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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.

High political drama — the likes of which is not often seen in rural counties — came to a head last week as a Haywood County Republican Party Executive Committee member was removed from his post.

On Nov. 5, 2001, not quite two months after the 9/11 attacks, Lech Walesa spoke at Western Carolina University. Walesa was famed for his resistance to communism in Poland and the Soviet Union, and was the founder of Solidarity, a trade union seeking an expansion of its negotiating power and the establishment of fundamental human rights within Polish communism. Along with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and Mikhail Gorbachev, Walesa was a key player in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Soviet Union.

The schism between the Haywood County Republican Party and the Haywood Republican Alliance isn’t unique to this party, this county or this era.

As I sit to write a day before Independence Day, it seems I keep hearing voices questioning whether the shared American identity that has driven this country through so many travails will survive what the modern world is throwing at us.

It’s hard to define just what that shared identity is. Is it our very basic belief in freedom and the will to protect it at all costs? Is it that every person should have the opportunity to rise to the level of his or her ability? Or the belief that honor, justice and morality as enshrined by the founders set us apart from other nations? Corny as it sounds, those statements ring true for me.

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