Letters for November 30, 2017



Teachers working diligently to help each child

In a previous letter I outlined some of the challenges we are facing at South Macon Elementary School with so many students. What I did not squeeze into that letter is that everyone here is working diligently to help each and every child. We love our children and want the best for them. In addition to the personnel at the schools, the Macon County Schools’ administration and School Board are working to create the best outcome given limited resources.

While we have lost many teacher assistant positions and money for textbooks and supplies, and continue to lack sufficient funds for teacher salaries because of our state legislature in Raleigh, we are doing our best to make sure that these cuts don’t hurt our children, but we are only human.  We cannot do the impossible, as much as we try.  What I previously wrote describes some of the negative impacts of these cuts and expresses some of the frustrations we have as a result.

The North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh has a constitutional obligation to fund all positions, while our local county commissioners are required to fund brick and mortar expenses. A majority of our commissioners have gone beyond their minimum mandate by funding many salaries that have been left unfunded by the state.  We appreciate this, and we also appreciate our local state senator and house member who helped secure more funding for teachers at Nantahala and Highlands schools. Our legislators need to continue to step up and bring additional state funds for teachers, teacher assistants, supplies, and textbooks. We also need our parents and community members to urge them to do so.

The future of Macon County is in our hands. Let’s all do our best.


Dan Kowal — Franklin, N.C.

America trapped in cultural decline

In truth, the demise of the League of Women Voters of Macon County (MCN 11/21) symbolizes more a sign of the times in which we live than any failure of the organization’s leaders to continue its valuable work.

The words of a friend haunt me when ever matters of this sort (an all too frequent event) appear. “The two biggest problems in America, David, are apathy and ignorance.”  I would add a third… greed, but be that as it may, the first two were clearly manifested in the recent local election and in this loss of an effective and reliable source and means by which we citizens educate ourselves.

The League leaders identified the reasons for their downfall: the decline of membership and attendance by the public to forums and meetings, and the membership aging and younger generations not stepping up to fill this obligation or (more aptly put), “the next generation showing little interest in taking responsibility for the need.”

This, clearly, is the result of apathy having a firm hold on America in the 21st Century.  Apathy begets ignorance and in combination have made us extremely vulnerable to what I recognize as the withering and dying of a nation.

I believe, with genuine and emphatic honesty, America is close to that tipping-point (the point of no return) where we either endeavor to find a way to reverse the present trends or simply sit idly by and watch our once great nation collapse and die.

The disbanding of the Macon County Chapter of the League of Women Voters (at the youthful age just shy of 28 years) is not the cause of the breakdown of our way of life, it’s a symptom, a telltale signal, the evidence of what’s happening to our societal structure.   And let me be very clear, the Russians aren’t responsible, we’re doing this to ourselves.

My unequivocal opinion that America is trapped in a severe stage of cultural decline was proven beyond all reasonable doubt in 2016 by the election of a man positively unqualified and conspicuously unfit to be president of the United States.  Here again, without denying the possibility of a foreign power meddling in our electoral system, it was primarily the failure of our uncompromising and dysfunctional two-party system enabled and encouraged by the apathy and ignorance of the American people that elected this president.

Today we are more an oligarchy than a democratic republic because we’ve accepted unlimited political bribery as the essence of getting nominated and then elected president, governor, senator or congressman.  We have witnessed a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to wealthy contributors who want, expect, and receive special favors long after the election is over.   Many of our laws are written by corporate lawyers, lobbyists, and billionaire-level wealth.   And the media, owned by the same, willingly acquiesce.

If we are to have a future, if the United States of America is to endure, indeed if the world is to survive the Trump presidency, the America people must put aside petty and divisive differences, substitute involvement for apathy, knowledge for ignorance, and pledge to work together for the common good.  We owe that to our children and to their posterity.


David L. Snell — Franklin, N.C.

Names that cause division are not blessed

No matter how popular political and religious names may appear to be, names that divide government, cities and family homes are not blessed names.

“Mark them which cause divisions … and avoid them.” Romans 15:16

In religious names, God’s one religious name is a blessed name and in no other:

“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 21:9

“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Acts 4:12

United we stand divided we fall.


Floyd Cruse — Franklin, N.C.

A menace or not?

A recent article in The Macon County News chronicled the recent charges against a local man for what was described as menacing behavior. He was arrested and served with four felony warrants related to trespassing on public town property.

I was interested in the use of these words, so I did a little research and thinking about what exactly constitutes a menace or menacing behavior.  The use of the words runs the gamut from minor inconveniences to major issues and rather than focus solely on legal aspects of the word, I thought about what this means to people in a broader sense. What I want to understand is what constitutes a menace and perhaps to whom or what.

What are the likely culprits that threaten our safety and welfare? What qualifies as a menace depends on one’s perspective. Based on this definition, here is what some folks might likely say.

Let’s start with some basic examples of the use of these words: I think most people would agree that a dog which is displaying aggressive behavior (lunging and barking and showing its teeth) is menacing.  If it is on a leash, it is one thing, if loose and you were riding your bike or walking, quite another.  A friendly dog wagging its tail would not pose a threat for most people.

When skies turn black and the wind picks up, weather can be menacing. Then we pay attention to local  broadcasts in case there is a threat of a tornado. Rain can be a menace and deadly as we have seen in flooding along the coast. Our own creek can rise enough to prevent us from crossing, but this is more of an inconvenience.  Global warming may be the culprit here.

For me, animals crossing the road in front of my car pose a menace as I invariably try to avoid hitting them, and in the case of squirrels, they seem to do their best to try to out-maneuver me and get me to hit the ditch or worse. To me, squirrels are just terrorists in disguise. I also realize I am part of the problem, because my actions may actually make the problem worse. By avoiding squirrels that exhibit these erratic behaviors, I am selecting for their survival. Common sense would say it would be better to run them over.

But are we avoiding the major issues that may impact our overall health and welfare. In regards to our health,  a local health administrator, might suggest the following as menacing to our health: smoking, diabetes, drug use to name just a few.

Purchasing cigarettes,  is legal for those 18 years and old, yet almost 2 out of 3 smokers will die as a result of a smoking-related illness. One could say that smoking is a menace to our society, yet we allow this to happen through our laws. For years cigarette companies denied that smoking caused cancer.

Drugs contribute to the destruction of lives and the criminal activity associated with drug use is certainly a menace to society.  Alcohol is responsible for a variety of menaces including health consequences,  and abuse.  In both these cases, drugs or alcohol are not the real culprit, rather the symptoms of a stressful and dysfunctional society.  People often say that guns are not responsible for the ensuing slaughter of people nationwide.  They say it is the people that use them that are the real menace.  Could we say that is true of cigarettes as well? Yet we allow ready access of guns to people with mental illness.

Health wise, let’s take diabetes as an example. I’ve been watching a program on diabetes and now understand that diabetes is just a symptom of a much bigger menace to our health. As one doctor said, diabetes is just the tip of the iceberg and represents the damage that is being done to our bodies by the lifestyles that we choose. Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. So what might we determine is the culprit for diabetes.

It turns out that our taste for fatty, processed carbohydrate-rich foods and an inactive lifestyle is responsible for the rise in diabetes. Reading this letter instead of going for a walk would be a prime example.

It turns out that we can find these foods in our local fast food restaurant and at our grocery store. Food scientists design foods that create this cravings. Yet I don’t hear an outcry of menacing against these establishments or the industry that pushes these foods on us much like the local drug dealer, yet they are endangering and killing us nonetheless. And since when has the local police shown up at a fast food restaurant and issued a citation or warning to desist in serving the food we crave?  Yet,  fast food can be fatally menacing to our health.  Just watch the film “Super Size Me.” Diabetes is now described not as an epidemic, but as a pandemic; its effects are worldwide ushered in by our modern diets, and comparable to the Black Plague of the 1600s.  One in four U.S. adults now has diabetes and the rates are rising along with childhood diabetes. One out of two diabetics will die of a heart attack.  Our reaction to this menace does not match the threat that it poses to us.  It is just that it can take 10-15 years for the symptoms to occur. That is plenty of time for these culprits to make money off of us. To be fair, we have a choice of what we eat, and healthy alternatives are offered as well.

Young activists protested at the Bonn Climate conference, when the only panel that the United States presented was represented by the fossil fuel industry: oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy. The activists claim that the burning of fossil fuels is menacing to their future.  Someone asked where were representatives of clean renewable energy such as solar and wind on the U.S. panel?  Climate change can be said to be a menace to our health and well being. We are well aware of the devastating consequences of increased weather events, forest fires, drought, rising sea levels and disease. Like diabetes, climate change is the result of our behavior over an extended time frame, even generations.  How do we respond to these threats?

We are aware, perhaps excluding our current president, that nuclear warfare presents one of the most serious menaces to all life on this planet.  The congress is now wisely considering how to limit the president’s ability to begin what would be the ultimate menace to human life and survival on this planet, nuclear warfare. Because this menace is removed from our daily life, we tend to ignore it.

From these examples, it seems clear that we do not react equally to what constitutes a real menace to our safety and well being and perhaps just a nuisance.  We allow some things to go unnoticed and raise a ruckus about other things.  When my cat walks across my keyboard and I lose my current document, it is a nuisance, but not life threatening. There are other things in life that we need to pay more attention to.  We might be wise to respect the advice of our elders represented in such sayings as “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Or perhaps:  “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.”


Paul Chew — Otto, N.C.

Consciences and consequences

Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old Texan, killed 26 people before apparently taking his own life on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, during church services at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church (Texas). News reports indicate the slaughter was the result of a heated “domestic situation.” All indications are that upon his bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force he should have been identified as an individual who could not buy or possess weapons legally. Sadly, that crucial information was never relayed to civilian authorities. Thus, Kelley obtained and used a Ruger rapid-fire assault rifle as he carried out his atrocious mass murder.

With perhaps some over-simplification this essay attempts to shed light on how and why this tragedy took place.

There are two “doors” that regulate human behavior. One is the conscience. The New World Dictionary defines the conscience as: “a knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right.” The second door is consequences-natural physical consequences along with man-made laws and consequences. The conscience has the potential to require the individual to do what he/she thinks is right. It can also require the individual to not do what he/she thinks is wrong. Humans have the choice to obey or violate their consciences on a daily basis. In regard to consequences they are seldom totally predictable in nature. Also, consequences set up by man-made laws are very difficult to enforce consistently.

In the classic serial killer novel made into the movie “The Silence of the Lambs” this duality of conscience/consequences is very well portrayed by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal has no conscience to prevent him from killing people who get in his way. He kills them and eats chosen “delicious” body parts. Hannibal displays little fear of being caught in his criminal/anti-social behavior. He has proven himself very capable of avoiding capture and confinement.

• The National Rifle Association (NRA) along with thousands of its members insist that the Second Amendment to our Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to own firearms. Their mantra is that “Guns don’t kill-people kill.” To many it appears the NRA is willing to ignore the harsh reality that too many people have been killed by people wielding assault rifles. How long will the NRA shirk its responsibility to support legislation that sets reasonable limits on (A) who can legally own firearms and (B) which firearms pose too great a risk of harming/killing Americans and, therefore, must be controlled /banned for the safety of all? What could possibly motivate that influential organization to continue with its present philosophy and lobbying to Congress? Surely people don’t have to be told the answer to that question! It is money.

I have personally chosen not to join the NRA because of their rigid stance that perpetuates this needless killing. I will continue, like many of my friends, neighbors and relatives to own simple non-assault firearms for personal safety.

There was a time when peoples’ consciences told them not to kill people with their firearms. There was a time when assault rifles were not readily available. There was a time when people did not play video games that resulted in people dying before their eyes. For some who have never witnessed a killing/death video games surely must diminish the value of human life.

If we could re-tool the “American conscience” perhaps we could reduce killing to zero per year. But, since we can’t control consciences what can we control? We can, if we choose to do so, regulate/control assault rifles.

There is a prevent-minimize-control continuum that is considered in regard to disasters and tragedies. Prevention is generally the least expensive choice. Minimization is more expensive. Correction is usually much more expensive than either of those two. The huge trouble with the correction phase is that human life cannot be restored once taken. That is a somber reality that NRA officials and many of its members need to ponder on. Are they so intent on the right to possess any firearm that they can convince themselves they have no part in the prevention of killing innocent people? There is at least a thin line here between what our military personnel should have and what civilians should/should not be allowed to own. Most of my neighbors say they see no need for any hunter or gun enthusiast to own assault rifles.

In her great song “Superman” Donna Fargo sings, “Now, let’s go through this one more time. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. But, honey baby, we got to draw the line when your hang-up starts messin’ with mine.”  It is becoming quite clear that the NRA’s hang-up is messing with precious human lives. Bob Dylan asked, “How many deaths will it take ‘til we know that too many people have died?” When will the collective American conscience kick in and tell the NRA that profit should never trump human life?

Should we beg NRA members to discontinue their membership in an attempt to persuade that powerful organization to support legislation banning assault rifles?


Dave Waldrop — Webster, N.C.

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