WNC Travel Guide

I’ve never shot a gun.

Nope. Not once. I come from a family of gun owners. I’ve held plenty of guns. I’ve even attended a handful of gun shows. And I enjoyed learning about each one, the feeling of history and power within my fingers. But, I’ve never shot one. No interest, really. Honestly.

We were pretty full of ourselves, I guess. Barely 19, barely finished with our freshman year in college, having left our provincial little town behind for the urban chaos and the infinite possibilities of university life just over a year ago. Now here we were again, back in town for the summer. We knew we were going back to school soon enough, so we wanted to cram every bit of experience and drunken camaraderie into those last few weeks together before packing up our junk, moving back into the dorm, settling on a major, and getting serious about the future after a few false starts and narrow escapes during our freshman year.

This is what it means to be an American.

I’m talking about NFL players and coaches and owners uniting to protest during the national anthem because they disagree with our president after he called for team owners to fire every “son of bitch” kneeling during the anthem. I’m talking about black athletes at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968 raising fists in support of the Black Panther movement, of people who burn flags, even those who heckled Vietnam War veterans on their return home because they disagreed with the conflict.

I’ve always been prone to bouts of melancholy. I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing or a woman thing or just a thing with my own physiological make-up. These emotional phases once bothered me. I identified them as “depression” or “life stagnation.” But, in recent years, I’ve learned to settle into these moods of mine.

Some things we know, but when someone lays out the numbers and reveals in specific numbers how the big picture is changing right before us, things come into sharper focus.

I’m talking about race and politics. Things are changing drastically here in North Carolina and throughout the nation. This new reality is creating a kind of cultural flashpoint, and the sparks are being seen in many different arenas.

The treehouse that we had built in our backyard when we bought our house eight years ago sits vacant on a breezy September afternoon, the last day of summer, just as it has for the past eight years. For reasons I may never fully understand, the kids rejected it like a body sometimes rejects an organ, so it just sits there, year after year, collecting spiders and the intricate architecture of their silk-spun homes.

The computer stares back, unblinking. Deadline is approaching and I’m fighting to hone in on a topic for my column.

The most common question I get from those in other professions is about deadlines, wondering how reporters and columnists and designers and the rest of us in this industry handle the pressure of deadlines that never go away. You make one deadline — or miss one — and the next is standing there, staring you down like a bill collector, patient as an alarm clock — tick, tock, tick, tock ….

Reuniting with my big sister never seems to be an easy jaunt. Whether she’s traveling to North Carolina or I’m visiting her in D.C., one of us must journey almost 500 miles to get to the other.

But despite distance and tight budgets, we’re good about making it happen.

Few presidential decisions have been as unjust, unwise and cruel as Donald Trump's threat to deport nearly 700,000 young Americans if Congress can't come together within six months to save them.

For comparison, consider Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears, Woodrow Wilson segregating the federal workforce and Franklin D. Roosevelt ordering Japanese Americans into concentration camps. The underlying factor in all four instances is racism. To deny that is to be part of the problem. If the “sanctity of borders” isn’t naked hypocrisy, why isn’t there a clamor over the nearly 100,000 Canadians who are estimated to have overstayed visas?

By the faculty of Western Carolina University’s Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrate the inability and unwillingness of the U.S. to deal with issues of race and racism. When neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups freely assemble to promote not free speech but violence in the face of a Confederate statue being removed, we must question the purpose of these monuments in our communities.

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