Now that it’s 2017, I can’t bear the thought of continuing to fixate on politics and its atmosphere of pomposity and negativity that paints a picture of this country far different from what I encounter in my everyday life. It’s part of my job to cover this stuff, but our lives are about so much more than politics.
During the holiday season I was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with a lot of young adults — my kids and their friends are all ages 18 to 24, and nephews and nieces were around who are as old as 28. And here’s what I heard from them: they aren’t buying into the vision of a country that is crumbling. Instead, I would argue that it’s the fresh optimism of the young — their belief that they can fix problems others have ignored or caused — that helps fuel this country’s ongoing prosperity.
The tidal wave of negative political news in 2016 was staggering in its magnitude and emotionally overwhelming. Thankfully all that is behind us. But we can’t say adios to the year’s local news until our writers and editors sift through those events and mold them into our annual tongue-in-cheek spoof awards. With apologies in advance to those who can’t take a joke, here’s our tribute to the people and events that left an indelible mark on 2016.
It’s been a bizarre year in North Carolina’s state legislature, and that hasn’t led to the state looking good in national media headlines.
But after four special sessions (and counting), the legislature appears to be finally winding up while addressing the same issue that brought international scorn and widespread business boycotts to the Old North State earlier this spring.
I don’t know about you, but I need a quiet place about now. I need to turn off the news and close my laptop and just take a break from all of the noise. I need to put my fury away, shut down all the lights except for those on the Christmas tree, and have Doris Day sing “Silver Bells” to me alone, slumping down in my easy chair with a hot mug of chamomile tea here as the whole miserable year collapses into darkness.
Joe Sam Queen counts his campaign wins and losses like innings in a baseball game.
Mark Swanger tucked into his leather armchair beside a roaring gas fire, an expansive view of his Fines Creek family farm unfurling beyond the bay windows of his log home.
Calm, cool and collected as always, he was ready for another round of a marathon interview aimed at capturing the sweeping tenure of his 20-year political career in Haywood County.
I am at the salad bar, evaluating the freshness of the broccoli and spinach, deciding whether I want croutons or sunflower seeds sprinkled on top, when I perceive a short, stocky man with dark hair sizing me up from the other side. I can already sense what is coming. Am I a confederate? Or, shudder, a liberal? Maybe apolitical, though how could I be — how could anybody be — with so much at stake in this election? He approaches, and I turn to acknowledge him just as I spear my second radish.
“That damn Hillary Clinton is out to ruin this country, you know it?” he says, leaning in a little. “If she gets in, we won’t recognize America two years from now.”
Cruel. That was it, that’s the word that defines why I think Donald Trump is unfit to be president. Obviously, some others have already come to that conclusion.
Like many Americans, I have spent too much of the time I have left on this earth cringing while listening to what Trump has said since he started seeking the highest office in the land, wondering how he has gotten this far.
We are still near the dawn of the Internet age. We can get just about any information we desire in a matter of seconds, so much information that a simple Google search on practically any subject will turn up literally thousands and thousands of “hits.” This has obvious advantages if you are looking for the best restaurant in, say, Hickory, or if you want to know who won the Dodgers game last night, or if you are trying to find out why your dog is sick by typing in her symptoms. It is all there for the taking.
There were two primetime spectacles Monday evening. One was the first presidential debate between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The second immediately followed the debate, when John and Jane Q. Public took to their smart phones and computers to spout their political opinions, many of which seemed as if the couple ran out onto their front yards across America, ripping off their clothing in a state of madness and confusion, pounding their chests and howling up to the heavens, in hopes of being loud enough that the neighbors would hear, turn on their porch light and say, “What the hell is going on over there?”
Say what you will about Clinton and Trump, there isn’t much left that hasn’t already been plastered or dumped onto the world spotlight. Watching the debate, Clinton resembled Tracy Flick from the film “Election,” poised and ready for any curveball thrown at her, but also seemingly perfect and untouchable to a fault, something voters can’t seem to swallow when deciding who to cast a ballot for.