflections II and the Journey tribute band Trail by Fire. Follow Rock’n On The River on Facebook for details.

Yes, Fayetteville is coming alive again. The sights and sounds of the joyful outdoors are everywhere. Seek them out, enjoy and support them. Here’s a few suggestions: Clark Park, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Veterans Memorial Park, Lake Rim Park, Cape Fear Trail, the Rose Garden at FTCC and one of my very favorites, Fayetteville’s newest and most exciting destinations, the Sweet Valley Ranch and Dinosaur World.

So, whether you are into attending a local festival, enjoying a music concert on the river, or smelling the pretty flowers, Fayetteville and Cumberland County have a never-ending array of wonderful outdoor places for you to go, see, enjoy, relax and de-stress.

Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Caption: The Dog Wood Mini Fesival is schedued for June 11-12 at Festival Park. Musical entertainment, food and vendors are planned. (Photos of previous events courtesy of Fayetteville Dog Wood Festivals) 

Vote Yes Fayetteville: An opportunity for repentance

03 vote verticalIn 2006/7, I led the opposition to an effort to restructure the Fayetteville City Council. I was wrong. Vote Yes Fayetteville is a current attempt to change the Council make-up from nine single member districts to five single and four at-large seats. This is an opportunity for correcting a serious past failing, and I am taking it. I will do all that I can to help achieve this restructuring.

In 2006, I attended a meeting where several speakers made the case that the proposed referendum to change the Council structure would dilute Black representation on the Council. In that meeting, I agreed to lead an effort opposing the referendum. I did so even though I had signed the petition calling for the referendum.

My mind was changed because I accepted the argument that Black citizens face some challenges that are best understood by other Blacks. In addition, when looking at voting patterns in the city, it was clear that white citizens primarily voted for white candidates. This voting pattern brought in the likelihood that there was a racism component at work. There was also the consideration that running at-large is more expensive than competing in a single district and that would be a hindrance for Black candidates.

In the end, on February 6, 2007, the referendum passed and the process of implementing the new structure started. However, the U.S. Justice Department had authority to reverse the decision of Fayetteville voters and did so. The Justice Department concluded that that the 6-3 plan could negatively affect minority voting. That is, make the election of minority candidates less likely.

Opposing passage of the restructuring resolution gave our group members far better insight into the issues affecting all Fayetteville citizens, but especially Black residents. More clearly, we saw the societal and political blind spots: areas that needed to be addressed, but with different approaches and attitudes from what was the norm. For this reason, what had been the referendum opposition organization, “NO 2,” became the Fayetteville Area Coalition for Equality (FAYCE). I was elected chairman of the new organization.

The focus of FAYCE was on the needs of Black residents while endeavoring to have local governments treat all residents fairly and equally. It is absolutely critical to understand that it was not our aim to have any group(s) of Fayetteville citizens given attention to the detriment of any other group(s). Even though our focus was on issues affecting Black citizens, the aim was fair and equal treatment for all.

FAYCE had a clearly defined approach for pursuing our overall aim. Gathering facts and examining those facts, before taking a position on any issue, was central to that approach. There was also commitment to detailed planning for any project or action.

Our commitment to these principles showed through in the structure of our meetings, in how we addressed difficult issues, in developing a candidates’ guide for the 2007 municipal election, and sponsoring candidates’ forums for that election. In line with our desire to get facts and thoughtful responses and to accurately and productively inform citizens, we provided forum questions to the candidates in advance. In line with our approach, these forums were not about tripping anybody up; they were about informing citizens and encouraging reasoning over emotion.

Into 2008, FAYCE was proving very effective in pursuing the organization’s goals. Then came the 2008 North Carolina presidential primary. Barack Obama received 9 out of 10 Black votes. Don Worthington, a reporter with The Fayetteville Observer, called and asked me what I thought about Blacks voting so overwhelmingly for Obama. He quoted me correctly as saying, “If nine out of 10 Blacks voted for Obama, they may be guilty of the same racism they accused whites of in the past.” The main argument in 2006, against restructuring the Council, was that since whites overwhelmingly voted for whites, that voting pattern indicated the presence of racism. Continuing that reasoning, why would Blacks voting overwhelmingly for a Black candidate not also raise the possibility of racism?

Although there were some individuals who publicly agreed with what I said, the outrage in opposition was deafening. WIDU, a local radio station with a sizeable Black audience, was inundated with calls from people who were totally disgusted with my comment.

The level of disgust was eye-opening for me. Then there was this statement written by someone on Ron Harrison’s blog: “…FAYCE flounders — and honestly, it was beginning to look like an organization that could positively influence the community … which befuddles me why Merritt opened his mouth in such a manner.” The clear message from the outrage and comments, such as the one quoted here, was that I should have been quiet regarding a condition I believed could prove dangerous and debilitating for this city and even the nation. That was not and is not my approach to leading or living. I resigned as chairman of FAYCE.

The experience that I have reviewed to this point caused a major revamping of the framework within which I do my thinking. For instance, there was a time when, if the government said something was true, I accepted it without question; I was inclined to, without detailed examination, accept claims of racism as true; I believed that the vast majority of politicians were committed to doing what was good for all Americans; did not give extensive attention to the political process, governmental policies, or fiscal considerations. Every one of these components, and more, of my framework for thinking has shifted 180 degrees.

Against this backdrop, here is how I now assess Vote Yes Fayetteville. The 5/4 restructuring is required because the current structure of nine single member districts is doing exactly what, in 2006, those of us who opposed that restructuring claimed would happen if it were instituted; except, in 2021, the racial impact is reversed. In 2006, there were more white residents than Black. That is no longer the case. Eight of the 10 members of Council are Black and, during elections, indications are that Black citizens overwhelmingly vote for viable Black Democratic candidates. Applying the racism argument made in 2006/7 by those of us who opposed restructuring, and by the U.S. Justice Department in overruling the will of Fayetteville voters, the current Council structure requires some effort to even the playing field for white citizens.

Another point of opposition being raised again is that it is more expensive to run at-large than in a district and this puts Black candidates at a disadvantage. One response to this claim is to point to Blacks who are currently serving in at-large positions, such as: sheriff, chairman of the County Commission, and Clerk of Court.
In terms of fairness and equal treatment of all, the impact on white citizens of this at-large cost argument demands attention. It says to white citizens who have financial means, “You are able to provide substantial financial support to candidates or to your personal campaign; consequently, we must maintain a system that prevents you from participating in the political process in a manner equal to all other citizens.” This is totally unfair and certainly smells like discrimination.

There also seems to be greater attention to issues championed by Black residents than to those affecting all citizens of the city. The first of these regards the Market House; despite its otherwise very positive historical significance, because slaves were sold there, Council is giving significant attention to what might be done to quell outrage from some Black citizens and an undetermined number of white citizens. Of equal high priority with Council is satisfying demands for a citizens police review board that would have access to records and information that are not now publically available.

While there is tremendous focus on these two issues, the weightier responsibilities of local government are getting far less attention than is necessary or reasonably expected by the general public. Among these are understaffing of the police department, rising crime rates, failure to protect property during a season of protesting/rioting/looting, not proactively promoting economic development, questionable handling of infrastructure needs, and, in general, conducting city affairs in a fashion that divides rather than unifies citizens.

The negative consequences of the picture painted here are many, but the loss of white residents is one deserving of serious consideration by those who might oppose Vote Yes Fayetteville. Since 2000, maybe before, the white population of Fayetteville has been in decline. If this restructuring and other fairness/equalizing actions are not taken, Fayetteville will experience the same terrifying quality of life decline as other cities that followed our current course. Consider Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles and so forth.

At the bottom line, I contend that if this effort to restructure the Fayetteville City Council fails, it will show us to be a city where white citizens are treated unfairly, the primary indicator of racism in voting only applies to whites, and we are willing to protect these conditions at the cost of a dramatic decline in our quality of life.

Support Vote Yes Fayetteville.

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