Letters for September 5, 2019


The Macon County News letters page is a public forum open to a wide variety of  opinions. Letters are neither accepted nor rejected on the basis of the opinions expressed. Writers are asked to refrain from personal attacks against individuals or businesses. Letters are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of the publisher, editor or staff of The Macon County News. 

Thankful to be part of this community

Sharing some “win-win” situations I experienced recently…The first experience I would like to share is in regards to the Franklin First UMC [United Methodist Church] Annual Bazaar, always the last Friday and Saturday in July.  I try to go to this bazaar every year. It brings funds into the church for their missions and outreach programs, but also, on my end I see what this group of hard-working Methodists does to benefit our community.  Through the years, I have purchased furniture, clothing, bedding, books, household items and more for my family and those in my life who could use a helping hand. How many items that still have a lot of good uses left in them have been saved from the landfill and instead gone to someone else in our community as a recycled treasure?  Good quality items, fairly priced…and you can even get breakfast or lunch right on site at their Bazaar Café!  Thank you to Franklin First UMC for the love and hard work they put into their summer sale, which makes for good fun and fellowship.  Every year I make it a point to be home the last weekend in July so that I can be a part of the sale.  I have it on my calendar for 2020 already!  

My next win-win has to do with LBJ Job Corps. The Job Corps’ Mission is to help young people (ages 16-24) to improve the quality and satisfaction of their lives through vocational and academic training.   One way they carry out this mission is to help out in our community. As part of our set up and tear down crew for the 15th Annual Franklin Area Folk Festival recently held on Aug. 17, 2019, I was on the receiving end of their efforts.  Todd Doolittle brought a group of young men from LBJ Job Corp to help us with both festival set up and tear down. They carried the heaviest items and put up and took down the tents – a very necessary, unglamorous task.  These young folks were such a joy to work with. Organizers were delighted by their attitudes and willingness to jump in and get involved making them a great asset to our team. We compliment the staff at LBJ Job Corps for seeking ways and opportunities for these young people to invest in our community.

There were two other groups of young people that are very much appreciated for their help during the festival.  The Franklin High School FFA Club with their teacher, Jenny Collins and The New Century Scholars, led by Pam Collins.

We need these young people and the vitality and youthful energy they bring.  They also need our community and the wisdom and experience gained through volunteering.  As they continue to grow into their adult lives, strong community connections and hearts to serve will bring them great rewards. 

I am so thankful to be part of this community.

Let’s keep building these win-win partnerships!

 Claire Suminski, Community Volunteer – Franklin, N.C.


Governing on ‘gut instinct’ a threat to democracy

Every Veterans Day, we honor the courage and the sacrifices of “the Greatest Generation” for saving the free world from an autocratic tyrant bent on world domination. This victory led to realization among western nations of the importance of a united front to protect against further tyrants. However, we have now decided to debase the sacrifices made by Americans in WWII by turning our backs on our partners in democracy around the world. Our leadership has failed to live up to American ideals on the world stage. We regularly deride the nations of the free world, while we fawn over the world’s most dangerous dictatorships, Russia, China, and North Korea.  Our former best allies have learned to discount the U.S. in advance of any mutual talks, crippling the safety and further growth  of democracies around the world.  At the recent G7 meeting, Trump argued that Putin, the head of Russian gangster oligarchs and the architect of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, should be invited back as a member into that organization of allies. He has directed the next G7 be held at his privately owned Doral Resort, where he expects to gain huge profits. Even if he didn’t own this property, the decision where to hold such an important meeting of world leaders defies logic; Miami, in the hottest month of the year, smack in the middle of hurricane season, in a crowded commercial area with no natural protective isolation, making protection nearly impossible. We already have a significantly safer, superior location at the Presidential retreat at Camp David, where meetings with world leaders have safely been held many times. He declared at the G7 meeting that he has “absolute authority” to tell American businesses to leave China. He has told aides to take the land on the Mexican border owned by American private citizens without any due process. He also announced he will pardon anyone who breaks any laws that would delay efforts to build his wall.

If I encountered someone like Trump at a business meeting, engaged him in conversation and heard him spouting his torrent of provable lies and racist drivel, I would question his sanity and disengage quickly. We have a failed business man as president with a history of bankruptcies and lawsuits. He is not only compromised by our foreign adversaries, but he thinks he can “govern” the world’s most powerful nation via gut instinct. Every American should concerned about this existential threat to Democracy.

John Barry – Franklin, N.C.


On becoming human: Us or them

The world was turned upside down when Jane Goodall, primatologist, observed chimpanzees using and modifying tools.  Chimps are one of our closest relatives including the bonobo monkey.  Her discoveries made us look at what differentiates humans from other great apes.  Anthropologists believe that we share a common ancestor with chimps and Bonobos that diverged some six million years ago.  Tool making was seen as the defining characteristic that distinguished humans from other apes. After Goodall’s discoveries we needed to either change our definition of what it means to be human or raise up these great apes to human status.  

After years of observation Goodall was accepted by her band of wild chimps and in one poignant instance, when she offered old Graybeard a piece of fruit, he dropped the fruit and offered his hand to Goodall instead. Such behavior suggests that great apes are closer in regard to human attributes than we might believe or wish to believe as they share many of the same emotions as we do.  

Goodall’s world in turn was shattered when she observed chimps killing other chimps: a mother killing another mother’s child and old Graybeard himself being dismembered by the group.  She observed this darker side of chimps which perhaps reflects their hunting and meat-eating behavior.  Even very young chimps eagerly joined in this melee.   

Bonobo monkeys are close relatives of chimps and virtual look-a-likes but most people haven’t heard of them.  Vanessa Woods and Brian Hare studied them in sanctuaries set up for orphans in the Congo. These orphans were often the result of the bush meat trade in Africa or captured juveniles who were being sold as pets. They grow up many times stronger than humans and can be very dangerous.  Having worked with both chimps and bonobos, they discovered that they behave very differently. While chimps will sometimes kill each other and eat meat, bonobos don’t.  Bonobo apes’ motto would be “make love not war.” 

Chimps most often compete with each other while bonobos cooperate and share food with each other, perhaps a result that food was more abundant where bonobos evolved.  Could food scarcity result in the more aggressive behavior of chimps?  Another aspect of bonobo society is that it is matriarchal; females run the show.  When a male bonobo was observed hitting an alpha female, she stood her ground and gave him a withering look.  Soon her female companions were chasing this errant male down and gave him a thrashing that he would not soon forget. Female bonobos know that when they stick together, males can’t dominate. On the other hand, chimps, even at a young age, will engage in battering females with the end result that females will be more submissive to males who want to have sex with them.  

Very young chimps display similar behavior to bonobos but when they go through puberty they change while bonobos don’t.  Testosterone levels are high in bonobos even at young ages and may account for their sexual prowess.  

What seemed clear from testing and experiments that Woods and Hare performed is that these apes’ brains are wired very differently. Measuring the brain activity through the ear canal, using an infrared thermometer,  it was clear that chimps become much more agitated when confronted with pictures of or unfamiliar chimps.  Bonobos on the other hand welcome an unfamiliar faces and become interested.  While bonobo apes welcomed newcomers, chimps rejected them and this seems to be hardwired in. 

Goodall hopes that while humans seem to share some of the traits of chimps, we are smart enough to recognize and choose what behaviors we wish to express.  When we see an unfamiliar face, do we see a stranger or do we see ourselves? Do we want to be welcoming to newcomers or reject them outright? There is much to be gained by welcoming new folks to our community and nation.  After all, the native Americans welcomed us here, even though we haven’t exactly acted like good neighbors.  

Research continues on great apes while populations of these endangered species decline.  What we have most to gain in preserving these apes might be insights into our own human selves.  Can we change enough to save ourselves and the world we inhabit?

What bonobo monkeys have to teach us is that tolerance and cooperation may be what saves us in the future. As the planet warms and food becomes more scarce, how will we react? Under what circumstances can we become more tolerant and accepting of each other?  Can we forego some of our innate tendencies in order to preserve peace and in the long run preserve our security?  What can we learn from these close relatives of our past ancestors? As title of Goodall’s book suggests, we are on a spiritual journey to discover exactly what it means to be human.

Paul Chew – Otto, N.C.

Education is not the enemy

I think it’s safe to say my parent’s generation (“The Greatest Generation”) born early in the last century, suffering the depression years, surviving WWII, valued education. Before you rip the paper up the middle, no, I’m not going to take you reminiscing through the 1940s… only as far back as Aug. 19, this year.

On that date, the Pew Research Center published a new study, “The Growing Partisan Divide in Views of Higher Education.”  It came as something of a surprise to me that Pew found that the share of Americans who say colleges and universities have a negative impact on the country has jumped 12 percentage points since 2012.

And here’s the kicker: “The increase in negative views,” said Pew, “has come almost entirely from Republicans and Independents who lean Republican.”  If that’s true, my mom, dad, five sets of aunts and uncles and five deceased first cousins are spinning in their graves.

Admittedly, I have been critical of the halls of learning in the past.  I believe far too much emphasis is placed on sports, too much money is devoted to that endeavor, and not enough of either dedicated to scholastic improvements. I think taking children to the movies on a school-day is wrongheaded and I surely believe that any college or university that enrolls would be athletes as students, and then doesn’t require them to attend classes, should be shuttered and the staff severely disciplined. But I am a long way from believing that education is the enemy.

I do not recall his exact words but I remember Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) complaining that President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college, and called Obama, “a snob.”   I don’t recall President Obama saying that, but if he did, he was right.   However, does anyone else find it odd that Santorum, who holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and a Juris Doctor from Dickinson School of Law, would classify higher education as a mark of elitism?

It has long been a complaint of the far right that professors should not bring their social and political views into the classroom.  Does that not contradict saying students should not be sheltered from differing opinions while at the same time, wanting to shelter students from differing opinions? Unquestionably, if I was in school today (in any capacity), I’d need a “comfort animal” to make it to lunch. Good grief!

Well, Republicans may not know much, but I’ll give ‘em this, they do know their base.  Shortly after the 2016 election, Nate Silver (of the FiveThirtyEight blog) documented how Trump thrashed Hillary Clinton in the 50 largest counties with the lowest percentage of college graduates.  When Donald Trump said, “I love the poorly educated,” he knew exactly who he was talking to and precisely what it meant.

It appears it was the education gap and not money alone that helped elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. Importantly, his election has revealed to the world that a nation that once engineered missions to the moon no longer has the ability to govern itself or adequately meet the challenges of this fast-paced and ever-changing world.

The poet, Thomas Gray, famously stated that “ignorance is bliss.”   He died in 1771, before the Revolution, our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights and all those wonderful things that Americans (immigrants all)  have achieved since.   Let us never believe we cannot work our way out of this predicament, that we cannot survive Donald Trump.

David Snell – Franklin, N.C.

Is this all they have to offer?

It seems a shame the only thing the Dems have to offer us is a group of empty, shallow and ignorant people running against capitalism in 2020 with the sole exception being Joe Biden who is perhaps a moderate.

To read what appears in our local newspapers, Hillary or Obama would have slapped Vladimir Putin in the face for messing with our election system and done the same with the leaders of North Korea and China. This appears to be the kind of wisdom the Dems and Liberals prefer.  Get real, folks.

According to some logic, our president should be investigating the Russian hacking and not the FBI or CIA.  Wow!

Actually, this seems to be the pattern for Libs and Dems of late.  Most of the Liberals I have known, and I’ve known plenty, are smug, self-anointed  people who are intolerant and hypocrites.  Only they know how things should be run and you are stupid for challenging them.  Their minds are made up and you dare not question them.

Almost all of them are in truth racists and fully believe black Americans should be supported by a welfare system rather than giving them a chance in life with a good education. I seem to remember it was the Dems who founded the KKK, not the Republicans so keep that in mind.  

The fact is the Dems, now in reality Socialists, are so empty they can’t come up with anything but bad names for our president and their vocabulary is limited to names like racist, white supremacist, Nazi or anything else their small minds can come up with. 

Backing them up are folks who consider themselves failures in life and wish to get even with those who are successful and are determined to take their money.  

Life in reality is pretty simple.  One goes to school and does the best they can and depending on the level of ambition and talent go for a trade or a profession.

Mind you, not everyone can become a brain surgeon but there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a welder or a mechanic. America needs them all.

In the meantime, we are faced with some pretty empty folks, bent on taking away our personal liberty and converting us to a Socialist way of life.

But the only thing they have to offer is free stuff which is simply a way of buying votes. Eventually, you do run out of money but that is no concern to them at this time, just gaining power. But, what the heck, for Libs there is no place for ethics or even morality.  

Come on folks, if this is all they have to offer America is going to be in serious trouble and follow Argentina, Cuba, the Soviet Union, Venezuela and all the other Socialist countries which collapsed.  

Bob Wilson – Franklin, N.C.

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