Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


PANDEMIC SHOWS FREEDOM IS NOT AFFIRMATION OF SELFISH ENTITLEMENT: Callous and frivolous notions of acceptable casualties, particularly among the old and infirmed ignore the obvious: None of those who die of COVID-19 have been fated to it. Each is loved by someone – as a parent, child, sibling, spouse relative or friend. The ways to deal with controlling the spread are not about limiting freedom, but rather affirm the notions of freedom that inspired our nation’s founders. Freedom is “doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, as long as what we do does not harm them even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong,” said John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty.” It is selfish entitlement that gives anyone license to, by choice or purposeful neglect, ignore and put at risk the liberty and life of others. No society that values freedom can survive on these terms.

AS SCHOOLS REOPEN, THEY'LL HAVE MANY STUDENTS WHO HAVE FALLEN BEHIND: Ladd worries that the disruption will accelerate the move toward school choice and divert more public funds into vouchers to offset private school tuition. “I hate the thought of a post-COVID world in which privatization just takes off,” she said. “I’d like to keep it under control so we can focus on traditional public schools.” Educators, like almost everyone else, didn’t see the pandemic coming. Now the question is: Do they see what it will leave behind? North Carolina public schools were strapped before the pandemic. Now, with state tax revenue dropping, where will schools get the additional resources needed to recover? How will testing and instruction change as education must more broadly become remedial education? Let alone answering these questions, few are asking them. How to help public school systems recover and refocus after this historic disruption has barely been addressed as politicians argue over the basic question of when students should go back to classrooms. Among one of the overlooked issues is the growing need for teachers. While more teacher pay is a focal point of state elections, what’s not mentioned is how the pandemic will create a need to pay more teachers. Bringing back students who’ve fallen behind will require more teachers, along with more counselors, psychologists and teacher assistants.

CHOOSING CLASSROOMS OVER CORPORATIONS SHOULD DRIVE YOUR VOTE FOR GOVERNOR: As he runs for a second four-year term, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper frames the choice as “classrooms or corporations.” He says the Republican-majority legislature has passed tax cuts for big corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of public education. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest supports the legislature’s tax cuts. Like Republicans in the legislature, he supports vouchers and tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools. This debate goes back to the 1950s. That’s when North Carolina emerged as an economic powerhouse, attracting industries from across the country and around the world. Because of a booming economy and rising tax revenues, North Carolina could both cut taxes and spend more money on schools. When Republicans took the House in 1994, they and Hunt agreed to pass big tax cuts. Then, in 1997, key Republicans supported Hunt’s billion-dollar-plus plans to raise teacher pay to the national average and expand the Smart Start early-childhood program. The bipartisan consensus shattered after Republicans took both houses of the legislature in 2010. They focused on passing billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts, and education advocates say public schools have suffered. The legislature also has directed money to private schools. That’s another echo of the 1950s, when private schools emerged as an alternative to integrated public schools. This election offers North Carolinians the clearest choice between these dueling philosophies since Sanford ran for governor in 1960.

545 CHILDREN ARE STILL SEPARATED FROM THEIR FAMILIES. WHAT IF ONE OF THEM WERE YOURS? That is the number of children still separated from their families by the Trump administration — separated deliberately, cruelly and recklessly. They might never be reunited with their parents again. Even if they are, the damage is unimaginable and irreparable. 545. Even one would be too many. Each one represents a unique tragedy. Imagine being ripped from your parents, or having your child taken from you. Imagine the desperation that the parents feel, the trauma inflicted on their children. 545. That number represents an indelible stain on President Trump and every individual in his administration who implemented this policy, flawed at the conception and typically, gruesomely incompetent in the execution. It is, perhaps in the technical sense but surely in the broader one, a crime against humanity. It is torture. Welker, for the third time: “Do you have a plan to reunite the kids with their families?” At which point Trump made clear that he did not: “We’re trying very hard, but a lot of these kids come out without the parents, they come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs.” The children, he added later, “are so well taken care of, they’re in facilities that were so clean.” Wrong, wrong and wrong. Wrong that the administration is “trying very hard” — the efforts to reunite the children that they separated from their families are being driven by court orders and outside groups. The Trump administration has been “trying very hard” only to prevent reunifications, arguing in court that it didn’t need to provide additional information about some of the separated children because they had already been released from federal shelters and were living with sponsors. Wrong that “a lot of these kids come out without the parents” — the children Welker was asking about came with their parents, from whom they were deliberately separated by the Trump administration. Wrong that the children “are so well taken care of.” By definition, they are not; the ones that Welker was asking about have been separated from their parents, some at unconscionably early ages. And in reality, they are not; the conditions in some facilities are appalling.

AMY CONEY BARRETT'S RISE IS A THREAT TO FAMILIES LIKE MINE: Marriage was not an option for people like me until the Supreme Court affirmed, in a 2015 civil rights case, Obergefell v. Hodges, that same-sex couples have a fundamental constitutional right to marry. It is no longer “gay marriage” but, simply and fairly, marriage. I cannot express the joy I felt with that ruling. It came after years of settling for partial and wholly inadequate rights, through civil unions granted by states friendly to gays and lesbians. It came after years of enduring toxic political initiatives, like Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage. Prop 8 passed on Election Day in November 2008, the same day that Barack Obama won the presidency. The historic Obama win was overshadowed by the poison of that ballot initiative, especially for my family. We watched television that night in our house in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco as election results came in. My then 6-year-old eldest son, upon hearing that Prop 8 had passed, was terrified and asked me whether our entire family — his other mom and I had married in the state years before — was now “illegal.” What a punch to the gut. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court decided to weigh in and attack the Obergefell decision. “By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix,” they wrote, noting that the ruling “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss.” It was a warning shot — in a war that I and many others had thought was long over. And now we have the effort to seat Judge Barrett, whose views on gay rights are problematic, at best. It was bad enough when she used the woefully outdated term “sexual preference” in referring to gay people, which she dialed back quickly when called out on it. But that was, it turned out, a mendacious feint: On Wednesday, we learned in a report by The Associated Press about her three-year service on the board of her children’s private Christian school in South Bend, Ind. The Trinity School, which is affiliated with People of Praise, a charismatic Christian community she is also a member of, “effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom,” the A.P. wrote.


JACKSON CARROLL: POLICY REVEALS YOUR CHARACTER ALSO: The Oct. 20 Forum writer who said the U.S. Senate race has become one of choosing between character and policy errs in implying that the two are mutually exclusive. To be sure, Cal Cunningham’s extramarital relationship clearly reflects on his character in a very troubling way. However, when Sen. Thom Tillis brags about denying 500,000 N.C. residents access to Medicaid while in the state legislature, when he seeks to end the Affordable Care Act, and feathers his nest with large donations from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, he is making a clear statement about his character. His character is also evident in his virtually uncritical support of Donald Trump. Character matters, whether in one’s interpersonal relationships or in the policies one supports. Cunningham’s actions reflect badly on his character and judgment, but so do Tillis’ policies, which hurt a lot more people.

JEFF PRATHER: THE POLITICIZATION OF MASK-WEARING CREATES UNNECESSARY DANGER: As a retired military public health officer, industrial hygienist and disaster medicine instructor, I have long faced the problem of communicating risk assessments and, worse yet, confronting the “He Man” attitude of “I’m tough, it won’t affect me.” I simply do not understand the resistance I see toward efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Each of us must do our part to minimize the impact of COVID-19. If we don’t follow the guidelines, not only will deaths increase but the crisis will persist and recovery will take longer. This should be a common sense/human decency decision, not a political issue.

CAROLYN GUCKERT: TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE FOR SENATE REPUBLICANS' CHANGE OF HEART: As I read the Trump critique made by U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse during his town hall call last week with constituents, I was filled with disgust. Now, after nearly four years of enabling Trump as he has torn democracy apart, a Republican senator speaks up? Now that Republican senators see themselves possibly losing the Senate, they see morality? Where was Sasse during the impeachment hearings? He could have stopped this debacle if he and other Republican enablers had voted to indict Trump. Too little, too late.



The benefits of confronting racism

The Trump era has effectively destroyed the myth we are living in a post-racial society. But in reality, the vast majority of white people already knew that before Trump. Because racism is plainly evident everywhere we look. And listen.

It is barely veiled in discussions about zoning for development, funding for social programs, school reassignments, and myriad other public policy issues. But it is in the area of employment that I wanted to particularly discuss today.

Management has been a predominately white male system and structure for decades. Not just in the South, but particularly in the South. And how those white males have approached job performance of their subordinates has perpetuated the life-long economic suppression of African-Americans. An unwritten "rule of thumb" is that only a handful of black employees are "one of the good ones," while only a handful of white employees are "bad eggs." It's a false construct based on assumptions, but it is very real and very detrimental to workers and their families.

And now we come to the confrontation part. Within that white male "clique" of influencers, the mask is often removed and the true racism is exposed. I have heard some things from my bosses in upper management that would blow your mind, make you cringe. The same thing occurred when I was in the military, and in both occupations I found myself trying to blunt the effects on those who worked below me. I got pretty good at it, but the problem persisted (of course).

I eventually realized the only way to solve that problem was to confront it. Call it out. The first time one of my bosses (a Vice President) heard me say, "I don't want to hear that crap," I thought he was about to have an aneurysm. And when I followed with, "Our profit margin is way too thin to make decisions based on prejudicial views about the color of an employee's skin, when performance and efficiency should be the top priority." He immediately changed the subject, but he never brought up race again after that. Not with me, anyway.

Did I change his beliefs? Not likely. But I did change his behavior, to a certain extent. He knew that I not only did not approve of such discriminatory intent, but also that I would be actively looking for it in the future. I would prefer to change minds, but I will settle for behavior modification.