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Cartoon, Jan. 3, 2018

By Will Studenc

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.

An aging membership, the inability to recruit younger members, a lack of civic engagement and a shift away from nonpartisanship are all factors the Macon County chapter of the League of Women Voters just couldn’t seem to overcome.

The nonpartisan advocacy group that has worked to encourage civic engagement in Macon County felt it had no choice but to disband after 27 years.

While the Macon County League of Women Voters had to disband this year due to low membership and community involvement, the Asheville-Buncombe League is on the upward swing with a renewed enthusiasm from members and the community.

Local politics in Western North Carolina have long been dominated by the good ole boys. But like they say about winter in “The Game of Thrones,” change is coming.

I’ve spent much of my career as a journalist — the past 25 years — covering the towns and counties west of Buncombe County, watching as local civic leaders made decisions that have had lasting effects on the region. Aside from Sylva — which has a long tradition of female leaders in politics and business — it’s been a game dominated by old white guys.

By William Everett • Guest Columnist

Garret Woodward’s Opinion piece “After tragedy in Vegas, where to from here?” (Oct. 4-10) leads us to wider questions about the fragility and peril of our country’s public life. Not only are our fellow citizens dying in mass shootings. Our republic itself is under assault. The integrity of the public arenas that constitute the lifeblood of our republican order is imperiled by the threat and fear of violence, while the fog of lies and a flood of political dark money pollute the reasonable debate at the heart of republican self-governance. The failure of governance through informed and reasonable argument creates a vicious circle of violent speech and violent acts. The freedom of self-governance cannot survive under conditions of violence and the threat of violence. Our freedom as citizens rests not in our possession of guns but in our capacity to engage in a public life of reasonable debate about the common good. Throughout history the collapse of the public life underlying republican governance has created the conditions for despotism, tyranny, and dictatorship. Despots arise who campaign on collective fear and govern by personal greed.

As President Trump’s administration continues to descend further into chaos with each passing week, there are a few truths that we will have to reckon with when it comes to an end, whether that occurs in a few years, a few months or a few weeks. The biggest of these is also the most obvious: we are a nation divided. Though polls show that Trump’s support is dwindling slightly, there remains a solid core of Trump voters who still support him and believe that his problems are essentially the fault of the media and of sore-loser liberals, who in their view refused to accept the legitimacy of his presidency and are thus undermining any chance he has of being productive or successful.

After a disappointing loss to an entrenched incumbent in 2016, Beaverdam’s Rhonda Cole Schandevel announced Aug. 26 that she’ll again be a Democratic candidate for the North Carolina General Assembly in House District 118.

Although Haywood County’s municipal elections in Canton, Clyde and Maggie Valley will garner the most attention through November, state legislative campaigns will fire up shortly thereafter — if not sooner.

Prayer as part of government meetings has a long — and often contentious — history in this country, and a recent court ruling on the issue certainly won’t settle this debate.

This case does, however, add one more brick to the legal foundation that’s been built by respected judges since this country’s inception: prayer by those in official capacities is fine, but can’t trumpet your specific sectarian religious beliefs at the expense of those who may have a different faith.

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