So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca
Showing posts with label Roger Carlton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roger Carlton. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Look for Roger's page on the website

For those who enjoy Roger Carlton's articles, check out his page on this site.

His articles will appear every two weeks on his page. On the website, look for his name at the top of the home page. Let us know if you enjoy his writing.

Glenda Beall

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How to make a better year happen

Thanks to Roger Carlton for his informative and interesting articles this past year. He is a columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper.

This has been a difficult year for most folks. The only good news to some is that the year is nearly over.

In a few days, we move on to 2021. We tend to segment time and history into decades. The Fabulous Fifties and the Roaring Twenties come to mind. What historians and pundits will call the last decade will be interesting. How do you find a phrase that melds hope with despair? That will be the challenge.

This column is about moving forward in a positive manner that will allow us to find emotional peace in difficult times.

Here are a few thoughts that help me to be positive and maintain a sense of balance:


  • Who cares if the glass is half-full or half-empty? The key is which direction it is going. Try to keep the glass filling up.
  • History and its impact on our lives is like a pendulum on a well-wound clock. The pendulum can only go so far to the right or left until it swings back to the center. The key is to keep the clock wound up and not let it run down.
  • Always tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember what you said.
  • Follow the wisdom of our new Secretary of the Interior Designee Deb Haaland regarding the environment in which we live. Think of the world in terms of the Seven Generation rule. Make all decisions with the next seven generations in mind. What we do today will impact our descendants whom we will never know.
  • Don't try to eat elephants. It can't be done.
  • Turn off your devices and news feeds for at least 30 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Use the time to think and chill a bit. Whatever riled you up may not be as important later or may change more to your satisfaction in the time it took to relax.  
  • Schedule only what you can accomplish each day. Not everything can be finished in one day, but progress can be made. Jot down what you haven't finished at the end of the day and walk away. There is no need to obsess over the undone if it is on your "To Do" list for the next morning.
  • Learn from the past but don't live in it.
  • Read Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan. He profoundly writes "We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."   
  • Listen to the Bee Gees wonderful song Words if your challenges seem insurmountable. "This world has lost its glory. Let's start a brand new story. Now my love, right now. There'll be no other time. And I can show you how my love." We all need to start a brand new story in some way. 

This columnist would be remiss if he did not thank his wife Beth for her editorial insights. Further thanks go to Glenda Beall for her being the muse who helped me learn what "Creative Non-fiction" was all about. Thanks also to Kim Hainge and Jim Kreiner. Their dedication to the natural wonders of the world in which we live is an inspiration. Finally, thanks to David Brown, Kevin Hensley and the Graham Star staff for keeping our local paper alive and remembering that sunshine is always the best disinfectant.


Friday, December 11, 2020

Do we need the Electoral College?

Roger Carlton, newspaper columnist

This article first appeared in the Cherokee Scout newspaper published weekly in Murphy, NC/

The debates are debated. The conventions have convened. The election is over. The canvassing boards have canvassed. Frivolous litigation has been adjudicated. Yet we still don’t have a final decision on who our next President will be. Something is wrong with this picture and it is not Hillary’s e-mails or President Trump’s unwillingness to accept reality.

What is wrong is an anachronism that our Founders named the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is made up of 538 members. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, each state is a winner takes all situation. Whoever wins in the general election gets all the votes for that state. To win in the Electoral College, 270 votes are needed. The vote will be held December 14, 2020. That is eight days after the deadline for the states to certify their elections and more than a month with a lame duck POTUS. If a state doesn’t certify, the decision goes to Congress so states always meet the deadline to certify.

The Electoral College origins come from fear by the Founders that the big population states would overcome the smaller less populous rural states. That theory certainly bombed in 2016 when some bad strategy on the part of Hillary Clinton led her to ignore some of the smaller states and she ended up winning the general election and losing the Electoral College vote. Winning one and losing the other is not like eating a box of Cracker Jacks. There is no guaranteed prize for the loser of the Electoral College vote.

The big population fear was compounded when the Founders compromised on the slavery issue. Slaves were counted in the population of the southern states but only 40 percent of the actual number of 400,000 slaves were included in the count at the time the Founders worked on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That number had grown to nearly 3.5 million by the time the Civil War ended.

There was great concern that if the slaves were freed and allowed to vote in the future, the numbers would shift in a popular election to give more power to the South. 

To avoid this potential from happening, the Electoral College was originally created to balance the popular election outcome with an elite process wherein the voters were a small number of hand-picked folks. After all, why should we trust the unwashed masses to vote for their President? Let’s control the rabble by setting up a second-tier process with voters whose numbers and loyalties reflect the distribution of U.S. Senators and Representatives.

We need to do away with the Electoral College and let the plurality of votes be the end of the $14 billion dollar exercise in the democracy we call the 2020 Presidential election. That is what was spent on the 2020 election. That number is appalling.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will win the Electoral College with 306 votes which is the same number President Trump got in 2016. We already know the outcome, so why waste the time and money? Let’s move on with bringing our country back together and regaining our leadership role in world events. There is too much to do to wait even one unnecessary day.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Gracious Winning - Gracious Losing

Roger Carlton wrote this article  before election day. It is about winning and losing. He is a columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper.

Writing this week's column presents a real challenge. Timing is everything. The election voting will be over before the Graham Star appears. The election itself may not be over for weeks. The Supreme Court did not decide Bush v. Gore until December 12, 2000. Simply stated, the decision was that Florida could not do a statewide recount because the process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This was because every county in Florida utilized a different process to manage the recount. The Supreme's decision was by no means unanimous and there were more conservatives than liberals on the Court at that time.

So, this column is about winning and losing with grace and dignity. In sports this is called sportsmanlike conduct. In life, how you handle defeat may be called courage to start over or it may be called sour grapes. How you handle winning may be called gloating or it may be called bighearted. In politics winning may result in a scorched earth winner takes all scenario or a generous realization that shared power in a democracy enhances solving challenges. Where we go over the next few weeks in these polar opposite possibilities is anyone's guess.

There are many examples from which we can learn. The Lincoln Douglas debates were a series of seven verbal contests that took place in 1858. The issue plain and simple was slavery and the state's rights to decide. The debates were intense and civil. There was a dignity about the arguments that we just don't enjoy today.

Lincoln and Douglas ended up as the main Presidential candidates in the 1860 election. There were two other candidates from the Southern Democratic Party and the Constitutional Union. Lincoln won with 180 Electoral College votes against 123 for his three opponents. His inaugural speech was made after seven states had left the Union and formed the Confederacy. Steven Douglas' concession speech graciously stated "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you Mr. President."

Al Gore was gracious after the Supreme Court decision. The very act of conceding demonstrates love of Country more than love of self. Mr. Gore said " What remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside."

President Ford pardoned disgraced President Nixon. This was done because the Country needed to heal from the Vietnam conflict and from the Watergate scandal that sank Nixon's presidency. Many historians think that the pardon was a major factor in President Ford's loss of his second term election. The pardon was a selfless act.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote. She conceded by saying "We must accept this result and look toward the future. Donald Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead." That must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

It is part of our soul as Americans to be magnanimous winners. World War II was won at great cost. We knew that it was our responsibility to rebuild a devastated world. Hence the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and the occupation of Japan which helped the former enemy to restructure their government and create a democracy. 

We can only hope that the next few weeks will demonstrate gracious winning and gracious losing.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A conversation about the candidates

Roger Carlton is our guest today. He is a columnist with the Graham Star Newspaper. 

The best conversations with someone of opposing views begin with the discovery that there might be some areas of agreement. For instance, we might all agree that political ads painting your opponent as the devil incarnate don't garner many votes. These ads do more to demean the candidate who campaigns on their opponent's alleged faults rather than their own strengths.

We might also agree that the Biden Harris ticket and what it stands for is the polar opposite of the Trump Pence ticket. We can also most likely agree that any more debates will shed no illumination on the candidates and be thankful that the final two debates have been called off.  

So, maybe these agreements can form the basis for a conversation that doesn't expect to change your mind - just to give you something to think about before you vote. Following are some characteristics that this columnist thinks are important for the President of the United States and the leader of the free world to demonstrate: 

  • Trustworthiness is critical. What is the ratio of truth to outright lies, distortions, political hyperbole or just plain gaffes? Reviewing the past four years, there is one candidate who has a demonstrable record-breaking track record of excuses, blaming others and distortions of the truth. When caught, we hear about fake news or walking something back or it was just a joke. This criterion is pretty easy to judge.
  • Developing a great leadership team. Expertise that is listened to, people of integrity, people that our allies respect and our enemies fear, people who are not afraid to tell the President that he is wrong and people that are loyal because the loyalty has been earned are all characteristics of the leadership team we should expect. The group surrounding the White House incumbent has come and gone voluntarily, been fired or indicted and convicted. Hardly the team that should be continued for a second term.
  • The ability to respect expertise and develop policy based on scientifically proven facts. For those of us with friends and families that have had their loved ones die , who are experiencing the economic impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic or have their children and grandchildren failing in school, the sad conclusion is that the White House has failed to develop a national program to deal with this tragedy. No, it is not the Chinese disease. It is the world's disease and we are part of the world.
  • Showing empathy.  Empathy means you care about those less fortunate than yourself. This means the 30 million who remain unemployed and may soon be evicted. This means immigrants who want to come to this country and are willing to follow the rules. Desperate people do desperate things. To separate them from their children is not empathy. It is inhumane.
  • Having the foresight to recognize that we need to address climate change and sea level rise. Consider people in California or along the Gulf Coast. Continuing to support fossil fuel use rather than alternate energy sources will put us behind a world that is quickly moving away from the old technologies.
  • The ability to acknowledge the pain of others. Calling the folks who want to find a solution to police abuse of force a "bunch of thugs" ignores the reality of both the Black and Blue Lives Matter movements. Branding your opponent a "socialist" because he won't abandon the 20 million people who have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act does not solve the issues of improving medical care for all our citizens and taxpayers. There are 440 people in Graham County who would not have insurance without this program and every one of them should beware of the White House goal of killing this benefit. 
  • Respect for the voters' intelligence.  Dissing a patriot like Senator McCain because he was a prisoner of war and showing disrespect for Gold Star families is a slap in the face to our military. Abandoning treaties and organizations causes our allies to lose their trust in us and our enemies take advantage. Bragging about a tax reform package that made the rich richer and did nothing for the middle class. Ignoring income inequality only angers the workers who see the corporate titans become wealthy as Midas while they struggle to put food on the table and provide a better education for their children. Paying your fair share of taxes is not being a "sucker and a loser."  It may be "smart" but it is not right and certainly does not earn my vote.

Many of the residents of Graham County rely on the Good Book for guidance when conflicts occur. Consider Mathew 7:15. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Predictions of massive voter fraud, unwillingness to agree to a peaceful transition if you lose, creating distrust in wearing a mask until you get the disease, wild conspiracy theories that stoke up hate groups are all behaviors that seem to define false prophecy. 

We all need to look deeply into our hearts and have a conversation with ourselves and people we respect. Are the lifelong mountain values inherited from generations past best continued by the incumbent? Was America made great again in the past four years? Should we trust the next four years to someone who has had few leadership successes and many failures? The unavoidable answer to these questions is that the risk is too great. That is why the Biden Harris ticket is the best way forward.



Thursday, September 24, 2020


Roger Carlton is our guest on this blog. He has another thought provoking post about our political situation today. CAN WE HANDLE THE TRUTH is a good question we must all ask ourselves.
Roger is columnist with the The Graham Starr newspaper.

Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" famously said "You can't handle the truth." This line has stuck with me since the 1992 legal drama directed by Rob Reiner was released. Two hard to handle truth moments arose last week in an article in The Atlantic magazine and with the release of Bob Woodward's new book Rage about President Trump. The first question is whether or not we were told the truth? The second question is what are we going to do about it when we vote in the upcoming election?
The Atlantic magazine has been published for 163 years. Early writers included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The publication's editor in chief is Jeffrey Goldberg who has won many journalism awards and is viewed by his peers as having impeccable credentials. This publication is no National Enquirer that reports weekly about miracle diets, impregnation by Martians and the imminent death of some famous person.

The September 3, 2020 edition carried an article about the President's disrespect for the military. The President was quoted describing military personnel as "losers" and "suckers." Earlier statements disparaging Gold Star parents and describing Senator John McCain in the context of "I like people who weren't captured" were used to show a pattern of disrespect.

Response to the article was strong. The Biden campaign jumped on it to their advantage. The Trump campaign said comments were taken out of context and it was fake news. If there was a weakness in the article, it was that the people who spoke to Mr. Goldberg were not named. This was not about distorting the truth; it was fear of retaliation from the White House.

Rage is the summation of 18 face to face interviews with the President. Woodward is a modern-day reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow. Woodward has covered presidents since Nixon. Along with his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein, their book All the President's Men exposed the Watergate scandal and eventually led to Nixon's resignation. One thing is certain, Woodward is an impeccable researcher and may be my generation's most famous journalist.

Edward R. Murrow was a TV newscaster and commentator who sank Senator Joseph McCarthy in a journalistic evisceration that would probably not pass an editor's scalpel today. McCarthy was a serial liar who ruined the lives of many people by labelling them Communists. The times were scary at the beginning of the Cold War with Russia just as they are today with economic malaise and COVID 19 deaths.

If there is a weakness in Woodward's Rage, it is regarding a journalist/author's responsibility to release news that has a critical impact rather than wait until the book is released. Since the President admitted he knew in January 2020 about the dangers of the Covid 19 virus from sources in China and told Woodward in one of the interviews, why didn't he report on that revelation immediately?  Would not releasing the President's own admission about not wanting to alarm the public have shamed the White House into doing something much earlier and saved many lives? Woodward's response that he is an author and not a reporter seems weak. His stronger response is that many other reporters were covering the White House's denial of the severity of the crisis.

So, what are the ethics that both The Atlantic article author and Woodward should be guided by? The Society of Professional Journalists has a Code of Ethics. This guidance says "Journalists should take responsibility for their work. Verify information before releasing it." The Code also says "Consider sources' motives before promising anonymity." One final piece of advice is "Journalists should balance the public's need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness."

It seems to this columnist that both bombshell revelations last week met the test of journalistic ethics. The air is escaping from the Washington balloon at a faster pace due to these extraordinary journalistic works. The real question is whether or not anyone has changed their mind enough to change their vote? That is something to think about. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Voter suppression is alive and well

Roger Carlton

  Roger Carlton writes about a subject on the minds of all of us at this time. He is columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper in Robbinsville, NC
The right to vote is so important that it appears in Article 1 of the Constitution. Responsibility for keeping the voting process fair was granted to the legislatures in 1787. The goal of suppressing votes began in earnest nearly immediately.

African American men were not granted the right to vote until 1870. The southern Jim Crow laws, poll taxes and literacy requirements, took that right away. 

Women were not granted the right to vote until 1920. Young people 18-20 could not vote until 1971. Prior to the amendments to the Constitution that removed these impediments to voting, millions of folks were kept from the polls due to race, gender or youth.

The effort by the Postmaster General to make the Post Office more "efficient" is putting lipstick on the pig of voter suppression especially given the inevitable disruptions impacting timely delivery of millions of additional mail-in/absentee ballots caused by COVID 19 fears. In the 2016 election, 20,000 military ballots were rejected mostly due to late delivery. There were more than 550,000 ballots rejected in the 2016 primaries for a variety of reasons.

Mass purges of "inactive" voters are a form of voter suppression. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 16 million voters were purged from 2014-16. That's a lot of purging given that 137 million voted in the 2016 election. In the recent close Governor election in Georgia, 70 percent of the purged voters were Black. Suppose you show up at the polls and are told you have been purged. States have removed the "same day" ability to register to suppress the purged voters from regaining their right to vote.

Requiring voters to vote at their home poll is a form of voter suppression. It is tough for hourly workers to leave their jobs early to vote so they should be able to vote at a poll near their work site. Reducing the number of days of early voting, eliminating polling places and not removing physical barriers to access are methods to suppress voters.

The White House has been casting unfounded aspersions for months on the security of the upcoming election. The remedy proposed a few days ago was to place police and sheriff deputies at the polling places to ensure security. What a smart way to keep people of color away from the polls. Even worse, police presence at the polls is a first sign of a totalitarian state.

The Tennessee legislature just passed a bill signed by the Governor that makes protesters camping on State land felons subject to six months in jail if convicted. Being a convicted felon eliminates your right to vote in Tennessee. The British Magna Carta granted the right to seek redress from government in 1215. The First Amendment of the Constitution grants the right to petition without fear of reprisals or punishment. It won't be long till the new Tennessee form of voter suppression is tossed by the courts.

To ensure that the feared problem of millions of absentee ballots clogging the Post Office is minimized, our local Elections Board should make a loud and clear statement that their staff will do everything legally possible to mail ballots early and go to the Post Office frequently as deadlines approach to pick up ballots. The Elections Board should hold its canvassing (validating and rejecting ballots process) open to the media and public in a large, open and socially distanced room. Shedding some light on the criteria adopted by the State Elections Board for rejecting ballots would be informative to any doubters of their fairness.

To close, blaming foreign intervention, creating fear of vaporous threats, failed efforts to limit the capabilities of the Post Office and a plethora of voter suppression techniques will not keep Americans from protecting their right to vote by the simple act of voting. The real threat is lethargy and procrastination. 

Request your absentee ballot early and submit it with plenty of time to be delivered. Saving our right to vote in a fair and honestly managed election is our own responsibility and there is no excuse for failure. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Don't Politicize Our TVA

Roger Carlton
Guest writer - Roger Carlton, columnist for The Graham Star newspaper

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established by Congress in 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing and economic development in seven states that were heavily impacted by the Great Depression. 

TVA is a business owned by the government. Fiscal 2018 revenues exceeded $11 billion and profits were $1.1 billion. The Board of Directors are nominated by the U.S. President and confirmed by the Senate. The Directors appoint the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). All in all, this construct provides a nice balance and has worked extraordinarily well for the southern Appalachian region and its people.

So why would the White House fire the Chair of the Board and a board member? The ostensible reason was a decision by TVA to lay-off more than 100 contract workers and outsource the function to three big companies including Accenture, Capgemini and CGI who make their billions using many foreign workers. This political misstep followed TVA's decision last year to shut down two coal fired power plants despite undelivered 2016 campaign promises to rebuild the coal industry. 

Terrible timing right before an election in which the plight of 30 million potential voters who are unemployed and suffering greatly will certainly impact the outcome of the election. Perhaps this public flogging of an agency that provides service in some deeply red states over losing jobs might have something to do with the re-election campaign.

The White House also threatened to pack the Board with members who would in turn fire TVA CEO Jeff Lyash while making great hay over his $8 million salary. A government employee making $8 million even though he runs a multi-billion profitable enterprise doesn't play well in an election year.

To save the day, Lyash and his new Board Chair jumped on one of TVA's corporate jets and supplicated their way into the Oval Office. On second thought they said, the outsourcing deal might not be the best approach and the 100 jobs were saved. Everyone declared victory and there is peace in the valley - at least the Tennessee Valley.

So, what does all this mean to the people of Graham County? TVA owns Fontana Dam and leases out the operation of Fontana Resort. The recent closure of Fontana Resort by our local operators due to the impacts of COVID 19 required the rapid location of a new operator. TVA's business-like approach has allowed the retention of a new operator to happen quickly and the 2020 tourist season will be saved along with a lot of jobs. If TVA ran like a bureaucracy, we would be lucky to have a new operator by the summer of 2021.

While TVA does not own Cheoah and Santeetlah dams, it controls the spillways in order to regulate the flow of water during potential flood situations. This is important because all three dams in Graham County are part of a system that must be operated by expert hydrologists and weather forecasters in a cohesive, regional data-based manner. This is very important to Graham Countians. Politicizing an organization that has the awesome responsibilities assigned to TVA is a great mistake.

In some small way, TVA's CEO deserves an apology for the bashing he took over salary.  A division of a multi-billion-dollar Canadian company, Brookfield Renewable Corporation, owns our two dams and Lake Santeetlah. They do a good job by and large. By way of comparison, the CEO of the Brookfield division that owns our dams, Sachin Shah, made $3.8 million in 2018 and roughly $12.6 million in 2019. That is serious money even by TVA standards.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Three Branches of Government

Roger Carlton

We welcome Roger Carlton back for another of his interesting posts. Roger is columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper in Robbinsville, NC

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is one of three branches of the Federal Government. Congress and the Executive Branch are the other two.

One thing is certain. The Founding Fathers had great experience with an all-powerful monarch in the form of King George III. They wanted nothing to do with repeating the tyranny of that leadership so they created a form of government with balance of powers. The Congress made the laws, the President carried them out and the Supreme Court settled disputes. Pretty close to a perfect construct at the time. Not so good today because many of our leaders have forgotten that deliberation of issues based on scientific facts and compassionate implementation is the necessary foundation of democracy.

My conservative friends rejoiced over the Senate's confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito. They rent garments and gnashed teeth over the appointments of liberal Associate Justices Steven Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Yet, until recently, the past six presidents, of which three were D's and three were R's, did a pretty good job of bi-partisan appointments of fair and balanced people. The labels conservative and liberal don't seem to apply to all votes of the current SCOTUS.

Recent decisions by the Supreme Court have my conservative friends in a dither. They have concluded that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has sold them out. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Supreme Court has acted responsibly and defied their pundit-imposed labels in these controversial cases. Most importantly, one of the three branches needed to put on its adult britches and avoid the chaos being created by the other two.
Here are a few of the controversial cases. The first is letting our President know that he does not enjoy blanket immunity to avoid responding to subpoenas for his tax records. The Court acted responsibly by sending the debate back to lower courts so that the tax filings would not be released until after the election in November. To quote Chesterfield Smith who was President of the American Bar Association during the Watergate investigation, when the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to release certain damaging Watergate information for which he claimed executive privilege, "No man is above the law."

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recent decision stopped the White House from ending the program which has kept 650,000 young immigrants in limbo for years. Ending the program would have sent them back to the countries from which they were taken by their parents. The Supreme Court made it clear that the Administration had not made a rational case to justify the harsh decision. The same reasoning caused the 2019 decision to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census.

The Louisiana abortion legislation that doctors had to have privileges in nearby hospitals "to protect the women" was overturned because the exact same law had already been overturned in Texas. The majority opinion regarding expansion of the Civil Rights Act to include employment for the LGBTQ community was written by President Trump's appointment Neil Gorsuch. The ability of employers to deny providing insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious or moral beliefs was upheld. One other case allows states to use public funds for scholarships to attend religious schools where only private schools were allowed before. There have been decisions by the SCOTUS that make both liberals and conservatives happy and unhappy.

So, save your garments and don't wear out your teeth. Let's respect the Supreme Court as our last line of defense against the chaos we see in the other two branches.

Send us your comments about this article. Let us hear your opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States. Send email or leave a comment in the Comments section below.  

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Political Correctness Gone Wild

This post is by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC
This column launches headlong into an important and controversial subject. One that is red hot now as it should be. The subject is the removal of symbols, statuary, memorials, flags, street names and many other "honoraries" to people whose principles and deeds in their time have grown to become offensive in our time. A key example is the current debate over the Confederate flag being a portion of the Mississippi state flag. That will soon come to an end just like it did in South Carolina after the mass murder which took place in an African American church five years ago last week. Good riddance to that symbol which has lost It’s meaning as a symbol of the Confederacy and has come to represent a hateful defiance of the rights of African Americans to be treated equally under the law.

Taking symbols yet another step, the Black Lives Matter demonstrations both peaceful and riotous, have brought to the fore the destruction or voluntary removal of hundreds of statues and monuments to Confederate heroes. Recognizing that the fervor on both sides of the removal issue is at a fever pitch, it is best that our elected leaders decide to remove the statues before they are destroyed. We are making a mistake to simply take these memorials out of harm's way.

There needs to be a plan to place the statues in a museum that explains to future generations how our democracy nearly broke up over the issues that these statues commemorate so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past. To obliterate history is to enhance the probability of repeating our mistakes.

The National Museum of African American History in Washington D.C. displays slave shackles and other artifacts of slavery. The museum tells the story of the horrors of slavery. It also tells the story of the many accomplishments of the descendants of the slaves. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum uses the Nazi Swastika to symbolize the horrors of the Holocaust. The displays of belongings of people who died in the gas chambers are powerful. So powerful that a warning is given to parents to prepare their children regarding what they are about to see. 

Now we move from sensitive preservation of history in a proper context to political correctness gone wild. The Board of Trustees of prestigious Ivy League Princeton University just decided to remove President Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs and a residence hall. Woodrow Wilson had been the President of Princeton, the Governor of New Jersey where it is located and the two-term 28th President of the United States. He was accused of 'racist thinking and policies" which made him an "inappropriate name sake." 

Let's acknowledge that his administration should have done a better job of controlling a racist U.S. Civil Service Commission. The agency's director should have been fired and better treatment of African Americans in government should have been a priority. Of this, there is no question. The real question is why do we go to college? To learn the good, the bad and the ugly. To be able to discern good from evil. Princeton's Board, comprised of entirely Princeton graduates, seems to have forgotten that its students should be allowed to decide what kind of leader Woodrow Wilson was.

But here is the "but." Woodrow Wilson was the President who led us through World War I. He pushed hard to establish the League of Nations which might have helped to avoid World War II if it had not been killed by the Senate. He negotiated the Treaty of Versailles which ended the war. For this he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He appointed Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court and he oversaw the creation of the Federal Reserve Act which established the U.S. Central Bank which has been the bulwark of protecting monetary policy from political interference.

In balance, his accomplishments greatly exceed his weaknesses. You can say the same for John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Andrew Carnegie, Joseph Kennedy and many others. They all had character flaws and none were perfect. We need to understand their mistakes and applaud their philanthropic generosity. President Wilson suffered a stroke which made it very difficult for him to function for the last two years of his term. It was a different time and he remained the titular head of government. He passed away three years after the end of his second term. To erase his name from a university he served with distinction and an institution that trains future government leaders for the entire world just goes too far. It is political correctness gone wild.

Appeasement is not progress. It is a momentary victory for the aggrieved. It allows the history police to say "we hear you," but, it does not solve problems and set new paradigms for future respectful relations between the races. My ten-year old grand-daughter Claire, wanted to read this column. She had great wisdom when she said, "I don't understand why they want to erase Wilson's name and no-one wants to take those other names away." Maybe she should be on the board of Princeton.