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This must be the place

art theplaceAmerica, I’m tired. I’m tired of the violence, the bloodshed, the yelling, the anger, the hate, the misinformation, the way we mistreat others, the way we lie to each other and to ourselves, about what it is we see outside our windows and in our bathroom mirrors.

One week we’re all up in arms about refugees, the next about gun control, onward into blitzkrieg screaming matches about education, abortion, police brutality, health care, the Confederate flag and racism. Phrases like “Black Lives Matter,” “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People,” “Blue Lives Matter” and “Heritage Not Hate,” with buzz words like “Obamacare,” “Baby Parts,” “Terrorism,” “Obesity” and “Muslim” streaming across our computers and television screens. All of which were contained in this year of our lord, 2015.

I just want to turn it off. Pull the plug on all the noise. But, I can’t because I feel the deep social responsibility to make the world around me a better place. I’m one person, but if countless millions feel the same way I do, then we’re on to something, then traction can be made toward a brighter future.

I’m not going to throw out numbers and statistics defending gun owners or debating gun control. There’s enough of that already. What we need to remember is that we’re all the same — all of us, at least for the most part. My daily life is interviewing and spending time with strangers, from all walks of life, religious backgrounds, political affiliations, monetary levels, skin colors, etc. And, through that prism of humanity, I believe in the good of mankind. The average person in this country, in my heart of hearts, is a good-natured, sensible, caring and compassionate person. The problem lies in that the loudest voices in the room, on both sides of the political aisle, tend to be make us (and the world) think this is how America really functions.

I was going to mention the “recent shootings,” but there have been so many in recent memory it’d take my entire column just to list them. More incidences of mass shootings this year than there have been days gone on the calendar. And when another one happens, like this past week in San Bernardino, two schools of thought always seem to emerge — “If there had been better gun control this wouldn’t have happened” or “If there had been more guns in the hands of the good guys this wouldn’t have happened.”

Regardless of what school of thought you fall into, what remains is that these shootings still happen, almost on a daily basis. It’s gotten so out of control where a day without a mass shooting would probably be newsworthy in today’s world. Something needs to change. We can’t be defined by these tragedies and atrocities anymore.

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I grew up around guns. My father had them for work on the Canadian border. My uncles and grandfather had them for hunting and recreational sport. All responsible gun owners, all open-minded and progressive folks. Hell, even today, I’m friends and family to some of the most liberal and conservative people one could ever cross paths with. 

And what do they have in common? They’re all gun enthusiasts who defend the right to bare arms. But, they also all believe in the need for something to be done, in terms of gun safety, increased background checks, and that there be a better awareness of what actually does lead someone to committing such terrible crimes. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We just seem to be running around in circles, dodging bullets of fear that keep getting shot at us by mass media, world politics and everyday interactions with people who seem to immediately shutdown in conversation if you don’t automatically, 100 percent agree with them.

What makes America great is our ability to find compromise, to discover solutions that best fit our needs as a whole and also are tailor-made to the time and political climate we currently reside in. Modern-day politics in this country is like a large warehouse, with enough space for everyone and everything to blossom and grow. But we can only fill that space with essential beauty, varieties of culture, endless wonder and societal possibilities if we meet in the middle to shake hands, smile and move on with our lives. But, how can we do that if one side is against the wall, the other against the far wall. It’s like a middle school dance where the girls and boys are either too shy, too prideful or too fearful to make the first move.

Well, I’m sick of dancing alone. I’m sick of yelling across a room trying to get your attention. I’m sick of seeing all that beautiful space in our land, hearts and minds going to waste from a lack of interest in what lies on the other side, from what good could result in spending time together with the family of Americans that we were born into.

I’m taking the first step towards the middle of this room. Towards you and you, and you. It’s time to pull the dark curtains off our windows, to let the sunshine in and to breathe in the fresh air. I’m here, America, right smack in the middle of this room that is our country. I’m ready and willing to take back the greatest asset we have — our own power of conviction that we can make tomorrow better.

Who else is with me?



Hot picks

1 Grammy Award winner David Holt (bluegrass/folk) will perform at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the First United Methodist Church in Waynesville.

2 BearWaters Brewing Company (Waynesville) will have The Darren Nicholson Band (Americana/bluegrass) at 6 p.m. Dec. 11.

3 Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will have Porch 40 (rock/funk) at 8 p.m. Dec. 11. 

4 The Festival of Lights & Luminaries will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11-12 in downtown Dillsboro.

5 Tipping Point Brewing (Waynesville) will have Heidi Holton (blues/folk) at 8 p.m. Dec. 11.

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