Proud to call Carolina home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

With President Bush’s chief arms inspector, David Kay, saying there ain’t any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it would be easy to use this space to once again bash Bush. But I’m gonna resist the temptation to bash Bush this week even though statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney make it clear that they are still trying to sell the American people the proverbial Brooklyn Bridge. All I have to say about that is I hope folks realize they’ve been snookered – on the war, the economy, the huge budget deficit, etc. – before next November.

I’ve been following the Democrat’s nomination process very closely, hoping that a candidate will emerge who can defeat Bush in the 2004 election and actually do a good job in office. I still haven’t made my choice, although I’m kind of rooting for North Carolina Senator John Edwards. He’s smart, got some good ideas, and understands what working Americans go through every day to make ends meet and do right by their families and employers.

His biggest drawback at this time, I think, is one that most of us would love to have: He just looks so darned young! He’ll be 50 years old this summer – only seven years younger than Bush and six years older than JFK when he was elected – but looks like he could be in a college fraternity. I think that if voters realize that he’s &uot;of age&uot;, Edwards will have a solid shot at winning the nomination.

I also have to admit that I think it would be nice to have a North Carolinian in the White House. I suppose there’s a bit of regionalism at work, but that’s okay because North Carolinians have better sense than folks in other parts of the country. And that makes sense when you realize that North Carolinians are just better than other folks and this state is better than all them other 49 put together.

Okay, maybe I’m a bit prejudiced regarding my home state, but I like it here. I like this state’s progressive attitude, it’s strong work ethic, it’s willingness to lead rather than follow, it’s common sense approach to problem solving, and it’s emphasis on values. And I like Eastern North Carolina, especially Northeastern North Carolina, because we really are the founders and shapers of this nation.

Yeah, the New Englanders get some credit and the Virginians get most of the early press coverage, but we started America and we’ve remained at the forefront for most of our history. We’ve had some bad times here in Northeastern North Carolina – slavery, reconstruction, the Great Depression – but we’ve persevered and continue to evolve and grow despite what might look to outsiders (and some insiders) as being stuck in time.

I have to admit that sometimes I tell people that it seems that many folks living around here are still stuck in the 1950s – a golden myth that everything was more decent, more sane and equally fair to all.

But it just didn’t work like that.

Yes, our economy was good back then. Post-World War II America was thriving economically and people were confident and sure of the rightness of America’s place in the world. We were stronger, wiser, and better than other countries and we saved the world from the dark threat posed by the Nazis and Imperial Japanese. We felt good about ourselves and didn’t mind that half the people living around here were living in poverty, were denied equal opportunities to get a good education, find a decent job, or do business.

The ’50s was a great decade for America, but not because of the Ozzie & Harriet lives people supposedly lived back then, but because the Civil Rights movement was finally beginning to make inroads in the entrenched establishment, thanks to some very brave people who dared speak out against injustice and some equally brave people in government who finally realized that the injustice of &uot;separate but equal&uot; was malarkey.

I love Northeastern North Carolina because we can change. Black people and White people can not only tolerate one another, but can actually get along these days. Positions of power are no longer the sole province of one race. African American county commissioners, superintendents, college presidents, judges, lawyers, doctors, etc. are no longer unusual in this area. It’s commonplace. It pretty much goes unnoticed by people as they go about their daily lives.

What an amazing turnaround! I’m proud to live in Northeastern North Carolina because we are realizing right now – this very moment – the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We’re not perfect. There’s still prejudice, resentment and animosity – face it, you can’t change hearts through logic and you can’t alter a society by passing a few laws – but all the negative things are being eroded day by day, month by month, and year by year because we Northeastern North Carolinians are wise enough to open our minds and our hearts to truth.

Most people living here have no issues with race and those that do are going the way of the dinosaurs. Sure, there are those that will always focus on differences to justify the darkness in their spirits. Those that refuse to see the light of truth – that we are all God’s children and that He has no favorites – are the ones shaping a new region of the country that will one day be recognized for its forward thinking while still preserving ties to a richly diverse past.

Take some time during February to celebrate Black History Month, both to pay tribute to the many men and women who risked humiliation, pain and death to make this a better nation and to celebrate a not too distant future when skin color becomes truly irrelevant when assessing a person’s character.

And since I touched on the subject of how great North Carolina is, let’s root for the Panthers to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 38 this Sunday. Go Panthers!