Tag Archives: Society

Respecting Differing Opinions

SEABROOKS SAYS: Attention please.  This is a minor power move as I seize the liberty that comes to the publisher. The article (actually a letter) that follows was just recently written by my 90 year old friend, Presbyterian minister and business consultant who has mentored me for decades.  I believe lots of very interested Americans are currently dealing with this issue right now – maybe you  too.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW – WHAT WILL YOU DO?

 23 February 

Howdy,

As indicated earlier, my village was struck with a malevolent virus from which I am slowly recovering. I have set tomorrow as the day to celebrate my back to normal. 

Sadly, during these weeks, things have occurred that might define a wider gap between you and me. Things that I will say below might find a strong difference of opinion.  

I read the Brooks article about resistance. His reference to Bonhoeffer sounds like what the “opposition forces” are about. St. Benedict’s model has appeal for the likes of me. The more strident forms of resistance to which he refers sound like guidance from the mainline media. Brooks was interviewed in a February 1 article in Christian Century – “Chasing beauty, finding grace.” I liked that article better. I have followed Brooks for years and read, Character. I disagree with his politics, but respect his thoughtfulness and the influence that theology has had on him including that of Reinhold Niebuhr.

However, he and other good people have chosen sides in the current political and cultural conflicts with which I disagree. In my unique career and associations, I have come to respect those who build things more than those who critique the builders. The harshest thought that is with me now is that we are witnessing a well-funded and well-led revolution to convert America from the democracy that has been our history to state managed socialism.

When you have the money of George Soros, the legal pool of the ACLU (now full of funds), the still-in-tact Illinois syndicate, a brilliant and “enchanting” leader like Obama who is leading the charge to revive his legacy, political “tools” like Nancy Pelosi, and the vast media that has chosen to use its power for a crusade more than for information – you have a substantial opposition to an administration that won the electoral votes and is bringing to the government people who have track records of achievement and who, instead of seeking political power, simply want to contribute to a sustainable future for our nation.  

I have confidence that those now aligned with the administration that includes political support in both houses of Congress, most state legislatures and state governors will prevail because they have the Constitution, commitment to obey laws, leaders who have made things happen instead of those who have spent their lives climbing political ladders, and millions of citizens willing to sustain their support in spite of ugly intimidation from the organized and often compensated protesters in their faces.

Sadly, your Academy has mostly aligned with the opposition. I heard a Duke economics professor report that he and many colleagues propose a federally-funded, national employment for all with a minimum guaranteed compensation. Duke has a program to equip students on how best to protest Trump. Many conservative students must closet themselves from intimidation from their professors and many professors encourage protests that often include criminal assaults against private properties.

I check on the news at night and check on my on-line media reports the next day. The gap between what happened and the twist that the New York Times (NYT) gives has led me to unsubscribe to the NYT. I still follow the Christian Science Monitor and Wall Street Journal and a few periodicals.

I read the article by Paul Prather. Although there seemed to be a tilt toward assigning many Christians who support the President as being “hung up” on authority and fear, I did agree with his statement that, “Grace people need a little authoritarianism to keep us from levitating away on shimmering clouds, and Law people need a big dose of Grace to keep them from getting swallowed whole into their profoundly constricted sphincters.” I don’t agree with his final demeaning characterization.  

Sadly, I see little ground for dialog in our society today. Nevertheless, I am more optimistic than many because I believe that many of the policies and projects of the administration will prove to be beneficial to more Americans than was the case with the previous administration. When we see evidence of promise-keeping and leadership and achievement, more views will change.

I read your article, “Against Contempt.” I understand the concerns you express. I do not defend Trump’s rhetoric and wish that he could stop tweeting. He is the rough to Obama’s smooth. I look at what he achieved. I look at his family. I look at the loyalty of his long time friends. I watch the ways he seeks to walk his talk and the support that he is gathering to make that happen. I compare that with the “flame throwers” and “bridge dynamiters” and politicians that have made their careers and wealth based on the style of people like Pelosi who openly advised a vote for the health care legislation without it being read or debated. We can find out what it says after we pass it, was what she affirmed. 

You are successful. You win generous prizes for writing about your views. I hope that as your career, like mine, slows down to a crawl, you are happy with what you have achieved. I have not received $25,000 prizes and have not been successful getting a book commercially published, but I am happy with what I have achieved. The experiences and relationships of my career have afforded me a remarkable life in which I have learned much about the world and its people. God has been good to me and I have tried to be a responsible steward of the Grace with which my life has been blessed.

So, here we are – very separated in our views about the world in which we live – but, hopefully, continuing to respect each other and maybe finding ways to join the “little platoons” of citizens who strive to rectify the excesses of “numerous democracy” so feared by the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

Cheers and best wishes,

Irving

Reducing Rancor in Our Polarized Society: The Power of One

SEABROOKS SAYS: You, like I, spend very little time pondering the subject of polarization.  Jesse Caldwell does and you should know what he thinks.  Try adjusting your life by applying his three power=packed points.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The increasing level of open hostility and venomous attacks among people concerning political and social issues should have us all alarmed. The long respected American tradition of “ agreeing to disagree” seems to have been eclipsed with a “Reality TV” “Jerry Springer Show” aggressive display of name calling, personal attacks, and “one upped” insults. Fanatics on both the left and the right demonize people with whom they disagree. If not curtailed, this may be the greatest threat to our American way of life that we face. Truly, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Certainly we should all exercise our First Amendment Rights to Free Speech, and should never hesitate to hold our public officials accountable for their actions. But we should do this in a respectful way that does not intensify the decibel level of public discourse. Moreover, I believe that there are things we can all do as individuals to reduce the level of rancor in our polarized society.

  1. FIRST, LET US ALL MONITOR OUR TONE AND ATTITUDE

Courtesy, civility and a respect for everyone’s worth and therefore opinion can do wonders. As a young man, George Washington compiled a list of 110 “Rules of Civility”, which were the attitudes and values that helped shape his leadership. By setting the right tone, attitude and atmosphere in his Cabinet, this allowed our country to reap the best that men of opposite political beliefs, like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, had to offer.

I love what my childhood friend from Victory School, Kandy Bradley Puckett, recently posted on Facebook:

While much of America seems to be getting more and more divisive, I’m going to
Be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, greeting all that
I meet, calling people, “Sir” and “Ma’am, exercising patience with others, and smiling
at strangers. I’ll do this as often as I have the opportunity. I will not stand idly by and
let children live a world where unconditional love is invisible and being rude is acceptable.

2. SECONDLY, LET US TRY TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND ON ALL ISSUES

We all have our own beliefs and opinions. But none of us is perfect, and none of us can be right all the time. On most issues, those on opposing sides are people of good will, seeking to find an honest solution to a problem. May we listen to the views of others and seek to find “common ground” if it can be done without comprising our principles. “Tip and the Gipper” is a wonderful book that explores how Republican President Ronald Regan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill were able to work together on certain issues, despite being on polar opposite ends of the political spectrum, because they were willing to keep an open mind. Similarly, conservative Senator Orrin Hatch and liberal Senator Edward Kennedy, often at political odds with each other, were able to collaborate and co-sponsor many bi-partisan bills that became law, because they viewed what each proposed with an open mind.

3. THIRD, LET US SEEK CREATIVE WAYS TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS WITH WHOM WE HAVE POLITICAL OR PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES

Much of the animosity between different factions on issues stems from the fact that most of us do not understand the backdrop of those who disagree with us. If we were all to see creative ways to reach out to others with whom we have political or philosophical differences, and try to get to know them as people, I submit we would lessen the virulence in our society. It is hard to dislike someone who disagrees with you when they know and ask you about your children.

We can begin by sending a greeting card to someone of a different political party, persuasion, or race. We can move beyond that by asking them to lunch. We can turn unlikely and potentially negative situations into positive opportunities for good.

In 1983, Senator Edward Kennedy opened a mass mailed letter from Moral Majority Leader Rev. Jerry Falwell, which urged the recipients to “unite and defeat ultraliberals like Ted Kennedy”. Instead of becoming angry, Kennedy was amused and reached out to Falwell. This led to an invitation for Kennedy to speak at Liberty University, family dinners in each other’s homes, and a surprising but enjoyable friendship. Rev. Falwell prayed with Sen. Kennedy’s ill mother, and Kennedy wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for Falwell’s son for law school. If they can do this, why can’t we?

In conclusion, we can all help reduce the level of rancor in our land my monitoring our tone and attitude, keeping an open mind about current issues, and seeking creative ways to get to know someone who believes differently from us.

Let us not underestimate the “Power of One”. In the words of Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.

Jesse B. Caldwell, III
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge
Judicial District 27A

The Threat to American Greatness

SEABROOK SAYS: Maybe you have been attempting to form your conclusions on this subject.  It is very difficult. Now, it would seem to be an imperative that you give study to Mark Epstein’s comments.  Do more than “think” them – write them.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

My family were once refugees, some of them long ago, some of them just a few generations past; true of most all reading this post.  They were once immigrants to the United States, most of them legal, some probably not; many were children when they made a journey unfathomable to most of us today (my grandfather came from Poland at age 17, with only his sister, 14).   Some just wanted to improve their lot, others were fleeing for their lives.   Of my family, their immigration to the United States was once prohibited because they were perceived as a grave threat to American sovereignty and its way of life (1924 Immigration Act; in the 1930’s under pressure from the America First movement).  Elsewhere they were once forced to register as a member of a religious minority.   They were blamed by their country’s leadership as the source of its problems, a fearful but false narrative that was nevertheless embraced by its citizens.  Laws were passed restricting their liberties; they became a focus for law enforcement. Their houses of worship were defaced; some were attacked.  Some were rounded up, taken from their homes, and deported.  Some were sent to internment camps, or locked into certain neighborhoods of towns and cities.  Some died there.  Isaac, his wife Chaya, and their 4 children Herschel, Yeshianu, Kraysal, and young Miriam were gassed at Treblinka on a cold November morning, 1942.  My mom’s great-aunt/uncle, and her cousins.  May their memory be a blessing.

Sympathy not sought; they were victimized yet no victim mentality here.  But:  in an era when one would think the lesson of history has been learned, nevertheless a religious registry, surveilling “certain” neighborhoods, “national stop-and-frisk,” a Deportation Force, and internment camps are being brought to the national dialogue by serious-minded and influential people with the ability to influence if not create actual policy.  The first step, an immigration ban focusing on religious affiliation, has already been undertaken.  In the public domain, mere mention and discussion of these things makes it tempting to consider them passably normal and worth considering – when in actuality such talk – much less actual policy – is a corrosive national poison that violates the most inviolable of American values.  That no one predicts it ends in industrialized murder here, doesn’t mean that where it starts is not insidious and destructive to who we are, and what this country is, what makes this country great, what Has. Always. Made. America. Great.

Arguments that such steps may be necessary in the name of national security and public safety should make the American hairs stand up on the back of our American necks, and send a collective shiver down our American spines.  To consider these things is not just to be afraid, but to be governed by fear, when famously it is fear itself that is most dangerous of all.   When any act of government, any act at all, can be justified in the name of security and safety, “to save even one life,” history is clear about the outcome, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t the United States, and in the extreme there is a word for it:  Police State.   History should make us know better than to even consider this path.  But by God if we have not stepped on it.

My faith tradition is not only very clear about how to consider those amongst us who are different (not only to love them, but to accept them as a native, to share my lot with them, to not wrong them, nor oppress them, nor detest them), it is also clear about WHY…even if in history they may have once wronged me.   It is because I myself have been seen as different; my family was once oppressed and considered the stranger, not native, and detested (and still is by some, sad to say).  Ex 22:21, Lev 19:34, Deut 23:7,  Ez 47:22-23, many more.

Thus should a religious registry come to the United States, register me first, as Jew or Muslim, I’ll take either one.   If there are internment camps, find me there as my family once was.  Deportation Force?  I will aid DACA or Muslim children, just as courageous Righteous Gentiles (Christian and Muslim), at their far greater peril, once aided children in my family.

It is clear the 2016 election was about much more than these issues, but these issues are nevertheless a consequence of the election.  Agree or disagree as we might on many things, as Americans, and people of faith, it is required of us to be vigilant against the corrosive forces of fear that can inadvertently, but without diligence invariably, decay moral and legal violations of our Constitution and our Scripture and the values both encode.

Mark E. Epstein

 

Gaston’s Opioid Issue

SEABROOK SAYS:  To Gaston County residents: You, like most, are unaware of Gaston’s problems with opiate abuse and addiction.  It is bad.  We rank #5 in North Carolina behind Mecklenburg County, which is #1.  Read on, become aware and weep. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Initially, when the news started trickling out that Gaston County was one of the worst counties in North Carolina for opiate abuse and addiction, I sensed that many of my fellow residents were as unaware as I of just how deadly the epidemic was.  As we have begun to educate ourselves, the news has become pretty grim.  Consider this sobering statistic from the Gaston Gazette.

Gaston County remains one of the top counties in the state for heroin overdose deaths, ranking fifth in the total number of such deaths from 1999 to 2014.  Seventy five people in that time period have died from heroin overdoses, putting Gaston County behind only state-leading Mecklenburg (175), Wake (109), Guilford (103) and New Hanover (97).

When reading the stats and figures , remember we are talking about someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, child or spouse.  Opiate addiction does not discriminate and has permeated every race and social/economic demographic in Gaston County.  In fact, one of the quickest growing demographic is white, middle class women.  Whether or not we are aware, we all know someone who is struggling with this form of addiction.

How do we combat the crisis in Gaston?  Fortunately, we have some of the finest law enforcement agencies and some of the most knowledgeable addiction specialist, doctors, social workers and clinicians in the state.

The DDAT (Drug Diversion and Treatment) program initiated by Chief Ramey (Gaston County Police Department) has blossomed into an all hands on deck approach to not only assist those who are addicted, but work to keep them sober with short and long term goals and programs.  They correctly understand that we will not be able to incarcerate our way out of this epidemic.

Our Sheriff has partnered with CaroMont Health to provide over 500 doses of Narcan (a lifesaving drug that when administered can literally bring someone back from the brink) and is ensuring the proper training for GEMS and local deputies.

Our Gastonia City Police are also training their deputies on the use of Narcan and have been actively working with the DDAT program as well as increasing their arrests of major drug traffickers in the Gastonia.

Phoenix Counseling and other groups such as Gaston Controlled Substance Coalition, Partners Behavioral Health and the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services have also stepped up and initiated training programs, public awareness events and treatment programs to address the epidemic.

And still we need to do more.  We are making headway and lives are being saved, but as I talk with legal and clinical experts and recovering addicts; this struggle is far from over.

Gaston County has much to be proud of – we are ahead of many NC localities that are still trying to assess and respond to the crisis.  What is critical now is more community involvement and awareness.

Faith leaders can help by opening their doors for community discussions and allowing recovery groups to meet free of cost.  There is a real need for more ALANON and NARCANON groups to be formed and facilitated by trained staff.  This could be a real asset to the community.

Local schools (public and private) need to formulate or update drug deterrent programs that address the troubling rise in youth addiction and abuse of opiates.  Young adults are quickly becoming one of the most vulnerable demographics of opioid abuse.

Finally, all of us can help by talking to our friends and family about the dangers of abusing opiates, discarding and storing medications properly and the rise in heroin addiction.  Be aware, educate yourselves, form community watch groups and take care of one another.

Like any other crisis that has come our way , Gaston County can and will rise to the challenge.  What will determine the speed at which we gain the upper hand will be equal to the amount our local communities come together to help.  This is your community and our challenge.  Let’s meet this challenge together.  Are you ready?

Robert J Kellogg

Gastonia City Council (Ward 1)

 

 

 

 

Gaston Together- Be Engaged

SEABROOK SAYS: Future leadership is an absolute essential if Gaston County is to move ahead.  Gaston Together is right now creating a plan that begins community-wide action on November 15th.  Please encourage the younger generation (ages25-40) to engage now.  Connect with Donna Lockett.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In 1997, a group of community leaders with foresight decided to launch a unique concept in Gaston County. A non-profit organization was developed with a mission that would tackle big Community Challenges by engaging the citizenry and working to avoid duplication of efforts in our community.  Gaston Together:  Communities of Excellence grew out of this effort.

Over the last nineteen years, Gaston Together has addressed many such challenges in our community. Some “solutions” have remained under its administration such as the “Pride in Gaston Traveling Tour” for third graders and the Gaston County MLK Unity Awards (honoring citizens in our county who build bridges of unity across lines of race, religion, gender, culture and geography in Gaston County.)  Others, such as “Keeping Families Intact”, now the Resource Connection at the YMCA , were transferred to other entities for sustainability.

One initiative developed by Gaston Together in its very beginning and still going strong today is the Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3.) The GC3 is a non-denominational ministerial association that provides faith-based leadership to address community issues.  Recently, they have created and signed a covenant with Law Enforcement in Gaston County including the Sheriff, the Chiefs of the County and all municipal police departments. The idea behind the covenant is to be proactive in Gaston County instead of reactive to community unrest; to develop a closer working relationship among clergy and law enforcement in Gaston County in an effort to prevent local protest events such as those experienced nationally.  Significant pro-active events since then have included a clergy/law enforcement breakfast to encourage relationship building, a gathering at the MLK Plaza to thank and pray for police following recent violence against police across our country, and a clergy specific police academy developed by the Gastonia Police Department.  Twenty-five Clergy members will take part in the training this fall.

The newest major initiative of Gaston Together is our Civic Engagement process. In an effort to attract and retain the 25 – 40 age group in our county and after several months of community review and cross-sector focus group sessions, in late fall Gaston Together will launch a community process to engage our next generation of leaders for Gaston County.  The underlying objective of this initiative, as the name implies, is to provide a vehicle for citizens- especially the next generation of leaders – to become engaged in endeavors that will improve our community’s vitality and quality of life.

These are just two specific examples of on-going Gaston Together initiatives, but there are numerous opportunities for people in this community to participate. So how can you help and what is the first step?

Find out what interests you. Whether it is just simply working with your neighbors to improve your street/neighborhood or getting involved by providing your opinions and desires to the elected leaders. Think of your county and its future; think of how it will drift if we all do nothing. We are the last county in the Charlotte Metro to experience tremendous growth. Be a part of deciding how, when and where that growth will happen. BE ENGAGED!

For more information about Gaston Together, please visit our facebook page, website: gastontogether.org, or call 704-867-9869.

Jaggy Anand
2016 Gaston Together Board Chair

 Donna Lockett
Gaston Together Executive Director

The Election Nightmare

SEABROOK SAYS: Charlie Gray is right on target. Our political and election system is a huge mess and extremely expensive. Unfortunately, what we have and use is totally outdated. Failure to improve shows the poor quality of representation by our reps in DC. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Every day at 10:15 am and 4:15 pm, I get a robo call on my cell phone from “unavailable”. Other times during the day, I get calls from California, New York and Nebraska. I, of course, do not answer them but it is maddening.

I understand that some people get dozens of robo calls each day. They are generally for political contributions. I have subscribed to “Do Not Call” but to no avail. It seems once you have contributed to a political candidate, which most good citizens desire to do, you are placed on a list. This list apparently becomes available to candidates and political causes from everywhere.

After November, there will be a slight break before the next election cycle begins. There seems to be a constant election, considering states offices and the House of Representatives. There is only one conclusion – our political system is broken. The elections last too long and are way too expensive. Instead of having one national primary on the same day, they are spread out from February to June. It is estimated that the democratic and republican candidates will spend over one billion dollars on each election. And in the end, who do we get – a dead-locked Federal government that cannot function.
Our constitution was drafted almost 250 years ago for 13 mostly agrarian states. It does not work for 50 diverse states in the 21st Century. Each state gets two senators, regardless of population. The president is elected by the Electoral College. This system has resulted generally in the Congress being controlled by one party and the Executive Branch by another. The Supreme Court is determined by which party gets to appoint the majority of justices, who serve for life.

Now, with constant and biased media bombardment, the population has been herded into opposing camps, resulting in bitter confrontation and more gridlock. Families and good friends are often estranged or scare to mention politics for fear of alienating someone. The whole thing is a mess and is tearing our country apart. The winner of this year’s presidency will be the candidate who gets less hate votes than the other.

Are we stuck with this terrible situation forever? What can we do? I’m afraid we will have to change our parties, our primaries and maybe our constitution. Abolishing all parties would be best and candidates could be judged on their qualification and positions. Primaries should be on the same day. Campaigns should be limited to six months, three for primary and three for general election. Campaigns should be financed by public funds, allocated by a candidate’s acceptability by the public as determined by polling data. States should be represented in Congress by population and everyone should be elected by popular vote. Gerrymandering should be prohibited and voting districts established by independent panels in each state, subject to court review to determine impartibility, political and robo calls should be prohibited.

There are many other changes that could be made to ensure our political process is fair and enjoyable for the candidates and the public. But to ignore the problem will only make it worse, leading to frustration, hate and division.

I don’t want to spend my remaining years dodging phone calls, talking about the weather and watching the hate and division grow in our country. Do you?
Let’s demand that something be done.

Charles Gray
Former attorney

Gaston County: Love It or Leave It?

SEABROOKS SAYS: Jason Shoemaker is right – how you describe our county to others, either in the county or outside the county, will make a difference.  As he says, you don’t have to love Gaston County or leave it, but at least be proud of the positive things happening here. Now that you know, what will you do?   

“Love it or Leave it.” Some pro-war demonstrators used this phrase during the divisive Vietnam War. We have heard it many times in our lives, usually in reference to issues of national debate. Of course, this binary choice is not fair. One of the great things about our nation is the ability to express dissent, displeasure, and even dislike of the United States. That freedom of expression is a foundation of our democracy.

Although the “love it or leave it” statement itself may not be fair, the phrase reminds me of something meaningful that a friend once told me. He and I were discussing Gaston County, in particular how many residents reluctantly and sheepishly admit that they live or work here. When some citizens tell others that they are from Gastonia, or even Gaston County,  they lower their heads or go along with a degrading joke about the area. To this point, my friend questioned, “If you are not proud of something, why be a part of it?” Gaston County citizens should ask themselves this question.

We are all part of the Gaston County community. Although you may not agree with everything — and certainly there is room for improvement — we have seen many positive changes in the County during the past 13 years that I have lived here. Gastonia overcame the loss of thousands of textile jobs in the 1990s. Our local hospital has become a well known regional medical center. Centered around Crowders Mountain, the western part of the county has become an attraction for outdoor enthusiasts. Belmont and Mount Holly have become destinations in the eastern part of the county. Cramerton and McAdenville firmly established themselves as vibrant, small town communities with their own unique identities. And the list goes on. Not everyone will be a cheerleader for their city or county, but at least acknowledge the positive efforts.

Regardless of whether you chose to relocate here, moved here for work (like I did), or have lived in Gaston County all your life, we almost certainly share a similar goal – to make this county a better place (after all, it would be hard to imagine anyone hoping for their hometown or home county to decline or fail). With that in mind, the next time someone asks where you live, do not be afraid to tell them. When someone makes a negative joke or comment about the area, tell them something positive. Speak about downtown Belmont, Goat Island Park, Crowders Mountain, Loray Mill, or the multi-use stadium district which will transform the western part of Gastonia. Even if you do not give the person specifics, remind him or her that we are trying to make Gaston County a better place.

This is our community. How you describe it to others, either in the county or outside the county, will make a difference. You don’t have to love Gaston County or leave it, but at least be proud of the positive things happening here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jason Shoemaker

Attorney
Mullen, Holland and Cooper, PA