Monday, September 7, 2020

Eugene Z. Hirsch 12-18-31 -- 9-3-20


This post is written by Mary Ricketson



Dr. Gene Hirsch, poet
Gene Hirsch, MD, a poet of our mountains, died September 3, 2020, after a long struggle with cancer.  He was a well-known writer in western North Carolina.  He taught poetry at John C. Campbell Folk School for many years, and helped Nancy Simpson start North Carolina Writers Network West 25 years ago or more.  He regularly attended critique groups, read at organized events, and taught small groups of poets at his home in Murphy.  Gene was teacher and mentor to be remembered.  He lived in Pittsburgh PA and in Murphy NC, and visited Murphy often, until May 2019.

Gene was known as a loving man who listened deeply to every poem from any kind of writer, rustic beginner to polished expert.  He cared about the craft of writing and also cared about the person writing the poem.  As a physician, he had a long career practicing medicine.  In later years he taught doctors and medical students to provide the best of medical and human help to dying patients.  The following is a quote, introduction to his long essay, Intimacy and Dying, written earlier this year, unpublished.
I am a retired geriatrician who, for thirty five years, taught humanistic values in Clinical Medicine to medical students and doctors. From 2000 to 2010, at Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh, I guided students through the ancient clinical art of responding to struggles and needs of dying people. Among other curricular activities, with permission, we (2 -4 students and I) visited patients in their homes, not to learn procedures for obtaining medical histories, but for the specific purpose of listening to their thoughts, feelings, ordeals and supports. They understood that they were being placed in the role of teachers rather than patients. This proved to be important to all.


Gene kept his illness private, made no apology for that request.  He asked me to talk with him late in his dying process, asked me to be “ears to listen, for some day my dying to be worth my life.”  I will have more to say about that after I have settled enough to review the scratchy notes I kept of this time.  He also asked me to organize a memorial after his death. He said he wants to be remembered in our mountains.  Once the world is safe to gather in person, when the pandemic is over, we will have a memorial for memory, poems, and a celebration of his life.

His body has been cremated.  At some time, in respect for his request, his family will spread his ashes privately at his former home in Murphy.  He gave that home to his wife’s son and family, a family who loves the mountains and the privilege to vacation there. 

During the final months of Gene’s illness, he engaged the help of a friend and poet in Pittsburgh, Judy Robinson, to organize and seek publication of his poems.  The result of that effort is indeed a book, published 7-15-20, available from Amazon, details below.

Cards and words of sympathy may be sent to Gene's wife, Virginia Spangler, 139 Overlook Drive, Verona PA 15147.

In fond memory of Gene Hirsch,  
Mary Ricketson



Dr. Eugene Hirsch, Gene, to all who know him, has extended to me the privilege of editing his poetry, an assignment I accepted with pleasure. This collection, “Speak, Speak,” is the culmination of Gene’s long career of writing, and reflects the complexity of his mind and experience. As a physician/writer he joins a distinguished list, and in my opinion as a reader/editor, he earns his place among the others, notably Maugham, Chekhov, William Carlos Williams.
Judith R Robinson, editor





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 24, 2020

PANDEMIC DISCOUNT ON THE WRITING DIALOGUE WITH CAROL CRAWFORD SEPTEMBER 24

CAROL CRAWFORD


On Thursday, September 24, 2 - 4 PMCarol Crawford, published writer and editor, will teach a class via Zoom for those who want to improve their writing of dialogue.

Bring your characters to life with dialogue that is authentic, clear, and compelling. Capture the flavor of personality and culture through speech that sounds real. In-class exercises will cover word choice, tone, action beats, what to leave out, and format in this interactive workshop. 
Register no later than September 19. 


Email gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com to receive instructions for registration.

Fee - $25

Sponsored by NCWN-West and Writers Circle around the Table.


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.



Saturday, August 8, 2020

Answering the question: Why do we have political parties


Roger Carlton
Humans like organization. Bureaucracies for government, religions to explain or excuse the inexplicable and political parties to make choices in leadership.
We organize the materials that make up our biosphere into the periodic chart. We arrange everything into some measurable system like the autism spectrum. We assign value with money. Our Constitution requires a census every 10 years. During my career with Lockheed Martin, we were told that “you are what you measure.”

Political parties allow people to identify with their emotions at the ballot box. I am conservative so I am a Republican. I am liberal so I am a Democrat. I don’t want to be categorized so I am an Independent. I can’t handle the civil rights movement so I am a Dixiecrat. I hug trees so I am a Green Party member. I hate anyone but Aryans so I am a Nazi and so on and so forth throughout history.

People are tribal. We are only 10,000 years or so from living in caves.
So we need political parties to let us express our desire to win at the ballot box and not with clubs. It is when the political parties forget their mission to organize and return to their tribal roots that we need to worry as a civilization. Let’s hope that people realize that in November.













Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Sixty-Seventh anniversary of the end of the Korean Conflict July 27


My husband, Barry, served in Korea in the 1950s.  My friend and former writing student, Ron Hill, is our guest writer today at Writers Circle around the Table. He was present the day this war ended and tells us some history we might not know.
Pvt. Ron Hill 

We mark the 67th Anniversary of the end of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula as all parties sat down at Panmunjom to sign the formal truce documents.  I recall the day as if it were today; I was there!!

Headlines around the world were banner-sized, announcing the years of fighting. The example shown here is just one example that can be found online or any news archive.

Armistice Agreement for the Restoration of the South Korean State (1953)
The Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950, when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, officially ended on July 27, 1953. At 10 a.m., in Panmunjom, scarcely acknowledging each other, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr., senior delegate, United Nations Command Delegation; North Korean Gen. Nam Il, senior delegate, Delegation of the Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Volunteers, signed 18 official copies of the tri-language Korean Armistice Agreement.

It was the end of the longest negotiated armistice in history: 158 meetings spread over two years and 17 days. That evening at 10 p.m. the truce went into effect. The Korean Armistice Agreement is somewhat exceptional in that it is purely a military document—no nation is a signatory to the agreement.

Specifically the Armistice Agreement:

1. suspended open hostilities

2. withdrew all military forces and equipment from a 4,000-meter-wide zone, establishing the Demilitarized Zone as a buffer between the forces;

3. prevented both sides from entering the air, ground, or sea areas under control of the other;

4. arranged release and repatriation of prisoners of war and displaced persons; and

5. established the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) and other agencies to discuss any violations and to ensure adherence to the truce terms.

The armistice, while it stopped hostilities, was not a permanent peace treaty between nations.

President Eisenhower, who was keenly aware of the 1.8 million American men and women who had served in Korea and the 36,576 Americans who had died there, played a key role in bringing about a cease-fire. In announcing the agreement to the American people in a television address shortly after the signing, he said, in part,

“Soldiers, sailors and airmen of sixteen different countries have stood as partners beside us throughout these long and bitter months. In this struggle we have seen the United Nations meet the challenge of aggression—not with pathetic words of protest, but with deeds of decisive purpose. And so at long last the carnage of war is to cease and the negotiation of the conference table is to begin……We hope that all nations may come to see the wisdom of composing differences in this fashion before, rather than after, there is resort to brutal and futile battle.”

“Now as we strive to bring about that wisdom, there is, in this moment of sober satisfaction, one thought that must discipline our emotions and steady our resolution. It is this: We have won an armistice on a single battleground—not peace in the world. We may not now relax our guard nor cease our quest”

Ron Hill received his formal education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, DC. He and his wife Shirley are current members of the Chattahoochee United Methodist Church, Helen, GA. Ron enlisted in the United States Army in 1952 and is a veteran of three wars: the Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm.  He retired December 31, 1973 from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations, Headquarters, Department of the United States Army, the Pentagon, Washington, DC.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Congressman John Lewis, a Servant Leader?

Stu Moring and his wife, Gay
My brother-in-law, Stu Moring, former Public Works Director for Roswell, GA, said this about Congressman John Lewis. 

“I only met him one time, when I was in Washington for legislator visits with ASCE. I was so honored to meet him, but he treated me like he was the one being honored.  He was a true Servant Leader!”

I asked Stu what he meant by Servant Leader and this is his answer: 

My use of the term servant leader comes from the book by the same name by Ken Blanchard ("The One Minute Manager") and Phil Hodge. 

The idea is to "lead like Jesus."  From Matthew 20:25-28, "Jesus called them together and said, ' You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." 

They compare self-serving leaders with servant leaders as follows: "Self-serving leaders spend most of their time protecting their status. If you give them feedback, how do they usually respond? Negatively. They think your feedback means that you don't want their "leadership" any more.  Servant leaders, however, look at leadership as an act of service. They embrace and welcome feedback as a source of useful information on how they can provide better service."  

Jesus, of course, was the perfect model, and I believe this is an effective approach for anyone in leadership, but particularly for politicians who are intended to be serving their constituents.  Not exactly what we have in Washington right now. In short, I believe a servant leader sees his job as providing the necessary tools and resources to his "subordinates" so they can excel at the service they ultimately provide. 

With that approach, I was able to surround myself with some truly exceptional people, and they were able to accomplish extraordinary results. Think about it--I didn't have the strength or stamina to dump garbage cans all day long, or the skill to repair broken water lines and meters, but guys I worked with excelled at those tasks.  And that's what servant leadership is all about.  



Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0849996597/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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