Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Column for Nov. 25, 2010

My house is 60 years old. I think I will start calling it historic. This year I sold my historic automobile, since it is technically almost an antique. The flag pole in front of the Selma Post Office is old, too. Maybe we should designate it as historic and name it after someone in town who was a dedicated mail carrier for years.

Everyone wants a legacy. Everyone wants to feel important. In little old Selma, it seems that people want to feel that our town is big and important. Not only that, but we need to name some of our important structures after Selma residents or past residents. And apparently we need to spend tax money on these things.

I have long said that just because something is old does not mean that it is of historical value. Residential neighborhoods in a town that have been around for 50 to 100 years are not necessarily important other than to those living in those homes. Let’s face it, the only really big claims to fame for Selma are that we are a convenient halfway stop between Miami and New York City and that Vicks Vaporub was invented here. Maybe we should have a Vicks museum and vending machines on every corner that dispense jars of Vaporub.

I read that the town is going to spend money “to apply for a historical designation for a residential area in town”. This will cost almost $22,500 just for a consultant to make the application. To what end, I wonder? Just because we have some old buildings does not make us historic. I barely consider the Mitchener Station building historic, and it certainly is not serving the public in its present usage or location. I have heard a lot of talk about doing something with that building, but that is all it has been, just talk. How many visitors to our town does that building attract?

I doubt seriously that an aging, nothing special, and rather unattractive residential neighborhood is going to do the public any more good with an expensive historic designation as opposed to without one. I seriously doubt that the town will recover the $22,500 from sales tax revenue from visitors flocking to Selma to see some aging, average houses. If this was Colonial Williamsburg, I would think differently. Even at that, Williamsburg is over rated. I have seen better, older neighborhoods still in use in New England. Other than making a few residents feel good about their houses at the expense of the rest of the town residents and taxpayers, the idea of an “historic” residential neighborhood designation will do little for the town.

On an almost related note, I was glad to see that the Town Council in Selma saw fit to refrain from naming every building, water tower, and flag pole after someone from Selma. I have no problem with honoring someone from time to time, but where does it stop? What is wrong with calling the Selma Police Station, “the Selma Police Station”? That works for me. Why do we waste time and money naming every water tower and building after someone? Why did we pay for brick columns and engraved plaques with a dedication? In my experience, those who want monuments erected to others often want to set a precedent for some to be erected for themselves.

In my hometown, the local police station was named in honor of a police officer who was slain in Afghanistan. I knew this man personally. We were in high school together, on the same football team, were in the fire department together, and he eventually served as a police officer in our hometown. He was in the National Guard and ended up serving in Afghanistan. He was killed by an improvised explosive device as his vehicle flipped over after the explosion. That town has several buildings named after a few past prominent citizens, like most towns do. When this man came home in a casket, his memory and life were honored as having an impact on the town. The town named the police station after him. This was the exception rather than the rule in that town. That is the way it should be, rather than automatically naming every edifice, street, park, tower, fence, light pole, and outhouse after a town resident.

Like I said, everyone wants a legacy. I don’t want mine to be a building with my name on it. I want mine to be that I had an impact on my community, that I gave my children a heritage full of faith and values, and the knowledge that I stood firmly and lived by what I believed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Column for Nov. 18, 2010

When a topic comes up more than once in a week, I figure it is something that may be worthy of my attention. I was reading an article in a Winston-Salem newspaper the other day with the headline, “Is N.C. now ripe for gay-marriage vote? Conservatives want GOP to put ban on ballot". I have also had conversations on the legality of constitutional measures, federal courts, and about homosexuality all in the past week.

I don’t hate homosexuals. I personally find their behavior repugnant, but I personally could not care less what they do with their private lives or in their own bedrooms. I do, however, take issue with ascribing legitimacy to their relationships under civil law as if equal to heterosexual marriage. What I do hate is the attempts by homosexual activists at forcing the majority of people to accept a deviant behavioral choice as normal. Again, I don’t care if someone engages in that lifestyle. Yes, I do have homosexual friends, relatives, and acquaintances. I do not treat them as less than human beings or without common courtesy. I just don’t want those who speak for their cause to force the government sanctioned indoctrination of my children and society in general towards acceptance of their behavior.

I have to laugh at most right wingers who make the claims that once homosexual marriage is passed, people will want to marry their pets or inanimate objects. Though I understand the thought process, it is indeed flawed language and an over-reactionary extrapolation. It is, however, a fundamental redefinition of marriage. Marriage, since the beginning of the human race, has been between male and female. There has obviously been some variations in cases of polygamy, but they have always been marriages between those of opposite sex. Male and female is the natural, God ordained order of things, both in human kind and in the animal kingdom.

There are plenty of civil reasons I have besides my religious values that go into my opposition to homosexual marriage. Note that I do not use the word “gay”. I despise the use of the word in this context. I hate that several good, wholesome things such as the symbol of the rainbow and “civil rights” have also been hijacked by the homosexual activists just like the word gay. I can’t listen to “The Flintstones” theme song anymore without cringing.

I take great exception with theologians who are accepting of homosexuality as anything less than a sin. I also take great exception with any politician who thinks that we should all be accepting of homosexuality as something intrinsically normal and should treat that behavioral choice just as we would the color of some one's skin or their national origin. That is why I even take issue with someone like Rush Limbaugh, who does not support homosexual marriage but does accept the idea of “civil unions”. That is tantamount to calling table condiment catchup as opposed to ketchup. They are both the same thing, just under a slightly different name.

Now that a Republican majority controls both houses of the NC State Legislature, I do hope for a ballot initiative to formally codify a ban on homosexual marriage in the state constitution. However, I also have a fear that if we did so, some foolish judicial activist federal judge would attempt to strike down the measure. Just within the past couple of weeks, we have seen the State of Oklahoma voted overwhelmingly to affirm a constitutional amendment that would ban the state from considering the use of Sharia (Muslim) or foreign national laws in determining legality in their state. That is only common sense and how a sovereign state works.

Simply put, a sovereign state has the right to determine its own laws. The Tenth Amendment does still apply in that the powers not specifically granted to the national government are reserved for the states. After all, it was the states that created the national government, not the other way around. If a state (which derives its power from the people thereof) that has the right to sanction and dissolve marriage chooses to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anything but the natural order, fabric of society, moral principle of marriage being equal to one man and one woman, then that is their prerogative. A state should also be able to refuse to recognize marriages sanctioned outside of those parameters as sanctioned by another sovereign state. If you don’t like the marriage laws of a state, you don’t have to live there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Column for Nov. 11, 2010

Last week's election exemplified why I am not a Republican. I don't say this because I am tremendously disappointed with the election results, but I am disappointed in how the GOP has handled some issues.

Renee Ellmers had gotten little or no support from The National Republican Congressional Committee all during her campaign. They claimed that her campaign was "not ready for prime time". While I must agree that there were some issues not readily apparent to most of the public, the fact is that she was the one who was running against the incumbent Democrat candidate, Bob Etheridge. When your candidate is running, you do what you can to support that candidate. You put the novice status aside and you run with that person. I didn't see anyone else standing up to the plate to take on Ol' Bob this year.

Then came election night. I sat up until after 11:30 PM watching election results trickle in. I don't know what makes returns trickle so slowly in this day of electronic media, but even that late there were still returns not yet reported from all precincts in the district. We pulled up Harnett and Johnston County's Board of Elections web sites and watched the results come in quicker than television was reporting the data. The count was neck and neck for a long time, then Renee Ellmers pulled out far ahead of Bob Etheridge in both counties.

Now there is a recount in the voting district after more ballots miraculously showed up that were supposedly not counted. This put the incumbent within the margin needed for a recount, so it appears that we will have one.

What did The National Republican Congressional Committee do when asked to help keep Renee as the winner? They told Renee Ellmers to raise the money herself for the cost of the recount. They snubbed her twice. The second snubbing is beyond my comprehension, since she had apparently won the election. You would think that they would want to keep it that way, even if the GOP did sweep a lot of seats in The House of Representatives.

Political games and disrespect like that are reasons why I left the Republican Party and why I do not believe that they will be as conservative and effective as many pundits seem to think. Somehow, Republicans have forgotten how to take command once they have power and want to limp-wristedly try to compromise and not seem so sinister. That is not a winning strategy. If you are in control, act like it. The Democrats have this part down pat. The Republicans seemed almost apologetic about being in charge, in times past.

Locally, we saw a similar snub to Johnston County School Board candidate, Jamie Guerrero. I have met and interviewed Jamie. He is a conservative, concerned family man. The local GOP originally endorsed him. However, Jamie took issue with things such as the fact that teachers and staff got no raises in salary this year but overpaid bureaucrats in the school administration building got a 7% salary increase. That is a legitimate observation. He also railed against the $30+ million reserve fund that the school system has, but they are not using it to offset expenses in a period of tight fiscal times. Again, that is a legitimate observation.

Jamie was warned to get off these issues, but he held to his convictions. When the local GOP chastised him, he put the actual data on his web site to prove his claims. As a result, the county Republican Party rescinded their support of Mr. Guerrero, republished their polling place voting guides at the last minute without his name included, and refused to take his literature and campaign signs to polling places in the county.

A look at the election results had Jamie coming in fourth place. Only the top 3 candidates would take seats on the board. The top two Republicans got far more than the 3rd place candidate, who got just a little more support than Mr. Guerrero. It is entirely possible that had the local GOP not taken the actions they did, Jamie could be a board member elect today. Instead, they in effect handed the election to a liberal Democrat incumbent.

The Johnston County Republicans would rather tolerate a liberal in office than one of their own with the conviction and courage to state the issues. The national Republicans would rather keep a liberal Congressman in office than make sure he was defeated, the margin of control in Congress was increased, and party unity was shown.

I saw some of the same gamesmanship played at the local level several years ago. Local GOP representatives told me how things have "changed" since I was a Republican, and how the local party has improved. I see the same games played on the national level in my own district. As long as I see things like this, I will have a hard time believing that the GOP has returned to its conservative roots and that they are willing to change politics as usual. Until I see it, I won't believe it, and will remain registered as an "unaffiliated" voter.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Reader feedback on my Nov. 4th column

I apparently struck a nerve with a reader of The Selma News. I got this email today. My response follows.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: November 4th Column
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2010 17:23:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Christina Holt

Mr. LaPlante,

Good evening. I am writing to express my extreme displeasure and disappointment in your November 4th column in The Selma News. While I am wholeheartedly in agreement that we should all be able to express our opinions, insults about a person's race or ethnicity, even those hid in sarcasm and mediocre humor should be excluded from print. Referring to the WIC recipient as having "questionable legal status" and calling her an "English as a Second Language candidate" is beyond reproach. Did you ask to see her green card? Did you attempt to carry on a conversation with her to assess her English speaking skills? I am sure both answers would be no.

You, like so many other narrow-minded individuals these days, simply sat back and talked about her as if she was less than human. Regardless of whether or not she had toys, a cell phone, or an expensive stroller, she had something even more important with her that day - children. Every child, legal or not, deserves adequate nutrition. Have you ever looked into your child's eyes and wondered how you would find the money to deliver his or her next meal?

I have been a single mother. Thank God I had a supportive family so that I didn't have to ask myself that question. Unfortunately, not every parent, single or not, is that lucky. Many of these parents go to work every day, performing menial tasks that you probably wouldn't even consider. However, they just don't make enough to support their families and provide everything their children need. Do you think that most people enjoy going and asking for help? I can tell you that it is humiliating and makes you feel like a failure as a person and a parent. What makes you feel even worse is people like you who sit back and analyze everything in your cart, tap their feet because it's taking too long in the check-out line, and whisper, thinking we must also be too stupid to understand you are talking about us.

I was a WIC recipient and my daughter grew up strong and healthy. I also put myself through school while working full-time to better our lives so that we didn't have to continue taking "free money" as you call it. Let me ask you another question, would it have made you feel better about the WIC recipient if she had no toys and no stroller? Perhaps her children should be punished in your eyes because they were born to immigrants of a low socioeconomic status.

My husband is an immigrant, who by the way speaks perfect English along with four other languages. How many languages do you speak? He works long shifts and goes to school. I wonder if you'd stand behind him in the check-out line and make the same assumptions on your way home from church next Sunday. Perhaps you should pay closer attention to the sermons, which I can guarantee do not revolve around judging others or alienating certain groups of people.

Perhaps also you should be reminded that this wonderful country of ours - the one that grants you the freedom to rant - was built by immigrants. These people, like so many today, seek more opportunities, freedom from some kind of oppression, and a chance for their children to have and be more. Maybe we are out of candy to give away, but we are also out of much more important things - love for one another, generosity, compassion, and respect. Instead of worrying about what we give away, maybe you should be focused on what we don't.

Thank you for your time.

Christina H. Nait Saidi
112 Kirkwall Lane
Selma, NC 27576

My reply:

First of all, thank you for reading the column. If you are displeased, that is fine. It is not like that is going to sway my opinion.

As to the subject's questionable legal status, it was not necessary to ask for her Green Card. Her being an ESL candidate was obvious. All we had to to was listen. We did not have to carry on a conversation to hear her lack of command of the English language. I have no problem with her not knowing how to fluently speak the language. I do have a problem with taking from Americans who work hard and pay the freight in this country. Race or ethnicity has NOTHING to do with it, madame. Common sense does.

Children do not "deserve" adequate nutrition at the expense of everyone else. That is the parents' responsibility, not that of the taxpayer. If she could not afford to have more children, then her money would have been better spent on birth control rather than on toys. Or better yet, she could have refrained from procreative activities altogether rather than making us all pay her way.

Is it fair for the American taxpayer to shoulder her burden as well as our own? Is it fair that we pay full price for school lunch while subsidizing the meals of 90% of Selma Elementary student lunches? Are all children guaranteed an equal outcome? Is it fair that my parents had to bust their tails to provide for us while others got freebies at taxpayer expense? Was it fair that welfare recipients in my hometown were driving nice, new cars while so many hard working citizens drove rust buckets?

As to your comment, "Many of these parents go to work every day, performing menial tasks that you probably wouldn't even consider", you obviously do not know me nor know how poor I have been in my lifetime and the menial, low paying, mundane jobs I have had. I have worked my tail off for years to make the sort of income I now enjoy. It came at a cost. It came with extremely hard work, discipline, and long hours. I have paid my dues, lady.

Since I am the one helping pay for what that woman was buying, I have every right to be critical of what is in her cart. As to your accusation of assumptions and judgmental ism, you have obviously missed the parts of Christianity in which we are SUPPOSED to judge. The oft misunderstood and misquoted "judge not that ye be not judged" is rarely taken in its context or with the rest of the verse, thus twisting it to fit one's point. The idea is that when you make a judgment, you will be held to that same standard yourself. I have no problem with that at all. As a matter of fact, the Bible is full of admonitions that if you don't work, you should not eat, meaning that you pay your OWN way. Also, we (the Church and who are spiritual) are to judge ALL things. Furthermore, one who does not provide for their own children is worse than an infidel and has denied the faith. Nowhere are we commanded to supply for everyone else's children. But of course these do not fit your perspective, so I am sure that you will be dismissive of them. If you want to bring religious belief into this, be prepared before you engage me, because I am just about always prepared for such discussions and teaching. Ironically, you have done the very thing you have just accused me of, which Jesus called hypocrisy.

You asked how many languages I speak. I speak two.

You wrote, "we are also out of much more important things - love for one another, generosity, compassion, and respect". No, we are not. We are full of these things, as well. When was the last time you sent someone $100 just because you knew someone was lacking? When was the last time you opened your pantry to someone who could not afford groceries? When was the last time someone came to you needing help with a car repair, with transportation, or with a meal and you cheerfully obliged? When was the last time you took in a family member who had nowhere to turn? When was the last time you tried to give away a perfectly good automobile to someone who had need of one? When was the last time you dropped a case of diapers on the doorstep of a young single mother just because you knew that she was struggling financially? Ask my bride sometime and you will find out just how much that is my nature...and she can only speak for the times she knows about.

As Americans, we give more money to charity, to churches, in volunteer service, and of ourselves than any other country on the face of the planet. We do this out of the willingness and gladness of our own hearts. When one mooches off the government, such generosity is extracted by force. THAT is the problem with WIC, welfare, and other entitlement programs. As one of the millions from whom that money is forcibly extracted, I have the right to be critical of how it is spent, or rather redistributed to others.

You wrote, "I wonder if you'd stand behind him in the check-out line and make the same assumptions on your way home from church next Sunday." Not if he whipped out his OWN debit card or paid cash rather than a WIC voucher or a food stamp card.

You wrote, "this wonderful country of ours...was built by immigrants". Only partially. And then by ones who primarily were here legally, my ancestors among them. You further wrote, "These people, like so many today, seek more opportunities, freedom from some kind of oppression, and a chance for their children to have and be more." Seeking opportunity is fine. I welcome those who seek opportunity. I welcome immigrants from all over the long as they enter the country legally. We are guaranteed equal opportunity. We were never guaranteed equality of outcome. Since you wrote of religious concepts, Jesus himself said, "the poor you will have with you always". That does not mean that we have to give them equal food, equal education, equal clothing, equal housing, or even equal toys for children at taxpayer expense.

For what it is worth, just this evening I had someone recognize me, ask me if I was the one who wrote the newspaper column, and then proceeded to tell me how much she absolutely loved the exact same column you despised above all the others that she has read.

Again, thank you for reading the column and for your feedback. I will continue each and every week to try to persuade people like yourself how correct I really am. By the way, if you think that my column is something, you should see my television talk show on Wednesday nights at 7PM on the local TV station, WARZ channel 34.


Troy LaPlante

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Column for Nov. 4, 2010

“Y’all are going to vote November 2nd, aren’t you?” we were asked while waiting in line at Wal-Mart. “Oh, yeah,” replied my lovely bride.

One of the frustrating things about writing this column is that I have a deadline for publication prior to knowing what Tuesday’s election results were. As I am writing this, we finally put one seven-year-old to bed and my wife is sitting in my living room trying to rock the baby to sleep so we can have the evening to ourselves. I just finished watching the New England Patriots win another football game and my wife finished handing out big handfuls of candy to the little beggars that come to our door every year.

I don’t mind giving out candy to children on Halloween, but I personally am not into participating in its celebration. Giving out candy at least gives me the opportunity to show good will and if I am so inclined, to slip in literature such as gospel tracts, campaign literature, fliers, etc. This year we did not give out an sort of literature, but we did give out the most candy we ever have previously. What October 31st really means to me personally is that it is the anniversary of the day on which I closed on my modest home here in the booming metropolis of Selma.

Each year we give handouts. Some people I know hate Halloween, some do not mind. Some have religious issues against the observance, some don’t care. Personally, I often liken it to government handouts. If your porch light is on during Trick or Treat time, you are in effect advertising that you have something to give away free. All one has to do is knock on the door to get free candy. We as a nation do that same thing each and every day of the year.

So what does that have to do with my opening paragraph? On the way home from our regular Christian religious observance gathering today, we stopped by the Wal-Mart in Clayton. We filled our shopping cart with groceries, a few low priced DVDs, and a few other desired items. We then proceeded to find the best open check out lane we could. We got in line behind a middle aged lady who did not have too many items on the conveyor belt. Ahead of her was a woman of questionable legal status who had a child with her who was about kindergarten age and what appeared to be twins in a double baby carriage.

This woman tied up the check out lane for quite some time. She had four different transactions. Her first three transactions were all paid for with WIC (Women’s, Infants, and Children’s federal assistance program) vouchers. Contrary to the WIC official web page, WIC is essentially an entitlement program. If free money is being given to people who did not earn it, then it is, as far as I am concerned, an entitlement program. Immigrants are especially considered for WIC because (reading from the WIC web site), “migrancy is considered a nutritional risk factor”.

We waited a good ten minutes just for this one woman’s purchases to be processed. Just when it looked like the order was complete, another was transacted with another voucher. Finally, she payed for the last bit of groceries with cash. She already had toys that were paid for in the shopping cart. She pulled out a cell phone while were were all waiting for her to be checked out, and the baby stroller was certainly not an inexpensive one.

The woman in front of us looked at us, and we looked at her. All of us were a growing a wee bit impatient. I said to the woman in front of us, “At least we are paying for hers in addition to our own groceries.” She assented to the sentiment and a moment or two later, after she grew increasingly frustrated, she asked us if we were going to vote. We knew exactly why she asked that question. Like us, she is tired of the handouts.

We grew even more impatient when we watched our check out girl leave the register in between WIC transactions and run into the bathroom. When she returned, she resumed checking out the English as a Second Language Class candidate. When the woman finally “paid” for all of her groceries, she attempted to apologize for taking up so much time. I wanted to tell her, “When you start paying for your own groceries, then you can truly apologize. Until then, I don’t buy that concept.” Of course I chose to remain silent, instead, and not cause a scene. It would not have accomplished anything at the time.

I believe in Christian charity. I do not believe in government forcibly taking money away from people who will work and giving it to people who do not or may be lower on the income scale. That is what family, charities, and the Church are for. I have never failed to help people who truly have been in need or were hungry.

I don’t know what the November 2nd election results will be as of this writing, but I do hope that we can turn the proverbial porch light out. We, as a nation, have run out of candy a long time ago and can not afford to keep giving it away.