It is Duke, Dominion and EQT that are terrorizing people
By Michael M. Barrick
RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina’s surveillance and counter-terrorism unit has conducted a “threat assessment” of opponents to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which is scheduled to be built in eastern North Carolina, according to North Carolina Policy Watch: “State Bureau of Investigation unit prepared “threat assessment” of Atlantic Coast Pipeline protestors.”
According to the article, “The state’s surveillance and counter-terrorism unit, the Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC), warned law enforcement officials that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could attract “violent extremists” who are opposed to the natural gas project in North Carolina … .” If approved, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will run more than 170 miles through North Carolina roughly parallel with I-95 east of Raleigh.
The law enforcement analysis could not be more misguided.
There are terrorists involved in fracking and related pipeline development – if that’s the word the law enforcement wishes to use – but they are not the opponents to the pipeline; rather the ones terrorizing people and the environment are the corporations building the pipelines. These include Duke Energy of Charlotte, Dominion Resources of Richmond, and EQT of Pittsburgh. The latter company is the primary developer of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), another controversial pipeline being built through West Virginia and Virginia.
The ISAAC would be well served to listen to this excellent interview of Ellen M. Gilmer, a legal reporter with E&E News by West Virginia Public Radio. Gilmer offers an analysis of the court battles involving both pipelines. One listening to it will see that pipeline opponents don’t have to resort to “terrorism.” Why? They are enjoying many victories in state and federal courts. Victories, in fact, that for now have shut construction of the pipelines down.
Opponents are not wide-eyed radicals and Gilmer knows it. How do I know? In 2015, I gave her a tour of the area in northern West Virginia where both pipelines originate. While living and reporting from there, I was covering construction of the Stonewall Gas Gathering line, a 36” diameter, 55-mile pipeline. Because it did not cross state boundaries, it did not need federal approval. Nevertheless, the pipeline’s builders were terrorizing people along the entire route.
As I took Ms. Gilmer around, I introduced her to the people most impacted by that project and introduced her to others whose land is threatened by the ACP and/or MVP. You’d have to ask her yourself, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t meet anyone that could be construed as a terrorist.
But, this is what she did see (or hear about because of time constraints):
- A farmer in Doddridge County whose crops were destroyed because of improper erosion controls upstream during pipeline construction
- Sick people throughout Doddridge County
- The local newspaper is owned, literally, by gas and oil company owners
- Citizens injured and killed by industry trucks
- Residents leaving the state
These are just but a few examples. There are several more links at the end of this article. However, one moment stands out for me. It was at an event where the fossil fuel industry and law enforcement teamed up to intimidate local citizens simply curious about the pipelines as they were first announced. It was then that I knew the fix was in. The corporations got to the legislators, who then pressured law enforcement. Now it’s happening in North Carolina. It is beyond unnecessary – it is chilling.
What is fracking?
Fracking is a slang word for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting a fluid consisting of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale. This fractures the rock, releasing natural gas, which is then extracted. In West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock 3,500 – 8,000 feet below the surface, is the object of fracking. The vertical depth of the formation is about 150 feet. Whether recovered or left behind, the frack fluid presents problems. The wastewater contains not only the chemicals added to the water, but also leaving minerals and radioactive materials recovered as part of the extraction process.
Fracking and pipeline construction are inexorably linked. Without fracking, there is no need for a pipeline. With fracking, all the risks associated with pipeline construction serve only to aggravate the impact of the process. So, there are many good reasons (see next section below) for people to oppose the ACP and MVP. The ACP is the longest, at more than 600 miles, terminating in Robeson County, N.C.
The companies seeking approval to build the ACP have harassed land owners wishing to protect their land from the devastation that would be caused by the ACP construction, not to mention the potential danger it poses for those living alongside of it. Having learned of what the people along the proposed ACP route have endured in West Virginia and Virginia, it is clear that the people of North Carolina need political leaders who will defend them, not consider them threats.
Fracking impacts and risks (Or ‘A Dirty Dozen Reasons to Oppose Fracking’)
Dead and injured workers (here and here), explosions on fracking pads (here), dead and injured motorists (here and here), destroyed wells and streams (here), dead livestock (here) and sickened residents (here) are just some of the public health and safety risks associated with fracking. Indeed, the list is rather long. The negative by-products of fracking include:
- Public Health Issues
- Water Use and Contamination
- Air Pollution
- Waste Disposal
- Site Development and Well Pad Activity
- Misuse of Eminent Domain
- Climate Change
- Traffic Congestion
- Potential Earthquakes
- Industry Instability
The people experiencing these events and tactics do not sound like terrorists. They sound like people who are being terrorized.
This is not new to the fossil fuel industry. A century ago, during the West Virginia Mine Wars, as the coal companies worked to keep the unions out of the coal fields, they hired Baldwin-Felts detectives to brutalize the miners and their families. The companies also ensured that local law enforcement did their bidding.
Perhaps the most famous of these “lawmen” was Don Chafin, the sheriff of Logan County, W.Va., during the Mine Wars. According to the West Virginia Archives and History website, “In 1921, he mobilized a small army of deputies – later formally organized into the militia by order of the governor – which met the union organizers in skirmishes at Blair Mountain on the Boone – Logan county border and in the Crooked Creek section. Thousands of shots were fired and much blood shed but there were relatively few casualties. Once source says 47 were killed and more than 100 injured.
“Mingo County then the center of organizing activity, was under martial law. Union miners in Kanawha heard rumors that their comrades to the south were being mistreated. That started their march south through Boone and Logan. On their way they planned to break down Chafin’s non-union stronghold. Their favorite marching song was “Hang Don Chafin to a Sour Apple Tree.’”
ISAAC’s snooping proves beyond any doubt that efforts by the fossil fuel industry to get the likes of Don Chafin to do their bidding here and now remains alive and well.
The proper response – A moratorium on fracking
Clearly, despite industry claims, it has much to prove before we can consider fracking and related pipeline development safe. So, the only option is to operate according to the Precautionary Principle. The Science & Environmental Health Network says about the Precautionary Principle: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”
Based on this definition, the only proper response is a moratorium on fracking. A moratorium remains in place only so long as the burden of proof has not been met. Should the industry, as some point in the future, demonstrate that fracking does not pose a threat to public health and the environment, the moratorium could be lifted.
Add me to the list
I’m a pipeline opponent. I’ve never pretended otherwise. My writing has been focused on holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for the death and destruction it has caused in Appalachia and beyond. But, I’ve never touched a soul, never issued a threat, never trespassed, never polluted streams or any of the other numerous horrors the fracking industry has done.
What I have done is exercise my First Amendment rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Motivated and informed by my understanding of liberation theology, I have spoken and written against fracking and related pipeline development. I’ve been part of demonstrations of assembly. In short, I’ve been one of thousands of pipeline opponents who have legally and appropriately petitioned the Government.
So, if that puts me on a threat assessment watch list, then add me to the list and watch away. I’m quite familiar with the fossil fuel industry’s tactics. The ISAAC list is one I’d be proud to be on. But it won’t stop me or any other pipeline opponents. Why? Because we understand that it is time that the people – not crony capitalists – run our state and nation.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018
Other articles I’ve written about the Fossil Fuel Extraction Industry
Collaborative work by five East Carolina University art professors featured
LENOIR, N.C. – Five professors of art from East Carolina University (ECU) will be exhibiting their work beginning this Friday, Aug. 3 at the Caldwell Arts Council (CAC). The exhibit, titled “Collaborative Empiricism,” runs through Sept. 29.
The artists are Hanna Jubran, Jodi Hollnagel-Jubran, Robin L. Haller, Heather Muise, and Matthew J. Egan.
Hanna Jubran received his M.F.A. in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is currently a Sculpture Proessor at ECU in Greenville, N.C. Hanna is a Palestinian Arab Israeli sculptor, born in Jish, the upper Galilee, in Israel. A frequent participant in the annual Sculpture Celebration in Lenoir, his most recent activities include the creation of “A Monument to a Century of Flight” in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He is also a frequent participant in The International Sculpture Symposium.
Jodi Hollnagel-Jubran graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a BFA in Sculpture and a K-12 grade Art teaching certification. After teaching a few years in the public school system she then decided to develop her career in sculpture and achieved an MFA in Sculpture from ECU. She and her husband Hanna Jubran own and operate J&H Studio Inc. in Greenville. Their lives are dedicated to art by teaching at ECU, making and exhibiting their art and traveling around the world participating in international sculpture symposiums.
Robin L. Haller is an artist who specializes in digital design and weaving. She is an Associate Professor in the Textile Design Program at ECU, School of Art and Design, where she teaches weaving and feltmaking. Robin’s weavings have bbeen exhibited nationally and internationally.
Heather Muise has a Master of Fine Arts degree from University of Tennessee, Knoxville and is a Teaching Instructor in Printmaking and Foundations at ECU. Her work draws from many sources including arcane, codified and symbolic imagery that conjur the ideas of magic, imagination and possibilities that may or may not exist in our world.
Matthew J. Egan is an Associate Professor teaching in Printmaking and Foundations in the School of Art and Design within the College of Fine Arts & Communication at East Carolina University. Previous to joining ECU, Matt worked and taught at the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) and spent nine years living in the Middle East. He is currently developing relationships between entities in the United Arab Emirates specifically the University of Sharjah to create a partnership with ECU to encourage and foster collaborations and cultural exchanges between the schools. Matthew holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking and Drawing from the University of South Dakota.
The Caldwell Arts Council presents the arts in all forms to the people of Caldwell County. Located at 601 Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir, the CAC is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. It is free to the public.
The Republican Party, once Communism’s greatest antagonist, is now its biggest cheerleader
Still, as Wendell Berry teachers us, there is no reason to hate the Russian people anymore than Russians should hate us for Trump
By Michael M. Barrick
On March 8, 1983, Republican President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals, famously called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”
This is the same Republican Party of Donald Trump and his buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer. This is an astonishing turnabout in just one generation. The Republican Party, once Communism’s greatest antagonist, is now its biggest cheerleader.
While many Republican leaders have criticized the president’s performance in Helsinki, they do not follow up their words with action. So, they are enablers. It is noteworthy also that some of Trump’s remaining strongest loyalists are influential evangelical pastors. So, I’m quite disappointed – again – in our institutional and societal leaders. In the face of evil, they are silent. (Those who claim to be Christians might want to look up Ephesians 5:11).
Still, it’s a republic, so we have a voice, protected by the First Amendment. Obviously, this essay is such an example of exercising my right to speak freely. But I have another way, and you’ll find it on the back of my car. It’s a bumper sticker. It’s below.
This message isn’t warmly received where I live and work – the heart of Trump country – from Western North Carolina through southern Virginia to all of West Virginia.
It’s controversial because people – as we know from “A Few Good Men” – just can’t handle the truth. I read. I’ve heard our own Republican Senator Richard Burr – chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – say that the Russians interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Nevertheless, this “love note” left on my windshield while my car was parked at an elementary school in our county, provides insight to how people respond to this truth. Here it is:
There are two important things to learn from the mentality expressed in these words (I won’t call them thoughts). First, note the “Love it or Leave it” mentality from the 1960s. This person is asserting authority over me he that does not have. Why? We have an authoritarian president who he apparently voted for and worships. He craves – and emulates – the authoritarian approach. That’s the first step to Fascism. Secondly, and sadly ironically, this person will follow orders from Trump, even if they violate the Constitution one presumes this writer claims to love.
So, what do we do about this problem of having a president that is chummy with an enemy of freedom and who is doing all that he can to break up NATO and other vital alliances?
Applying the Wisdom of Wendell Berry
We apply the wisdom of Wendell Berry. (And Forrest Gump but hang on a minute).
As Berry wrote in his poem, “To A Siberian Woodsman,” published 50 years ago, we as a people must realize that despite Putin, there is no reason to hate the Russian people – anymore than Russians should hate us for Trump.
Berry, in his poem, introduces two protagonist farmers – an American (Berry) and a Russian. In this exchange, the farmers contemplate upon their common interests and concerns – their love of family, their love of farming, their respect for nature, and their respect for their fellow man. Implicit in the poem is that nationalism is an enemy to all people.
You lean at ease in your warm house at night after supper,
listening to your daughter play the accordion. You smile
with the pleasure of a man confident in his hands, resting
after a day of long labor in the forest, the cry of the saw
in your head, and the vision of coming home to rest.
Your daughter’s face is clear in the joy of hearing
her own music. Her fingers live on the keys
like people familiar with the land they were born in.
Further on, he continues:
And I am here in Kentucky in the place I have made myself
in the world. I sit on my porch above the river that flows muddy
and slow along the feet of the trees. I hear the voices of the wren
and the yellow-throated warbler whose songs pass near the windows
and over the roof. In my house my daughter learns the womanhood
of her mother. My son is at play, pretending to be
the man he believes I am. I am the outbreathing of this ground.
My words are its words as the wren’s song is its song.
He then asks:
Who has invented our enmity? Who has prescribed us
hatred of each other? Who has armed us against each other
with the death of the world? Who has appointed me such anger
that I should desire the burning of your house or the
destruction of your children?
This is but a small sampling. Berry ends by asserting that no government should have the power to require us to participate in the destruction of families, homes, communities and nations.
So yes, it’s disturbing that President Trump is incompetent at best and compromised at worse. Or both. Let us not lose sight of the fact, however, that the Russian people are not our enemies. They’re simply fed a load of crap like we are. It’s up to us – the free people in this equation – to hold our elected officials accountable to seek the truth sincerely and immediately. Anything less is dangerous, even treacherous.
One more thought:
Here is another contrast between President Reagan and President Trump I’d like my Republican friends (it’s a shrinking group with articles like this) to explain: President Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Germany on June 12, 1987. You can contrast it with anything Trump has said about building a wall on the Mexican border.
All of this seems perplexing until one considers the wisdom of another great American philosopher, Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018
Environmental groups accuse agency of ‘foot-dragging’
MONTEREY, Va. – The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has learned that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is just now compiling the thousands of emails and other comments citizens submitted during the comment period that ended more than a month ago.
This outrageous foot-dragging fits a pattern DEQ has set for months and heightens the likelihood of further damage to state waters by the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) before the State Water Control Board has the chance to rule on the sufficiency of waterbody crossing reviews. The Board saw a need for this information way back on April 12, based on concerns that a blanket permit from the Corps of Engineers may not be adequate to ensure Virginia’s water quality standards will be met.
On July 3, with no commitment from DEQ as to when the comments would be available to all, DPMC decided to acquire them and provide them online. We filed a records request on July 3, 2018, seeking copies of all comments sent to DEQ. The law requires the agency to provide records within five work-days or explain why it is not “practically possible” to do so in that time period.
That deadline fell on July 11 and that day DEQ told us it would not get us the emails within the required time or tell us when it would be able to do so. They said the emails had not yet been compiled so they could be provided electronically, due to technical difficulties. We then insisted we be allowed to review the emails in person on DEQ’s computers and were told this too was not possible. We reiterated that the law required better and that we would not accept DEQ’s failure to comply.
Suddenly, just two days later on July 13, DEQ gave us more than 7,000 emails. Apparently, the technical difficulties that DEQ claimed may require more than two additional weeks to solve were now solved – but only under pressure from DPMC. Why had those difficulties not been tackled and solved in the three months since the Board ordered the public notice?
We and Wild Virginia will make all of the comments available online and publish a summary within the next week. Where the Department has failed, we will pick up the slack.
We call on the Board to use this information and hold a meeting well before the currently-advertised date of August 21st and on Governor Northam to order DEQ to now move quickly to do its job. The repeated promises of transparency and sound science by administration officials have not been kept. It is now time for our officials to restore integrity to this process.
Our collective political hypocrisy knows no bounds
By Michael M. Barrick
Tomorrow, on Independence Day as you enjoy a cook-out with your family, don’t forget that at our nation continues its cruel treatment of fellow human beings by deportation and separation of families in many instances.
In a word, we’re are hypocrites. We do not come close to living up to the ideals of our founders, who established a republic designed to acknowledge and protect the rights of all human beings.
So, tell me again. What is it, exactly, that we are celebrating?
Visual Artists Competition Reception and Art Around Caldwell Studio Tour this weekend
LENOIR, N.C. – Art lovers could not ask for a better weekend to enjoy the work of dozens of artists from Caldwell County and beyond.Tonight, the Brush and Palette Club is hosting the opening reception for the Caldwell Visual Artists Competition at the Caldwell Arts Council (CAC). The reception is from 5 – 7 p.m. at the CAC; the exhibit runs through July 28.
Tomorrow, art lovers can see the works of over 80 artisans and crafters during this year’s Art Around Caldwell Studio Tour. Two home studios and three art galleries in and near uptown Lenoir will be open from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Pick up a Studio Tour guide at any site, and plan to visit all five locations! They include:
- Waitsel Smith, 1419 Poplar St NW – Waitsel Smith has been practicing art his entire life: as an illustrator, as a furniture designer, and as a fine art painter. Now, he is expanding out into another art field – teaching. This fall he will be opening his home for art classes in oil and acrylic painting, in watercolor, and in drawing. Come see his studios and galleries featuring more than 40 original works for sale, plus giclee prints, note cards and more. There will even be a work in progress for your enjoyment.
- Pat Jordan, 808 Olive Avenue – Pat will have blue-glazed stoneware cups, soup bowls, and hand-knitted shawls and invites you to come and see!
- Folk Keeper Gallery and Frye Art Studio, 902 West Avenue – Folk art, antiques, and collectables galore! This is the working studio of Southern Folk Artists Susan and Charlie Frye. Come see the work of more than 20 folk artists, and maybe see the Fryes at work in their studio and gallery!
- My Happy Place Gallery, 210 Main Street NW – Over 20 local artisans work together in this cooperative gallery producing a large variety of work in many different mediums and styles. At least one artist will be demonstrating their work during this event.
- Caldwell Arts Council, 601 College Avenue SW – Varian Swieter, creator of ‘Get A Grip Stoneware™” will be on site with functional pottery pieces which are fun and a pleasure to use! In addition, more than 40 local artisans will have work on display for the Caldwell Visual Artists Competition.
The Caldwell Arts Councils is located at 601 College Avenue S.W. in Lenoir. Phone is 828-754-2486. On the web.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018
Topics include information about current judges, selection of judges, and threats to the court system’s impartiality
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections and the West Virginia Association for Justice are hosting a free workshop on the role of the courts in protecting the state’s democracy and citizens’ fundamental rights.
Through a series of interactive discussions and presentations, participants will leave with knowledge about who sits on the bench in West Virginia, how judges are selected/elected, threats to judicial independence, and actions to strengthen and protect the courts impartiality of our courts. An experienced judge, other legal experts, and facilitators from Wellstone Action will be in attendance to help community members learn more about this important and often overlooked branch of government.
“With civil rights and democracy increasingly under attack, the strength and impartiality of our courts may be the last mainstay for achieving justice on a broad range of issues,” said Julie Archer, Coordinator for West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections. “Our rights as voters, parents, workers, and community members depend on the decisions of our elected judges, so it’s imperative that we take steps to ensure that our courts are fair and impartial.”
The workshop will be held Monday, June 18 in Charleston at the Four Points Sheraton and participants have their choice of attending either an afternoon session starting at 1 p.m., or an evening session starting at 5:30 p.m. The workshop is free and includes an appetizer buffet reception from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., however, attendees are asked to register in advance at faircourts101.eventbrite.com.
In the future, I will leave voting decisions to the electorate
By Michael M. Barrick
NOTE: 13 June, 2018: I amend my comments at the end of this essay in which I say I will vote for Price. I won’t. I made the mistake in 2016 of voting for a mediocre Democratic candidate for president in Hillary Clinton. I simply can’t repeat that error this year. There are now five political parties on the ballot in North Carolina. And the sixth option is to not cast a vote at all in this election.
LENOIR, N.C. – Just as early voting was beginning in April, I endorsed Philip Price for the Democratic nomination in the 11th Congressional District. He handily defeated his two opponents. Price received 41 percent, Steve Woodsmall had 31 percent and Scott Donaldson had 28 percent. As the winner, Price will be facing Republican incumbent Mark Meadows in November.
Despite Price’s strong showing, my endorsement was a mistake. I made it based on incomplete information. I recently learned that Price has had 30 arrests over 34 years in at least eight North Carolina counties. The arrests were for infractions from drug charges to traffic violations. Many of the charges were dismissed by district attorneys in some of the counties, but Price was found guilty on at least seven of the charges.
One can read details of many of those charges, including some extensive quotes from Price in the blog, Trappalachia Reports. According to this article, Price proudly based his campaign on legalizing marijuana, largely based on his own experiences of being busted for possessing it. I applaud him for those efforts, for the war on drugs has proven to be a disaster and it is long past time to legalize pot. It is one reason I endorsed him. The other is that he seems to be a candidate that truly understands the working class.
However, I did not know that he was convicted for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Rutherford County in 2007. Seven years earlier, in Orange County, he was convicted for an open container violation. These convictions reveal a reckless disregard for human life.
Marijuana possession, considering the increasing acceptance and legalization of it across the nation, is not my concern; what is my concern is Price’s admission that he hoped his legal troubles, especially from 2007, would not be consequential. According to the Smoky Mountain News, Price said, “These issues did not magically emerge. All of this is public record and has been for years. I talked to the journalist [Davin Eldridge, of Trappalacha] in January and assumed that this article would be coming out back then. I didn’t publicize it myself because I’m not proud of it.”
I understand not being proud of past mistakes. I’ve made my fair share. However, not acknowledging them up front when one should reasonably expect that they will become commonly known in a congressional campaign reveals poor judgment. His failure to be fully transparent from the beginning will now cast a shadow over his integrity – a failure that Meadows will almost certainly exploit.
I’ve learned from the Price experience. I apologize to our readers. While I heard Price speak a few times, it was support he enjoys from a close friend that helped me decide to endorse him. I’m not blaming my friend; I have no idea what he knew. But I know I should have done more research before making an endorsement.
Of course, I will certainly not vote for Mark Meadows. His voting record is one that hurts working class Americans. But, he’s going to be tough to beat. That’s why the Democrat facing him should be the best candidate the party has to offer. While Price worked hard and had an impressive showing in the primary, he needs to make sure there are no more surprises awaiting voters. He is the party’s nominee. I will vote for him because I agree with him on the issues. I’m just disappointed that he thought trying to avoid his past wouldn’t eventually catch up with him.
He told both publications quoted above that he has learned from his mistakes and that what he has learned has made him a better person. That, he says, will serve him well in Congress. That’s probably what my friend believes. I can’t argue with that.
Still, to protect the integrity of The Lenoir Voice and the Appalachian Chronicle, as well as showing appropriate respect for our readers, I’ll cease the endorsements. I’ll just try and report as fully as I can on any candidates I profile. From there, I’ll simply trust the judgment of voters.
Just as Mr. Price said, we need to learn from our mistakes. Hopefully, we both have, as Mark Meadows needs to be retired.
Time to admit we are not a civilized society
By Michael M. Barrick
More children and a teacher have been killed in a school shooting in Texas. We will express our collective outrage for a news cycle or two then go on about our business of letting it happen.
It is time, then, to admit that the school shootings – averaging at least once a week now in the USA – reveal that we are not a civilized society; what we have become, rather, are bystanders and even enablers to a Culture of Death.
This is no longer a debate about gun rights or school safety. Rather, it is a debate about what has gone wrong in America. How have we come to accept a culture of death?
Here are just some of the examples of how we have come to accept and even embrace our culture of death.
- Our granddaughter, who will have her 9th birthday this week, has lived in a nation at war her whole life.
- Our wars have caused death and great emotional and physical injuries to tens of thousands of young Americans; and, hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and throughout the Middle East have died or been made refugees since we have launched our undeclared wars in the region.
- Capital punishment.
- A health systems industry instead of a healthcare system designed to care for every American
- Environmental degradation, public health disasters and sacrificial zones for the fossil fuel industry.
- Funding cuts to mental health services.
- Poor and vulnerable populations shut out from basic government services.
- Food deserts.
- Storing our elders in warehouses to die when they become inconvenient.
- Weekly shootings in our schools, along with mass murders elsewhere, as in Colorado, Florida, South Carolina and many other places.
We have truly reached the end of our rope on this issue. We need leaders who will help us come together. It can no longer be a binary choice. Children or guns is not the question before us. We have many questions that we have, up to this point, ignored. Can we sit at the same table? Do we have the courage to say we are a culture of death? Are we courageous enough to explore why? Are we willing to make the tough choices that show we value life?
Right now, those leaders are not found in legislative bodies, governor mansions or the White House. Those leaders are the friends of the very children being shot down. Let’s follow the examples of our children. They have proven to be far wiser than the elected adults. The students get what the “honorables” don’t – if we don’t stop school shootings, we will have demonstrated, beyond any doubt, that we value profit over life. Our children will grow up knowing their lives just aren’t important.
We must do better. Adults are screaming at each other, when we should be talking. We are setting terrible examples for our children. No wonder they have concluded the only option is violence. We must put every potential solution on the table, regardless of how unpopular.
When Active Shooter Drills become routine exercises for school children – as they have – then we have clearly become a culture that does not value life. We are a culture of death. We needn’t look around anymore for leaders. They already exist. They are the students. We must lock elbows with them so strongly that the alliance can’t be defeated. We must all work to identify and address the root causes of our culture of death. Only then can we help turn our society into one that again values life – at all stages, in all circumstances.
Rallying with teachers, students and friends exhilarating and humbling
By Art Sherwood
RALEIGH – I stood in awe with teachers, students and friends this past Wednesday when tens of thousands of us delivered a very clear message to the North Carolina General Assembly – Public Schools Matter!
That is why I am seeking to serve the citizens of Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties in the State Senate. The teachers are right! The legislature must properly fund our public schools.
Under Democratic governors such as Terry Sandford and Jim Hunt, North Carolina earned a reputation as a leader in public education. I want to help Governor Cooper restore us to that status. Participating in the rally Wednesday was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so. However, if given the chance to serve in the State Senate, I will have many opportunities to stand proudly in support of public schools for our region and all of North Carolina’s children – through votes that restore our schools to their once proud standing.
That is why I stood with:
Teachers, students and allies from Burke County.
Teachers, students and allies from Caldwell County.
A friend from church.
In short, a mass of humanity moving forward in support of public education.
I look forward to the opportunity to stand with them again, in the North Carolina State Senate.