What is Congress doing to our wilderness areas?

(a guest blog by Jean Franklin)

On Congress’ first day in session, the House approved rules setting a zero-dollar value on federally protected lands that are transferred to states. By devaluing federal lands, including the Pisgah and Nantahala Forests, Congress is paving the way for such a transfer. States will likely raise funds by selling our lands to developers or to mining, fracking, and logging interests. All Western North Carolina (WNC) Representatives voted yes on this bill.

Our wilderness areas are priceless, not worthless. WNC benefits economically from the human longing to visit wild, pristine nature. Many citizens protect additional land by donating it to conservancies, thus benefiting living nature immeasurably.

Famed biologist E.O. Wilson, in Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, presents an elegant proposal to combat species extinction: “Only by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it.” Nations have already set aside about 15 percent of Earth’s land area, but millions more square miles must be saved — not contiguous, but arranged to preserve flyways and habitats.

Tragically, Representatives McHenry, Meadows and Foxx, by voting for House Resolution 5, moved to dismantle generations of good stewardship. We must tell them they’ve made a gigantic mistake.

(This essay appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Feb. 24, 2017.)

I didn’t know: racial violence out Route 50

“Florida doesn’t count,” my North Carolina friends say when I tell them I consider myself a Southerner. After all, I attended Robert E. Lee Junior High, my classmates weren’t Yankee retirees, and I like grits.

I’m sad to say that my southern identity has been confirmed by the non-fiction book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (2012, Gilbert King, author). I have no memory of ever hearing about events in Groveland, located out Route 50, less than forty miles from my home in Orlando.

In 1949 seventeen-year-old Norma Padgett, white, falsely accused four young black men of raping her. The NAACP defended the three young men, the fourth having been hunted down and killed when he fled capture. In one horrific chapter after another we read about a brutal sheriff, a judge with no regard for fairness, and a unabashed racist community determined to administer “southern justice.” By story’s end, three of the four defendants have been murdered. The home of the head of Florida’s NAACP has been bombed, he and his wife killed. Homes of other black citizens have been burned to the ground.

Events in the book are not from some vague, distant past; this virulent racism occurred during my lifetime.

Court rulings don’t extinguish attitudes that go to our community’s core. The increased visibility of African Americans in professions and a former black President can be daily reminders that white people no longer hold all the power. No, racism like that in Florida of the 1940s and 50s doesn’t simply disappear in one generation. The children of Norma Padgett, of Sheriff Willis McCall, of Klan members intent on lynching the Groveland Boys—many are likely still alive. Their grandchildren too. “Political correctness,” they’ve come to call expectations of civility, of respect for people of another race or ethnic group.

Under a Trump presidency racism need not be concealed any longer. In fact, according to Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, “2016 was an unprecedented year for hate. The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists” (http://abcnews.go.com/US/trump-cited-report-finding-increase-domestic-hate-groups/story?id=45529218).

Devil in the Grove and the resurgence of blatant racism leave me with a disturbing truth: If growing up a white girl in a segregated society enforced by violence is a credential of being a Southerner, then I’m a Southerner. As an adult in the era of Trump, though, I will not remain unaware of violent racism that has been unleashed.

Nancy Werking Poling is author of a new book: BEFORE IT WAS LEGAL: A BLACK-WHITE MARRIAGE (1945-1987)

Why this old lady blogs

“Blog about a day in the life of an author,” a site on marketing books suggests. Okay. I get up, do a Sudoku, read the newspaper, go sit at my computer for several hours.

“Blog about the writing process,” another site recommends. Okay. I compose a sentence, go get a snack, return to my computer, delete the sentence, go to the bathroom, return to my computer, write another sentence.

“Avoid blogging about politics.” Oh-oh.

My new book, Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987), is due out soon. It’s time to promote it through blogging and tweeting, leave politics to the real pundits.

I doubt that I’ll be able to.

In 2007 I started blogging for the fun of it. I wrote about finding an old photo at a garage sale and having my Sunday afternoon nap interrupted by evangelizing teenagers.

Then came the 2008 election primary. Herman Cain, the pizza guy, promoted his 9-9-9-Plan. Michele Bachmann owned a Christian counseling center claiming to transform gay clients into heterosexuals. Rick Santorum, Senator-in-a-Sweater-Vest, promoted teaching intelligent design along with evolution in schools. I felt compelled to bring an older woman’s wisdom to the political discussion. A dose of common sense, I’d like to think.

In the current political climate, which is even more frightening than the 2008 Republican primary, I probably won’t write much that is unrelated to what our government is doing.

I am a grandmother. I am a woman who pays attention to what is happening beyond my home. I feel an urgency to be in conversation about the potential erosion of our democracy, the reality of global warming, the danger of a blustering, confrontational foreign policy, and the marginalization of groups because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or developmental difference.

I can’t be superficial. Neither, I guess, do I want readers who are.

21 days to make my sign for the Women’s March

I’ve got 21 days to decide what to write on my sign. Twenty-one days until I express in a few words why I’m participating in the Women’s March—though I’m not yet sure I’ll make it all the way to Washington.

Since the 2016 election I’ve felt a closer bond with women. Those of us supporting Hillary have had a hard time recovering, not because our candidate lost but because we fear the future. I’m joining others worried about whether our democracy will survive.

The election brought to light a secret many had not talked about before. Overhearing a conversation in which our President-Elect spoke of groping women reminded millions (yes, MILLIONS) of the trauma of sexual violation they had experienced. Mr. Trump’s words and the fact that some of his supporters considered them inconsequential opened old wounds. Victims of abuse relived feelings of powerlessness and violation. Power comes with women standing together. It’s power that we will be giving each other, reminding our sisters that together we do not have to be victims.

My sign. Who do I want it to speak to? To those who will surround me, for sure. But I also want to assure African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and immigrants that I stand against the bigotry that was unleashed in the election.

I also want my sign to speak to women who voted for Trump. Not to confront them or blame them or belittle their choice. I want them to understand that those of us gathered are women of good will. Out of love for our country and its people we stand together. The power we generate is for all women.

(Washington D.C. isn’t the only gathering place. To find a nearby locale, google Women’s March and the city closest to where you live.)

Post-election fears that haven’t gone away in two and a half weeks

I am white, straight, not a Muslim, not an immigrant, therefore not likely to be personally threatened by a Trump presidency. So why am I afraid?

******

They’re dying off. Among the living, some lean on walkers, others are stooped over. White men, all of them, veterans of a sort. Not necessarily ones who wore a uniform or fought in a distant land, but veterans of a struggle here at home. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve had the honor to meet a few of them.

Pastors of white southern churches during the 1960s and 70s, they were among the few white Christian ministers who had the courage to stand against Jim Crow laws and the region’s resistance to racial integration. They invited black preachers to speak at their pulpits. They welcomed black members into their congregations. They preached sermons against racism. As a result they lost their jobs. Their lives were threatened. The lives of their families were threatened.

Meanwhile other white ministers placed peace and security over confronting the evil of racism. They sought justification in scripture.

A friend recently shared memories of that period. Her father, Morris Warren, was a minister in the Presbyterian Church (US). A son of the South, he had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Yet during the 1960s he found that as a man of conscience, he had to take a stand against white racism.

He served as pastor of a large congregation in Macon, GA. A local task force began to interview white citizens as to “whether or not every effort should be made to prevent integrated schools.” Understanding himself as a peacemaker, Rev. Warren wrote a letter to the editor of the Macon newspaper. He simply said integration was bound to come and would not bring calamity. Yet two church elders took offense and threatened to withhold money for the congregation’s financial campaign.

For several years he kept finding himself at odds with his church and community. The Macon congregation he served split over racial issues and Rev. Warren lost his job. Yet he never saw himself as courageous and downplayed threats against him.

To my knowledge he never got beat up or had his house fire-bombed. This might cause some to consider his stance not all that remarkable. But I’m inspired by him and other ministers who 1) recognized the evil and 2) risked jobs and reputations.

Today I fear what may be required of me during a Trump presidency. As a woman of my generation, I was taught to keep peace. Don’t upset your father, don’t irritate the neighbors. In school, strive for an A in deportment. In church I was taught, “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.”

Under a Trump presidency the time may come when the rights of sisters and brothers of color, of the Muslim faith, those who are immigrants or gay will be threatened. I ask myself, will I recognize the evil even though I’m not directly affected by it? I know it has a way of sneaking in and appearing normal. What risks will I be willing to take? My reputation? My safety? My life?

 

(An excellent book and movie along this theme is Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson’s father was the pastor of an all-white Methodist church in North Carolina.)

After Election 2016, getting my life back–sort of

I’ve long wanted to blog about the challenge of selecting toilet paper—two ply, always, but do I get the extra strong or the extra soft? And how much should I take cost into consideration? I’ve wanted to use my blog to grumble about young people. I’m not sure what exactly I’ve wanted to grumble about, but aren’t old ladies supposed to complain about the younger generation? And what exactly is this mesothelioma that handsome older men in TV commercials have found relief from? Might it explain the pain in my lower back?

But political realities keep interfering with my light-hearted urges, and for several years now my attention has been on wanting Americans to take notice: notice the environment, the working poor, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for women, to name a few concerns.

During the 2016 election I put my energy into helping Hillary Clinton get elected. I took a break from my personal blog to maintain a site for a group of “mature” women. When the election is over, I told myself, and Hillary is our President, then I’ll blog about toilet paper and the younger generation.

But that, as you know, did not happen, and I find myself at odds with a state government (North Carolina) and a federal government that feels oppressive and, frankly, ignorant.

So here I go again. Back to my old wordpress site. Back to what I believe really are life-and-death issues for our country.

I invite you to enter the dialog.

Donald Trump, sarcasm, and me

Donald Trump has my sympathy. I’m being sarcastic. But not that sarcastic, to be honest with you. For sarcasm is my default mode of humor too. Over time, though, I’ve learned that others don’t usually get it. Not because I’m more clever than they, but because the distance between sarcasm and truth is usually only a little wider than a hair’s thickness. After 50 years of marriage I still have to tell my husband, “Honey, it’s a joke.”

As a young mother I was often tempted to tell my kids, “Go play on the freeway.” If I had, my husband surely would have interpreted for me: “Mommy doesn’t actually mean it. She knows you like to ride your bicycles, and she’s joking that all that pavement—if there were no cars there, that would be a great place to ride. Believe me, Mommy really, really loves you.” He would have added, “Those Abbott kids, I’ve seen how they’re all the time cheating.”

But I didn’t vent. Well, not in that way. I’ve long recognized that once words come out, whether intended as humor or not, they can’t be taken back. And that my urge to say something sarcastic most often arises out of anger or frustration. A lesson Trump seems not to have learned.

Hey, Donald, if you have to tell everyone it was a joke, it ain’t funny.

If I were you, after you’ve lost the election, I’d move to the desert. You can buy all the land you don’t already own in Nevada. You’re so very, very rich. Invite your 2nd-Amendment disciples to join you. Build a wall around the state, a very, very big wall. But I predict the U.S. government won’t like that in the process you’ve stolen Great Basin National Park and Red Rock Canyon, and the Tule Springs Fossil Beds. The army will bring in its tanks and missiles, and… Just joking.