Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Column for Nov. 26, 2009

I don't know if I can get in all I wanted to address this week, since I have a notepad full of topics, but let me see how far I can get. As I said a few weeks ago, I am an equal opportunity offender. I don't care who you are or from what side of an issue you come, if you are wrong, you are wrong. And I don't mind saying so.

I was aghast after reading in this and one other newspaper about the decision of Harris Jenkins to file a formal protest with the Johnston County Board of Elections after he lost the mayoral race here in Selma. Was it about voter fraud or candidate shenanigans? Nope. It was about the polling place for the west precinct being "inconvenient". Inconvenient? This is a joke, right?

Since I have lived in Selma (over seven years now. I have been a Johnstonian for a dozen years and a Tarheel for over two decades) there have been at least four voting locations that I can recall for the west precinct. I remember voting at the town library, Harrison Gym, a church six miles out of town (according to, the police department annex building, and now Selma Elementary School.

There is no way possible that Selma Elementary School can possibly be considered to be "inconvenient". If hundreds of people can ensure that their children can one way or another, arrive safely at that school each and every school day I can hardly consider it to be inconvenient. If parents can show up there for school activities and Miss Railroad Days Pageants take place there, the venue can hardly be considered to be inconvenient. If voters had to drive six miles outside the town limits for a period of time in one of the stupidest decisions taken by the Board of Elections and have us vote at a distant, out of town church, then voting at Selma Elementary School can hardly be considered to be inconvenient.

According to one news report, the "West Selma polling place is about a mile from some historically poor neighborhoods on the south side of the railroad tracks." One mile? 5280 feet. You have got to be kidding me! Just one mile? People in Iraq walked miles and stood in line for hours, under the threat of death for voting in their elections. Yet many people still dipped their fingers in purple ink to show that they got to vote.

Less than 10% of the population of Selma even shows up to vote in this town. Jenkins was quoted as saying, "Look at where all the black people live, look at where all the multicultural diverse population lives, look at where primarily the poor live".

Well, Mr. Jenkins, you were campaigning in my neighborhood. You even spoke with my wife. Have you seen my neighborhood full of Blacks, Hispanics, and the poor? Yet they seem to have no problem getting to Selma Elementary school to sign up their children for free and reduced price lunch. 60% of the students there are Hispanic and that is not to mention the amount of black students. 90% of the students there get government lunch subsidy. Quite honestly, I am tired of helping pay for them. I pay for my child's lunch plus help but theirs, too. How is it that they can get to the school for that, yet it is too far to go to vote? It is a matter of being spoiled and apathetic, not inconvenienced.

In all fairness, it has been ridiculous that the polling place keeps changing for both precincts in town. Furthermore, I don't see why we even have more than one voting location, since Selma is a small town. Even in a small town, I would still like to see three precincts and us elect two council members from each. That would be more effective for local representation purposes and give greater diversity to the town council. But that is a rabbit trail and I am not going to get to other topics today, obviously.

The bottom line is that if people are not willing to make arrangements to travel just one mile to vote in an election, they do not deserve to vote. One mile is not excessive, inconvenient, and certainly not worthy of whining.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Column for Nov. 19, 2009

There are many things over which I can differ with others and yet not need to have division. I find this especially true in matters concerning Christianity. For instance, I have a Charismatic/Pentecostal background and yet fellowship currently with a Presbyterian congregation. We have more in common than we have in conflict. I am a non-cessationalist, Arminian that is not fond of infant baptism; whereas the doctrines taught at the congregation where I attend regularly tend to be cessationalist, Calvinist, and baby sprinkling. However, we have some core doctrines with which we align and have great fellowship together.

There are many with whom I differ politically. Some of them choose to divide over these differences, others not. Some choose to absolutely refrain from any discussions regarding politics or religion and believe them to be private matters that are not to be discussed openly. Oddly enough, as opinionated as I am in matters of both politics and religion, my dear, sweet mother holds her opinions "close to her chest". To this day, I still do not know where she stands politically and she believes that if I bring up my faith, I am cramming religion down her throat. The ironic thing is that she lives in the heart of the region of the country that brought us The Great Awakening and George Whitefield in the 1730's and 40's. This period spawned great discussions of religion and as a result, politics that contributed to The American Revolution.

Recently, a young man commented "call me unpatriotic, but Christians with a political agenda test my sanctification". I find this position to be greatly conflicted. I responded to this 20 year old, "I have no problems with Christians having a political agenda. Actually, I prefer them to have one, since it is one way to be salt and light unto the world. However, one must form his political views in light of his faith and have the courage to stand by them. One well known ministry says, "Politics determines how we spend time here on Earth. Religion determines how we spend eternity." I have no great issue with that statement. Many of our Founding Fathers were ordained clergy. They, too, had political agendas."
Now you would have thought that this would have been sufficient. Instead, I got a flippant response. "Yeah to each his own. I am not a fan of abortion. Aside from that, I literally don't care what the government does." Here is where I see the hypocrisy in such a position. If you believe that abortion is wrong, which it is both Biblically and ethically, then it is incumbent upon you to attempt to do something about it. I find that in Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Who could be more needy and require the right to life be protected more than the unborn? It is the government that has decided that these rights do not need protecting, and it is the government that needs to be changed by its citizenry.

I believe wholeheartedly that Christians should take the lead in running our government, since God, in his mercy and grace, has bestowed upon us in America a form of government that allows us to participate and form government. Thus, my simple reply to this young male (one is a male by birth, a man by choice), "You should [care about government]. 1. They are ministers of God. (Romans 13) 2. Government affects your life on a regular daily basis and that of your fellow believers. 3. The form of government you were given by God takes participation to make it work. Since you are allowed to affect it, you have a God given responsibility to care. To leave the government to just the heathen is reckless, immoral, and in my opinion, sinful. (James 4:17) 4. You are told to pray for the government leaders. (1 Tim 2:1) That should be sufficient grounds for anyone who is a follower of Christ to take up a political agenda."

I am limited by the constraints of print space, but I will simply leave you with this encouragement. If you are a person of faith in Christ, let your light so shine before men. Do not allow the heathen, those who are in opposition to God, and who have a purely secular agenda determine your nation, state, or local governmental agenda. Allow your political views to be determined by your faith, not the other way around. I changed my political views greatly after I came to faith in Christ. You have an obligation to have a political agenda and views, the way I see it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Column for Nov. 12, 2009

Congratulations, Selma. I just watched the town's municipal election returns on News 14 (an exclusive service of Time Warner Cable. Yes, I work for that company. I am the engineer who brings you all of their advertising. I install and maintain their advertising automation systems for a living. Now the newspaper can send them a bill for the mention) and on the county web site. You just voted for at least another two years of the same old status quo. This little town in which I keep hearing about wanting a change in leadership has just refused the change.

To all those who live outside the town limits, you can look forward to an increase in regulation without representation. The same people who brought you town ordinance control extended to the extra-territorial jurisdiction are still in office. The same people who tried to annex your land and raise your taxes are again in office and will most likely assault your property rights again.

To those who live within the town limits, you can look for an increasingly stringent set of laws and regulations. The same people who brought you tax increases three out of four years in a row and higher utility bills than those on a privately owned electrical grid are still in power (pun intended).

The same town council members who need to have each and every issue explained, re-explained, and then rephrased to be comprehensible to them will again sit in the seat of power. Those with questionable eligibility for even holding municipal public office are still holding on to it. Way to go, Selma. The same mayor who brought news crews, the NAACP, lawsuits, and just plain negative attention to our sleepy little town will have control of the town gavel.

To all of you readers who keep telling me you want change but did not vote for it or even failed to vote at all, please refrain from telling me you want change in this town. For the past three municipal election cycles, I have made an effort to spread the message of conservative, proven, and decisive leadership. Instead, people apparently would prefer an existing clique.

Sitting at a local restaurant or barbershop, I have heard several people either postulate or assent to the idea of candidate X being a nice "airhead" or indecisive, and yet the same candidate has been returned to office yet again.

I was personally hoping for a changing of the guard, since I am tired of the status quo. We had status quo four years ago, but I do believe that perhaps some of that status quo was better than our existing status quo. When liberties are marred, taxes are raised, town public relations and perceptions worsened, volunteer advisory boards repeatedly ignored, and hand picked cronies empowered, I question the legitimate progress therein.

To be fair, there have been some positive results over the past four years of the tenure of our incumbent town "govering [sic] body". The town did indeed trim some of its budget. Though from what I have been informed by those who would know, the town was never in as bad shape economically as was claimed.

The town did reorganize its fire department and hired a full time fire chief, regardless of the questionable methodology in doing so. The town leadership did hire two different town managers, though again, its methodology and end result are still in great question. The town council and mayor did adopt clearer planning and zoning ordinances, though they were brought about by the diligent work of a new Planning Director and the few accepted recommendations by a frustrated Planning Board. Just ask them and you will find that most on that board are very frustrated.

Here is the saving grace. The phrase, "the devil that you know is better than the one you don't" may be appropriate in this case. At least the incumbents are a known quantity, though I was looking forward to something different. I figured that the race for mayor could have been an upset, and it was even closer than two years ago, with just a twenty-seven vote difference. That means that just 14 voters could have changed the outcome of that election. I figured (and wrote some time ago in this very column) that the two incumbents for the town council would return handily, and they did. In all honesty, there was little in the way of opposition to worry about. There were some write-in votes, but those were not reported.

Oh, well. It's time to simply pick up my pickaxe and keep swinging. In the meantime, I am going to spend less time involved in public affairs in this town and more time with my family, my church, and in my cozy home sanctuary.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Column for Nov. 5, 2009

Sometimes I do not have to go looking for entertainment. Sometimes it finds me. Sometimes I do not have to search for topics upon which to write this column. Sometimes they find me. When they both come in the same package, then that is a serendipity of laughter in which I revel.

My entertainment and fodder for this week came in my mailbox. I am used to getting email, phone calls, and even mail from readers. Seldom, however, do people actually sign a letter or leave a name if I get an answering machine message. Occasionally, someone will have the integrity, courage, and decency to actually include their identity. Not this time, however.

"With reference to your commentary dated October 22, 2009 of your interest in local and public affairs you seemed unhappy in the govering [sic] body in Selma. Why not leave Selma? Go back where you came from and perhaps you will be happy and not confused." That was the full content of the handwritten letter.

The amusing thing is that the speech pattern and handwriting are very familiar to me. I immediately knew the origin of the letter. I could be wrong, but if I were a betting man, I would lay money on this one. Just for fun, I could call upon a contact I have who processes fingerprints for a living, but I would rather just chuckle.

One thing for certain is that I am not confused, as the writer asserts. The problem is that I am just the opposite, which is what offends the "govering [sic] body" or any others that would be the point of a rant. Make no mistake, I am an equal opportunity offender. I don't care what race, sex, or creed you happen to be or hold. Elected officials usually deserve whatever praise or jeers they get, depending upon their performance. A classic example is Congressman Bob Etheridge. When he takes a wise decision as my representative, I give him kudos. When he acts like Bob Etheridge normally does, he deserves my criticism. The "govering [sic] body" in Selma is no different.

Knowing what I know, I can see why the author of the letter did not take kindly to criticism of the "govering [sic] body". I actually believe some on the "govering [sic] body" to be far less competent than others. The more competent members of the "govering [sic] body" are not up for re-election this year.

As to the suggestion that I move back to where I came from, I can say this. If I relocated back to where I was raised, my taxes would be lower. The public education my sons would receive would be better, and people would generally be courageous enough to own their comments. On the same note, I have actually considered leaving Selma, since my job, church, and extra-curricular activities tend to pull me to another county. However, I am right now, right where God would have me. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing and where I am supposed to be doing it.

Would I be happier elsewhere with another govering [sic] body? That would entirely depend upon the actions of the local govering [sic] body where I would reside. If a govering [sic] body respects personal freedom, property rights, is not solely interested in control, is educated about the issues instead of needing them explained repeatedly at a Town Council meeting, and is not concerned only with personal agenda items rather than the public good, then I would be fully in support of and happy with such a govering [sic] body.

In the meantime, I am content with writing here, in my own little print space, and trying to make a difference. I will keep swinging a pick-axe at the mountain of ignorance and liberalism as long as I am allowed.

I am not ashamed of what I write. I own it, affix my name, and even my picture to it. Here is my admonition. Own your opinions. Don't be a coward. Stand up with a spine and personally own them. Better yet, if you disagree with something I write and have published publicly, have the courage to write it here, in the same venue. Give the publisher something to print on this page. Then again, the writer of this letter would not do that for a reason that is all too obvious to me. He/she should know better, and I could have really embarrassed him/her publicly. However, I will allow the letter to do it for me.

I don't mind hate mail. I actually wear it as a badge of honor. Whether you love what I write or hate it, you are reading. The message is communicated, the print space filled, and I have done my job. For that, I am thankful.