My Goal to Grow

When you’re throwing dirt, you’re losing ground,’’ Rocky Bridges, former manager of the Prince William Cannons of the Carolina League.

Through the first half-century or so of my life, I was the measuring stick for being six-feet tall.

If I looked up to you, literally, not figuratively – necessarily — you were taller than six-feet.

If I looked down on you, again, not for any reason other than physical dimensions, you were shorter than six-feet.

Imagine then my consternation a few years back when on a visit to the doctor I was measured at 5-11.

No way. Can’t be. I’m six-feet tall. Have been since I was 16.

Then came my most recent visit, when I was braced for the result when measured. The nurse’s read was 70 inches.

And 70 inches, as even my public school education taught me, is 5-10.

Talk about being brought up short.

My physicians assistant I’ve grown to like and trust bucked me up, so to speak, when I bellyached about the measurement. Other patients have found fault as well. The measurement is off. The scales need to be recalibrated.

Maybe. I’ve heard folks lose height with age, but I wonder could it really be that dramatic?

Maybe. Yet, what a comedown, in more ways than one.

What I’ve also heard – and too often witnessed – is that folks also grow smaller in other, far more significant ways the older they get. They get more judgmental. They’re quicker to impose their morals and belief systems on others. They demand conformity, whatever conformity happens to be at the time.

They become Old Fogies.

And if I can’t do anything about growing shorter in physical stature – other than maybe hooking myself up that spine-stretching contraption Barney Fife resorted to in The Andy Griffith Show – then I’ve made a vow to grow bigger in all the ways that really matter.

Instead of being quick to find fault, I’ll be slower. Instead of holding everyone to my standards, I’ll at least attempt to recognize there’s always an alternative viewpoint to any and every opinion.

And in those instances where we can’t find common ground – i.e., on the merits, or shall we say, demerits of our current President – I’ll endeavor to never call those with whom I disagree nasty, sarcastic, juvenile names.

Rocky Bridges, the manager-savant I was lucky enough to meet during my decades of covering Carolina League baseball for the Winston-Salem Journal, got it right. When you’re throwing dirt, you’re losing ground.

Our history, in many ways, makes us who we are. I came of age in Franklin, N.C., tucked away in the folds of the Smoky Mountains, and Franklin is as rock-ribbed Republican as just about any place you’ll find.

I know those who support and go to war – again figuratively, if not literally – for our current President. I grew up around them. Most, like me, are of Scots-Irish descent, and their heads, like mine, are as hard as mountain granite.

And what they won’t abide is to be looked down upon. Their forebears were looked down upon, dating all the way back to William Wallace of Braveheart fame. Or at least that’s how James Webb explains it in his illuminating book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.

We Scots-Irish develop a keen sense of smell from birth, one that can smell condescension from time zones away. I’ll go to my grave believing that condescension, or at least the implied whiff of it, was what kept Hillary Clinton from becoming our nation’s first female President.

I recognize that Macon County, my home county, will probably never in my lifetime vote for a Democrat for President. But our country is changing inexorably, and given shifting migratory and demographic patterns, the day may come when a Democrat can get from Macon County more than the 28 percent Clinton received in 2016.

But, the way I see it, ridiculing and mocking and even vilifying those who voted for Donald Trump, is no way to hasten that day. To disagree is important. I, personally, feel it’s imperative. But there are ways to disagree without resorting to derision or contempt.

Think of it this way. Donald Trump needs 69 percent of the vote of Macon County to be elected president. If it’s 59 percent in that mountain county, there’s no way he takes the White House.

So not only is name-calling sophomoric and condescending, it’s destructive.

I’ve come to realize that with almost every decision of my life, I can go one of two ways. I can be big about it, or I can be small.

And a person can’t be smaller than when they’re running another person down.

The older I get, the bigger I want to be – regardless of what those infernal scales at the doctor’s office might say.


For the past two or three years we’ve all seen all these folks walking around sporting red baseball caps brandishing the letters MAGA.

Being from time to time a little slow on the uptick, I had to ask. Without too much ribbing, a friend informed me that letters signify Make America Great Again.

As someone who has spent all 66 of his years in this wonderful country, the greatest country in the history of mankind, I’m all about the first three words of that slogan. I’m down with that noble sentiment. Down to the ground.

Let’s all do what we can to make our country as great as it can be. It’s our patriotic duty.

My problem, though, was with the fourth word, the Again. It confused me when I first encountered the slogan and confuses me still today.

Again? As in when?

Take back what you said about taking our country back,

Like you want us to forget all that history

You’re trying so hard to redact.

The same folks wearing the red MAGA baseball caps have been know to chant “Let’s take our country back.’’ They’ve been chanting it every since our current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue arrived on the national political scene.

At the risk of redundancy, I have to ask. Where do they want to take our country back to?

Give me a time. Give me a date. Give me a place.

We’ve come so far together,

Of that we should be proud

And here you’re trying to turn back time

Being all angry, hateful and loud.

Those in the red-hat movement remain vague about exactly when and where they’re talking about, perhaps intentionally so. At the risk of assigning motives where there are none, it’s not hard to imagine they’re referencing a sort of idealized 1950’s/60s Ozzie and Harriet America in black and white to which so many people look back in such fond fashion these days.

And if you’re a white heterosexual male, (such as yours truly) and in particular, a rich heterosexual white male (which I’m truly not) then that was indeed, without a doubt, a exceedingly fortuitous time to be living in our great country.

Because you were indisputably, and without peers, at the top of the heap, the absolute master of all you surveyed. Good times.

Take back what you said about taking our country back,

Could that be back from anyone who happens to be

Brown, red, yellow or black?

The question I’ve never heard those in the red-hat movement answer is what about those Americans who aren’t white heterosexual males? Should they be taken back to wherever it is — for the supposed good of our society and country — we’re all supposed to return?

As one who spent his career in journalism, I was trained to seek and even demand specificity. And it’s frustrating that nothing about this chant “Let’s take our country back’’ is in the least bit specific.

When are they talking about? Give me a time. Give me a date. Give me a place.

Look around we’re all Americans

You may not like it but that’s the deal.

But only by getting past the fear and hate

Can you really see what is real.

The Ozzie and Harriet days of the 1950s/60s weren’t, by most accounts, such a great time in America for anyone who happened to seek love and shelter from the storm with one of their own sex. The closet was overflowing, and to be caught outside was to all but ensure public censure, if not derision or even bodily harm.

And they weren’t great days for many women, especially considering how few there were walking the corridors of power. I’m old enough to remember how the boast of many men was that they kept their “woman’’ barefoot and in the kitchen.

Or do we want to return to 1919, the blink of an eye in the overall arc of history, to when women weren’t even entrusted with the vote? Is this when the red hat brigade is talking about?

Take back what you said about taking our country back

It’s time we all had a say,

Lord knows you’ve had your crack.

I’ll keep watching and listening for any specificity, for anyone to give me a time and a date and a place they want our country to return to. But while I’m waiting, I’ll provide specifics of my own.

The time: Sunday, 10:22 a.m.

The date: Sept. 15, 1963.

The place: 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.

For it was then and there that four school children, Cynthia Wesley (age 14), Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Carole Robertson (age 14) and Denise McNair (age 11) were buried in the basement beneath the rubble resulting from a bomb planted by white supremacists emboldened by their governor proclaiming “Segregation now, segregation forever.’’ Four young innocents bombed out of the basement of their home church, while services were ensuing above.

And any notion this was an isolated incident has to confront the truth. Such atrocities were so common that the city was given the nickname Bombingham. And although it later came to light that J. Edgar Hoover, the grand poobah of the FBI, identified the four perpetrators as early as 1965, no charges were brought against anyone until 1977, when, at long last, Robert Chambliss was convicted of first-degree murder of McNair.

It took another 24 years before two more of the assassins, Thomas Edward Blanton, Jr., and Bobby Cherry were convicted of four counts and sentenced to life imprisonment.

A fourth alleged assassin, Herman Cash, died in 1994 without the American judicial system ever laying a glove on him.

Is this where we want to take America back, back to a day when school children were blown out of the basement of their church for one reason and one reason only – because they were black?

If we’re really the land of freedom,

If we take a stand for liberty

We’ll take that stand together

Or we’ll never be all we should be.

Notice, if you will, that I’ve yet to even bring up the greatest injustices of our past, how the forebears of some of us brought the forebears of others across the Atlantic ocean in chains and put them to work in our fields and homes as slaves, to be bought and sold as chattel. We even had a ruling in 1857 from the highest court in our land that anyone who arrived in this country as slaves – or whose ancestors arrived in this country as slaves – could never be America citizens and thus had no standing in our judicial system.

Take America Back? To that?

Nor have I broached the rather sensitive subject of the genocide of the native American population, how so many were uprooted from their ancestral homeland and carted off to subsist on some government appointed reservation. My mother Frances Cooper Collins, of Cherokee blood and who grew up on the Cherokee reservation in the mountains of North Carolina, taught all her children to curse the ground that Andrew Jackson ever walked on.

And she had good reason.

So why don’t we to the Angels,

Of our better natures appeal?

And instead of building walls,

We should be making laws that heal.

There’s a reflex by some of the most narrow-minded among us to brand every criticism of our great nation as anti-Americanism. You’ve heard it, how anyone who has the temerity to bring up past inequities just hates America.

What will surely not come as a surprise to anyone reading this is that I see things from the opposite perspective. To highlight where we’ve been (slavery, genocide, bigotry) and to see how far we’ve come is a testament to just how great our country really is.

Citizens are no longer bought and sold as chattel. Our law enforcement no longer turns a blind eye when citizens are massacred because of their skin color or sexual persuasion.

All that is the best reason I know to celebrate, to be proud, to give us hope and encouragement as we move forward together into a brave new world.

But we’ve got to do it together, or we’ve failed this great test of of history known as democracy.

Take America back?

Give me a time, give me a date, give me a place.

If Not Now, Then When?

Thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts and prayers.

So sick of hearing them say it like they really care.

If they really cared they’d do something about it.

How many times do we have to shout it?

If they really cared they’d do something about it.

How many times do we have to shout it?

Another of our schools shot up. Seventeen dead in Florida.

Who’s next? The most valuable lessons being taught in American schools is how to duck and run. Remember to zig zag kids. Makes for a tougher target.

America is the only country on the planet that allows – no, make that accepts – the wholesale slaughter of its people by firearms.

And no other country on the planet has so powerful a gun lobby.

Richard Burr, our Senator from right here in Winston-Salem, would love for you to believe that’s a coincidence. Burr would also like you to believe that just because the NRA and its affiliated organizations paid $5.6 million in 2016 to help him defeat democratic challenger Deborah Ross that he doesn’t owe his seat in the Senate – that he doesn’t owe his soul – to the gun lobby.

Burr of Reynolds High School, class of ‘74, and Wake Forest University, class of ‘78, was asked Thursday if the AR-15 the crazy used this week to shoot up the high school in Parkland, Fla., should be banned, or their magazines limited.

“I’ll leave it up to investigators to finish their investigation,’’ Burr replied.

Pressed if gun control shouldn’t at least be discussed, Burr ducked and covered.

“I’ll wait until they come out with their full report,’’ he said.

We’ll all wait until they come out with their full report. And then we’ll wait some more.

As mentioned before, I’m not a betting man. But I would wager anything I own except Buckshot, my guitar, that when the report is issued Burr will do the same thing he did after Sandy Hook in 2012, after Orlando in 2016, after Sutherland Springs in 2017, after Las Vegas in 2017.

He’ll extend his thoughts and prayers. And then he will do nothing.

One doesn’t get a perfect record from the NRA by beating squishy on gun-control legislation.

If now is not the time to discuss sensible measures to stop the slaughter of America citizens, then when?

Then when?

Then when?

You’ve never listened to me before on this issue, Richard, and I don’t expect you to now. But I wish you would listen to David Hogg, the 17-year-old who spent this week’s carnage interviewing fellow students holed up in their own school, wondering if they would get out alive.

“You can say, `yes we’re going to do all these things – thoughts and prayers,’ Hogg said. “What we need more than that is action.

“We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take action and play a role. Work together. Come over your politics and get something done.’’

Thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts and prayers.

So sick of hearing them say it like they really care.

A Plea For and From My People

It was my people, sad to say, who were largely responsible for the mess we’re in.

So it might well be up to my people to get us out.

My people are the Scots-Irish, the people I knew from birth in the Smoky Mountain town of Franklin, the ones I went to school with and spent my formative years around.

But you don’t have to be from the mountains to be Scots-Irish. We’re everywhere. You may even be one of us.

All of which makes a book by one of us, James Webb, the one-term senator from Virginia, so important to knowing who I am, where I came from and the impact my people have made – and continue to make – on the great American experiment.

Webb, first off, is far too good a writer to be a politician. His work, titled Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America  is a wonderfully compelling read, one I would recommend highly to anyone interested in our country’s history and culture.

Webb traces our lineage to William Wallace of Braveheart fame, and chronicles our pugnacious past from the battle-scarred borders of Scotland and England to the embattled Ulster Plantation of Ireland and on to colonial America, where we couldn’t get along with any of the earlier settlers long enough to be even remotely welcome along the coasts or among established settlements.

So a goodly number of us ended up in the borderlands of the New World, where, originally we were seen as a convenient buffer between those Native Americans disgruntled by the encroachment of Europeans and the colonies’ more refined society. What quickly became evident to those in the power centers of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Raleigh and Charleston was that we, the Scots-Irish, could be a bigger pain in the posterior than the Cherokee, Shawnee or Chickasaw.

If you don’t believe it, just read up on the Whiskey Rebellion. Nobody tells a Scots-Irish they can’t make corn whiskey for their own consumption, at least not without a good fight.

We’re, as a people, really good at fighting. It’s in our DNA. Webb, a decorated Marine officer who did himself, his family and his country proud in Vietnam, makes the point repeatedly how an out-sized percentage of Scots-Irish have served in our nation’s military – so often with the kind of distinction Webb himself served.

But what we’re best known for is our independence, self-reliance, strong work ethic and absolute refusal to “bend a knee’’ to an authority we, ourselves, don’t consider worthy of honor or respect. We’re a head-strong breed, one that will follow a leader we trust and respect to the ends of the earth through hell and high water. But let some king, or some lord, or some governor who we don’t know and have never met come along and tell us what we can and can’t do, and they had best be loaded for bear.

Sadly, we can also be known as narrow-minded, jingoistic and even bigoted. All cultures have their unappealing characteristics and it can safely be said that, at least until recent times, education was not one of the Scots-Irish’s priorities.

That’s largely because the Scots-Irish were for the longest time preoccupied with fighting off hostiles in order to scratch out a living in flinty soil.

The conclusion that my people were largely responsible for getting us in the mess we’re in comes from the one of the best magazine articles I’ve ever read. And what makes the 5,000-word piece, written by George Packer and titled Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt so amazing is that it was published in The New Yorker a full month before the 2016 election and basically predicted the outcome.

Packer chronicles how the White Working Class, once the traditional base of the Democratic Party, flocked to Donald Trump because it felt abandoned by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic politicians who came before her. Some might feel I’m taking liberties to equate the White Working Class with the Scots-Irish, but I would argue that the overlap of the two entities is such that it makes for a difference without a distinction.

Packer makes the case of how the Democratic Party, my party since birth, lost its moorings after the McGovern debacle of 1972. Instead of continuing to stand up for the working men and women, it hitched its wagon to the rise of the affluent professionals in America, known collectively as “Atari Democrats.’’

By the emergence of Bill Clinton, the center of power in the party had become a coalition of cosmopolitan elite and diversity, one far more concerned with identity and other forms of single-issue politics than how the working people of our country are going to keep a roof over their heads and feed their family.

Even then, plenty of my people, the Scots-Irish, might have remained in the Democratic column if not for the condescension and denigration they felt drizzling down on them from academia, Wall Street and such high concentrations of the cosmopolitan elite as to be found in the publishing, entertainment and media industries.

Packer makes the point that by the 21st century, the only slur acceptable in “polite society’’ was redneck, or perhaps, Bible-thumper. Condescension is toxic to my people. We can smell it from a thousand miles away. When we get spit on, we’ve been conditioned since time immemorial to respond the best way we know how.

Hillary Clinton spit on my people when she complained about the baskets of deplorables. We can debate what exactly she meant, but not where she said it. She said it at a fundraiser on Wall Street, in front of her people.

And as much respect as I have from Barack Obama, clearly a trans-formative figure of American history, he stepped on my people as well with the comment about bitter folks clinging to their guns and their Bibles.

We respond by fighting back. And in 2016, the weapon at our disposal, unfortunately, was the most flawed man in America, Donald Trump.

Today’s Scots-Irish feel abandoned and, worse, roundly denigrated. But I also have to feel that many of my people can see Donald Trump for who and what he is. And I have to feel that if they could see any other politicians as being the least bit concerned about who they are and how they’re doing, then they could be persuaded to vote for their own interests and not those of some fat-cat hedge-fund manager on Wall Street.

Like the one who married Chelsea Clinton.

Not all of them, of course, are gettable. There are those Americans who vote Republican because of Donald Trump. I don’t see many of them changing their stripes. But there are also plenty of Americans who voted Republican despite Donald Trump. And many of them, I have to think, are Scots-Irish.

If even a percentage of them can be peeled away, then I can see a landslide that would deposit Trump and those of his persuasion in the dust-bin of history.

But the last way to convince any of my people to go along is to look down on them, denigrate them, spit on them, call them names.

The Democratic Party has already tried that, and we all see how that worked out.

Show a little respect, the same any culture or people should expect. Otherwise, the only thing you have to lose is the country we’ve always known, one for the people, by the people.

Introducing My Friend A.B.

Operator, can you help me,

Help me if you please,

Give me the right area code,

And the number that I need.Operator by the Grateful Dead.

My buddy Advanced Being dropped in the other day, as he has been known to do.

A.B., as I call him, never knocks. He doesn’t even enter the room the way you or I would. He simply materializes, and I’ll look up from watching a basketball game on TV or reading a book, and there will be an Orangutan or Gryphon or maybe some figure from popular culture or history such as Ben Franklin or Genghis Khan or Wink Martindale sitting across the room.

As an Advanced Being, A.B. can assume any form he wishes. And what I love best about my buddy is his sense of humor.

On this latest visit, he showed up as Ron McKernan, A.K.A. Pigpen, the original front man of the Grateful Dead who blew his liver out  on rot-gut wine. A.B. even had his harmonica with him, and I talked him into doing a spot-on rendition of “Turn on Your Lovelight.’’

If I could tell you where A.B. was from, I certainly would. I’ve asked a couple of times, whether he was from some other galaxy or plane or dimension, and his answer is always the same.

Don’t worry about it. You wouldn’t understand.

So I don’t.

As for why he chooses to visit me, of all people in whatever galaxy, plane or dimension he traverses, he’s equally succinct. He feels more comfortable in homes that appear “lived in,’’ and I’m prepared to say no place around looks more “lived in’’ than ours.

Plus, he likes Bud Light, and knows I always have a cold 12-pack or two in the refrigerator.

Being an Advanced Being, he could easily be hypercritical of all he sees from humans on the planet earth. But, thankfully, he’s beyond the need for derision or rapprochement. Instead, he’s just curious about our species and why we solve, or attempt to solve, our own particular set of challenges and problems the way we do.

On this latest visit, after he put away his harmonica and popped open another Bud Light, he started quizzing me about how we power our society and way of life.

A.B.: So humans, by now, do know that water can be a source of energy, right?

C.D.C.: Yeah, I think the Greeks figured that out sometime around 300 B.C.

A.B.: And you know that energy can be produced by wind, right?

C.D.C.: Indeed. The Chinese were hip to that by around 200 B.C.

A.B.: And you know that by harnessing the power of the sun, you can have all the energy any society would ever need.

C.B.: We’ve been a bit late to that one, but by the late 19th century, a scientist named William Grylis Adams discovered that exposing the mineral selenium to light can produce electricity. We needed another 75 years or so, but by the mid-20th century we’d gotten around to solar cells driven by silicon. Solar power is still a nascent industry today, but it has its champions and it’s picking up some steam – so to speak.

A.B.: So if you know your energy needs can be met with water, wind and sun, why are you still powering your automobiles and lighting your homes with coal and oil? Can’t you recognize the environmental problems caused by fossil fuels?

C.B.: If you’re talking global warming, some of us believe in what the scientists are telling us about that, and some of us don’t.

A.B.: Some of you don’t? Those people have to be living in remote third-world nations, right?

C.D.C.: Well, actually no. One is currently residing in the White House.

A.B.: If you know energy and electricity can be produced without resorting to coal or oil, why are you still so reliant on coal and oil?

C.D.C.: I would say it’s complicated, but it’s really not. The most powerful people in our society are those with the most money. And the ones with the most money derive much of that wealth from the coal and oil industries.

A.B.: What about the elected representatives responsible for the good of all of society, and not just the richest and most powerful?

C.D.C.: You can find them in the back pockets of the richest and most powerful.

A.B.: Don’t the richest and most powerful have to live in the same society that they’re doing grave harm to with their assault on the planet?

C.D.C: Personally I never see any of them, except on television. They live in these special enclaves, called “Gated Communities.’’

A.B.: And they’re allowed to live there in peace, without everyone else calling them out for who they are?

C.D.C.: Some do call them out. But the loudest voices in our society, the media, are also controlled by the richest and most powerful.

A.B.: Like your elected representatives?

C.D.C.: Exactly.

A.B.: Well it’s your planet, as long as it lasts. You guys kill me.

C.D.C.: Unfortunately A.B., we’re doing a good enough job of that ourselves. Need another Bud Light? And how about pulling out your harp and laying a little “Operator’’ on me.

Let Mueller Do His Job

There are 62,984,825 reasons I’m not, at this time, in favor of the impeachment of Donald Trump.

For that’s how many Americans voted for him.

Go ahead and tell me how Hillary Clinton actually got 65,852,516 votes, almost three million more than Trump. And you would be right. But your point would be irrelevant.

Presidents are elected in our country not by popular vote but by getting 270 votes in the electoral college. Trump got 306, so he’s our president.

And as much as I despair over the direction Trump is taking our country, and as much as I detest being led by a President with all the maturity of a 12-year-old with ADHD who misplaced his Ritalin months ago, I also know how I would feel if a person I voted for was removed from office before the completion of their term.

I would be, to put it politely, rankled.

Make that extremely rankled.

So it’s hard for me to expect others to accept what I never would. In this instance, I would need to know why my guy (or gal) was being kicked out of office and the evidence would have to pretty damn compelling.

Folks on my side of our nation’s great political divide are convinced that Trump should be removed from office for conspiring with Russia, our long-time adversary, to rig the 2016 elections.

They point to all the times that Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions and others in Trump’s orbit have had to “amend’’ the information they gave on security forms for not including contacts with Russians or those with Russian interests.

They point to the guilty plea of Michael Flynn, hired by Trump to be our nation’s security adviser, for lying to the FBI about, among other things, his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

They point to the recently released book, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, which quotes Steve Bannon, Trump’s former “chief strategist,’’ as opining that the meeting of Flynn, Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr., in Trump Tower with a lawyer linked to the Kremlin was “treasonous.’’

If they were trying to convince me of Trump’s complicity, they’d have an easy sell. Personally I feel pretty sure Trump was involved in Russia’s efforts to disrupt our electoral process.

But my opinion, by itself, doesn’t matter. This country is not ruled by fiat.

Again, for Trump to be removed from office, someone needs to get the goods on him. Fortunately for our nation, someone is trying.

I long ago gave up any hope for the investigations being conducted in Congress. In these partisan times, each side is going to protect their own. That’s pathetic in my mind, choosing party and president over country, but that’s where we are in American in 2018.

All along I’ve been patiently awaiting what special counsel Robert Mueller uncovers in his Justice Department investigation. From everything I know and have read about Mueller, he is the ultimate Boy Scout who is extremely thorough and good at what he does. I have confidence that if there’s fire kicking up all this smoke, he will find it.

And if I didn’t have confidence in Robert Mueller, I could no longer have any confidence in our American electoral process.

I shake my head in wonder every time politicians or pundits start drawing conclusions over whatever reports have leaked out of Mueller’s investigation. This means Mueller is looking into this area. That means the investigation is nearing an end.

Listen, I wrote sports for a living for 40 years. To attempt to determine what’s going on with Mueller’s investigation would be like trying to write a story of a football game without knowing what quarter we were in, and without benefit of a scoreboard.

I don’t know that Mueller’s investigation is going to uncover, but I’m willing to wait. And I’m willing to abide by his conclusions. For the sake of our country, we need to.

But for the sake of our country, we also need to allow Mueller’s investigation to continue unimpeded. Otherwise those convinced that Trump was indeed involved will have no way of knowing whether they’re right or wrong.

Sadly, that’s becoming difficult as Republicans throw more and more roadblocks in Mueller’s way.

Instead of rallying around our country, they’re rallying around their party and president. Instead of wanting a fair and thorough investigation, they want to investigate the investigators.

My question to them is, why do they hate America so bad that they’re willing, if not hell bent, on looking the other way when a foreign adversary does us wrong?

Let Mueller do his work, and then let the chips fall.

As hard as it has been for the likes of me to have Donald Trump in the White House, it might have been harder for our country to have Hillary Clinton as our president. The rabid right has been on her trail now for 25 years, and they were never going to let up long enough to allow her to lead the way our nation needs to be led.

As hard as it has been for the likes of me to have Donald Trump in the White House, at least everybody can now see who he is and what he stands for. I sense a national revulsion to his presidency. I see it every day I pick up a newspaper and read the letters to the editor and when I scroll my Face Book page.

I believe in shining a light in our nation’s darkest corners, in order for all to see. We’ve seen Donald Trump and who he is.

Now let’s go to work and make sure our nation never makes such a calamitous mistake again.

Seeing him get swept out of office by a blue tide in 2020 might, in the long run, be the best resolution.

Infrastructure Blues

There’s a consensus in our country that an investment in our infrastructure is long overdue.

It didn’t take another derailment of an Amtrak train in Washington state to convince me or anyone I know.

But instead of investing the amount of money it would take – money that according to that bastion of liberal orthodoxy, Forbes, would provide an immediate and dramatic boost to our economy – the Republicans in Congress have decided to cut taxes on the richest of the rich among us.

That’s the same tax cut that independent analysts say will add more than a trillion dollars to our existing debt.

That’s the same tax cut that will reward the donor class – the Kochs, Adelsons and Mercers – for their donations as a required return on investment.

And, to be sure, that’s the same tax cut that will almost certainly benefit directly, as well as indirectly through continued donations, those voting for it.

People who know economics far better than I have noted that this is a curious time for a tax cut. Our economy, for the most part, is cruising along pretty well.

But the modern Republican party has become, on economic issues, a one-trick pony. Cutting taxes, particularly on the wealthy, is their answer — regardless of the question.

Meanwhile all this brave talk our president made about investing in the infrastructure has been pushed to the back burner, where, my guess is it will sit until it long after the election of 2020.

We don’t need the tax cut, at least not the one currently being pushed down the throats of the American public.

We do need an investment in infrastructure.

If only our politicians truly cared about all the American people instead of just the ones rich enough to put them in office and keep them there.

An Open Letter to Richard and Thom

Dear Senators Burr and Tillis:

Throughout your respective political careers, I’ve heard you repeatedly describe yourself as conservatives.

I, respectfully, beg to differ.

What, may I ask, is “conservative’’ about supporting a tax bill that independent non-partisan analyses from both the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have concluded will, more than likely, pile more than a trillion dollars on our existing deficit?

Why do deficits only matter when a Democrat is in the White House? Or do you agree with former vice-president Dick Cheney, that “deficits don’t matter?’’

What is “conservative’’ about the process deployed to pass the bill in the Senate, a 500-page bill with handwritten amendments in the margins voted on at 2 a.m. that you and your fellow Senators had only hours to read and analyze. If you are proud of your vote, why did it have to be cast in the dead of night?

What, may I ask, was the rush to vote on a bill that will have such far-reaching consequences for those you represent?

What is “conservative’’ about regurgitating the time-worn chestnut that tax cuts will trigger enough growth to pay for the tax cuts to corporations and the richest of the rich among us? Forbes, hardly a bastion of liberal orthodoxy, disagrees with your conclusion. Bruce Bartlett, who helped shepherd a tax cut through Congress during the Reagan administration, said your contention that tax cuts spur growth is a myth.

Why should we believe you and not a real, practicing conservative such as Bartlett?

The bill you both support is not conservative, it’s radical. It’s a radical redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest among us at a time that the rich have never been richer while the wages of the middle class have remained stubbornly stagnant. I challenge you to identify one tax cut that has benefited the working and middle classes instead of the donor class you rely upon to keep your precious seats in the Senate.

It’s funny how you never hear the term statesman used anymore. The definition is a “skilled, experienced and respected politician,’’ but in my mind it also denotes a political figure more concerned with the common good of their state and nation than with their party or personal career.

How nice it would be if the state of North Carolina was represented in the Senate by statesmen instead of individuals so bent on protecting their own party and political careers.

Respectfully yours,

Dan Collins

Return on Investment

The latest polls I could find on the tax bill the Republicans rammed through the Senate in the dead of night are running about 32 percent in favor, 46 percent against.

The analysis released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill will add $1.4 trillion to our deficit.

History informs us that in every tax cut over the past 50 years has resulted in the richest of the rich getting ever richer and the wages of pretty much everyone reading this remaining stagnant.

Like-minded friends are wondering, `Why are they screwing us again? How do they think they can get away with it?’

The answer folks is as obvious as the nose on Cyrano de Bergerac’s face.

They’re doing it because they were ordered to do it. They were directed to do it by the richest of the rich of our society, the Charles and David Kochs, the Sheldon Adelsons, the Bob and Rebekah Mercers.

They were required to do it by the fattest of the fat cats demanding a return on their investment.

When congressman Chris Collins called them donors, it’s pretty obvious who he meant.

“My donors are basically saying, `Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ’’ Collins said in the most impressive lapse of honesty I’ve ever known to come out of Washington.

There have to be Republicans who know there will be a political price for passing the bill – especially in the manner in which they did, cobbling together cutouts and loopholes and exceptions hastily scrawled in the margins of the text. And they have to know how hypocritical they look railing against deficits whenever a Democrat is living in the White House, and then reaching ever deeper into the pockets of our children and grandchildren as soon as a Republican is elected president.

But their calculation is that as bad as they get hurt by voters, they still need the money from the richest of the rich to get re-elected. That’s just the way the game is played today in America’s Age of Plutocracy.

Every independent look at the bill has deemed it another redistribution of wealth from the middle-class (again, you and me) to the richest of the rich among us.

In this case, however, the Republicans who voted for the bill had no choice.

They did only what they were ordered to do.

They’re doing it not for you and me or for the good of the country.

They’re doing it for one reason and one reason only.

They’re doing it for political survival.

The shame of doing it will not be easily erased. It’s up to you and me to make sure it’s not forgotten.

My Frenemy Gary

Two of my favorite authors, Ken Kesey and Larry McMurtry, met at a grad-school seminar at Stanford back in the daze of the early 60s and, for all their differences, remained life-long friends.

They remained such fast friends, for all their differences, that about 10 years after Kesey passed in 2001, McMurtry married his widow Faye.

Both are literary giants. Kesey’s best-known work is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’’ but as monumental as the novel remains, I always thought “Sometimes a Great Notion’’ was fuller, and, if possible, deeper. McMurty scored big-time with “Terms of Endearment’’ but the book of his I keep going back to at least every five years or so is “Lonesome Dove.’’

If there’s a more charismatic hero in American fiction than Augustus McCrae – played so superbly by the incomparable Robert Duvall in the late 80s mini-series – then please somebody point me in the right direction.

But in recounting the friendship between these two gents of letters, have I mentioned their differences?

Kesey, born and raised in Oregon but schooled in the drug-crazed California of the early 60s, was a counter-culture icon. McMurtry, a proud product of red-dirt Archer City, Texas was about as counter-counter-culture as an American can be.

The two argued (debated is probably more to the point) constantly, with Kesey staking out the left side of the issue and McMurtry the right.

Kesey described the dynamic in his essay “The Day After Superman Died’’ which was included in the compilation “Demon Box’’ published in 1986.

They had met at a graduate writing seminar at Stanford and had immediately disagreed about the most important issues of the day – beatniks, politics, ethics, and, especially, psychedelics – in fact about everything except for their mutual fondness for writing and each other. It was a friendship that flourished during many midnight debates over bourbon and booklore, with neither the right nor the left side of the issues ever gaining much ground.’’

Though Kesey admits he did lose a point or two on the scoreboard when McMurtry played the Charles Manson card in the late 60s. So it was the recent news of Manson’s death that reminded me of Kesey and McMurtry and set me to thinking about a similar relationship I have with Gary Strickland.

Gary and I disagree about all things political. Anyone who knows me knows which side of the debates I take.

Gary is a proud-Republican-right-wing graduate of Wake Forest and I would be a card-carrying left-wing hippie holdover from 1970s Chapel Hill if anyone were to ever come up with such a card.

Facebook friends know I’m liable, at any time, to start railing about the dangerous and inexorable slide into plutocracy that our president and his enablers are taking us. And they also know that on pretty much every thread I begin, there’s Gary Strickland picking every point and mounting a spirited – though obviously misguided – defense of our country’s rightward lurch.

Gary, by nature, is a contrarian who communicates best through confrontation. The first year I knew him I thought him to be the biggest pain in the posterior I had ever met. And nothing he has done or said since has changed my mind.

But then came the day I realized that as good as he was at dishing it out, he could also take it. He invited it. He loves the back-and-forth, the diving under somebody’s skin, the scrum. And he’s really, really bad about making those with whom he disagrees prove their point.

And, in a weak moment, I might even admit that so am I.

But, see, I also got to know and enjoy the company of Gary’s father, Hugh, mother, Tup, and his three sons David, Michael and Scott, all great American success stories in their own way. I saw the boys grow, just as Gary always kept tabs on our son Nate and daughter Rebecca. One season Gary actually coached Nate in baseball, and I his assistant.

Hugh Strickland attended 339 straight basketball games – and we’re talking about both home and away – that Wake Forest played from early in the 1980s until his eyesight failed him in 1991. One coach, Carl Tacy, thought enough of Hugh to make room for him on the Deacons’ bench at far-away holiday tournaments. Another, Dave Odom, promised Hugh that anytime he wanted to take a trip then the team bus would pull into his driveway and pick him up.

So nobody I know knows Wake Forest basketball better than Gary Strickland, who was attending ACC Tournaments back when they were played in N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum and who has been the official scorekeeper for home Wake games for decades.

All of which makes him an invaluable resource for a writer with a passion for ACC basketball history. He also happens to be stickler for grammar, and, true to his nature, is lightning fast to inform one of any mistakes they might make.

(To which my reply is always the same. I tell him `thanks.’)

During my two spectacularly unsuccessful forays into the publishing industry, Tales From the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Locker Room, and The ACC Basketball Book of Fame, I never wrote a word on Wake Forest basketball that Gary didn’t read behind me before publication. He has saved me from embarrassment more times than my public school education would allow me to count.

Occasionally, these days, I’ll run into a like-minded acquaintance who knows of my frequent Facebook rants. It’s so funny to see them scrunch up their face and ask `Who is this Gary Strickland dude who’s always stirring it up on your threads?’

My answer is finely honed.

“Well, consider me for a moment to be Ken Kesey. Then Gary is my Larry McMurtry, with whom I disagree about all things political but admire and respect as a friend.’’

How dull life would be if everybody agreed on everything. And how much lesser my life would be if I had never met Gary Strickland.