By Martin A. Dyckman • Guest Columnist

Americans are asking why we now have a president whom they wouldn’t trust to manage their finances, teach their children or date their daughters. The answer, of course, is the Electoral College, which was created mainly to protect us from just such a person as Donald Trump.

That’s usually said in a resigned tone of voice, as if there’s nothing that can be done to prevent another such dysfunction. In fact, the Electoral College can be reduced to a figurehead formality in an amazingly simple way. That’s by state legislatures enacting a compact to cast their electoral votes for whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationwide. It’s alive, if not well, in North Carolina in the form of Senate Bill 440. I’ll get back to that.

While standing atop a black diamond run at Beech Mountain last weekend, several thoughts crossed my mind.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve done this.

In last week’s edition of The Smoky Mountain News we published articles about positive political and economic signs in two towns in our coverage area. Sylva and Canton both have a lot of momentum right now and were the towns we wrote about.

But for the most part, the entire coverage area of The Smoky Mountain News — Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, along with Cherokee — is actually doing pretty well and beating the odds versus a lot of places in North Carolina. Unemployment is low, population is growing modestly, and the small businesses we deal with on a weekly basis remain optimistic about the future.

From the time I was about 10 years old, I have been a rabid sports fan. In the beginning, I chose my allegiances whimsically. I liked the Cowboys because they had stars on their helmets and were called “America’s Team” and I lived in America, and because I liked Coach Tom Landry’s fedora. I chose to pull for the Lakers because they had an actual giant on their team, a man named Wilt Chamberlain who wore a cool bright yellow headband. And I picked the Dodgers because my dad liked them and I wanted to be like him or least have something in common with him.

I have a tattoo on the inside of my right wrist that says, “Everything ahead of me.” I got it at a time when I felt so bogged down in an ever-present mire, life felt like quick sand. From my mom’s death to a marital separation, it was one traumatic thing after another.

The only way I could get through a day was to think of a happier, more optimistic future. Seeing the words printed on my body was a constant reminder.

By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist

This is a letter my wife and I sent to President Donald Trump:

I write with no expectation of influencing your administration — except, perhaps, to prompt scornful laughter from any minion who happens to read it — as you have proved yourself immune to public opinion. We intend, rather, to inspire others to speak out and to add to the documentation by which history will judge how Americans coped with our greatest national crisis since the Civil War.

As the new year dawns and I take account of everything that’s happened in the past 12 months, it’s Donald Trump that grabs the top spot in my “what the hell happened here” category.

I’m a proud American, and for some reason that seems something unpopular to say these days. I’m no patriot and have never been tested in that manner or served in the Armed Forces, but I still cherish what this country stands for: freedom, equality, a place where one can rise to the level of their own ability, a place that lends a hand to those struggling to gain freedom or achieve success. Above all, a place that strives to achieve a moral high ground in both domestic and international relations.

Except for the year our daughter, Kayden, got the flu and we had to make the best of spending Christmas at home with one of our youngsters battling a fever of 102, our kids are accustomed to hitting the road pretty early on Christmas Day. Ordinarily, they have no more than a couple of hours to marvel over their presents from Santa before they have to strap in and nestle in the backseat of the car for a long winter’s nap of three hours or so, about the time in takes to get to my hometown of Sparta.

Caught you being good

My dad called the other day and said he had a fun Christmas surprise for my boys. Knowing my dad this “surprise” could have been anything. This is the man who gave my older son a fake zippo lighter when he was 2 years old. When you popped open the top, it said, “Get ‘er done.”

In this holiday season, I have much to be thankful for. At least that’s the way I see it, though others may call me crazy for what I consider my blessings.

Skip past this column right now unless you’re OK with a little self-indulgence while I talk about what we do here at The Smoky Mountain News. I mean, it’s an odd business: we gather information from throughout the region — news from various sources and paid advertisements from businesses — package it in print and online, and give it away each week in hopes you’ll read and find what we do relevant, useful and interesting so we can do it again next week.

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