World Affairs Council of Charlotte
World Citizen Award Dinner
May 7, 2009
It’s an easy 2 ½ hour trip to Charlotte, cruising out Hwy 64 from Pittsboro, Hwy 421 to Greensboro and I-85 to the Queen City. After finding the Westin parking Deck, I found the men’s room. The only other chap using the facility was my friend Gene Stewart, Charlotte Chapter of Veterans for Peace, looking every bit the tuxedoed gentleman. I donned my black neck tie and we sauntered to the lobby to get our bearings.
I was Gene’s guest at this event. He has been working the WACC to invite Col. Ann Wright to speak in Charlotte.
We were both struck by the military tone of the event. Well heeled men and women intermingled with bemedalled military folks in uniform, while Junior ROTC students practiced their best, upright posture. Gene told me that other WACC events featured peace activist speakers, and he was unsettled (we both were) by the military cast of the affair.
Gene and I found a seat and he clued me in on his odyssey in naval intelligence from 1959-1967. Gene served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, before pulling stints in Japan, and the coast of North Viet Nam. We commented on the military dress of the guests, and Gene jumped up to introduce himself to a stunning Navy Reserve captain, who got her seafaring start at the Merchant Marine Academy in Wood’s Hole.
We were called to tables by a female bagpiper, and enjoyed introductions with our table mates, Chuck, Nick, Mo, Bob (?), Eric and Beverly. Eric and Beverly are with the International House. Beverly described the enterprise as a kind of diversity welcome center. She charmed Gene and me with revelations about getting transferred from Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg, VA school to a more permissive Catholic school, public schools having been abandoned in VA since Brown v. the Board of Education.
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has been very helpful to the International House. Beverly took issue with McCrory’s blaming his ’08 gubernatorial loss to Bev. Perdue on Obama’s sweep in NC. She thinks that there was a groundswell of support for Perdue, especially among women in NC, during a very well managed campaign.
Gene was surprised to learn what Ann Wright encountered at the Charlotte WCNC-TV studio following our luncheon at Zada Jane’s Corner Café on April, 23rd. What we thought would be an interview with “Flashpoint” host Dave Wagner, turned out to be a debate between Ann and Mayor Pat McCrory, who had been an early supporter of the invasion of Iraq. Col. Wright was the senior of three US foreign Service Officers, (including John Brown and John Brady Kiesling) to resign their posts in protest of the invasion. Ann subsequently co-authored “Dissent: Voices of Conscience” with Susan Dixon, which chronicled the stories of government employees and service members who risked their careers, reputations, and even their liberty to challenge the official deceptions which led to the invasion of Iraq.
Flashpoint host Wagner had read the entire book the previous night and morning, and was effusive in his praise of “Dissent…” The taped debate between Ann and Pat will be aired (and streamed live) on Sunday, May 17 at 9:30am.
Chuck was CIA. As a Russian language graduate, he saw much service in Eastern Europe during the height of the Cold War. He has much admiration for Gorbachev, and has an understanding that the Cold War was less ambiguous than current conflicts.
I would have preferred to continue these conversations than listen to the program, which was full of flag waving worthy of a Sara Palin rally. The World Citizen Award went to the Carolinas Freedom Foundation, begun by former Viet Nam POW Quincy. How the CFF earned the World Citizen Award devolved into a torrent of American exceptionalism, with “The world’s greatest army at the tip of the bayonet on the frontier of freedom!” Mega military contractor General Dynamics has been recruited by the CFF to furnish flags in classrooms, and NC State’s General Hugh Shelton sponsors a week-long leadership camp for aspiring military children
If it hadn’t been for my genial host, and good table company, I might have jumped up and screamed.
The chaplain who began the program was full of praise for the Lord’s diversity of creation, and he closed his prayer with an invocation to HIS “lord and savior.” without presuming that the assembly shared his theological leaning. But as the program wore on, the sense of USA, USA USA, was palpable. “We are the world! The bright light of freedom, the shining star.
The patriotic preening was hard to swallow. What is more outrageous to me is the mantle of respectability and approval awarded to members of the Bush administration like Michael Mukasey, the former Attorney General, selected as speaker for the UNC Chapel Hill Law School commencement exercise on Mothers’ Day. Join our reception for Mr. Mukasey at the Dean Dome at 3:00pm on Sunday, May 10th.
I finally excused myself, and thanked Gene for his generosity. A full moon shone through wispy clouds during my drive back to Pittsboro. Lightening flashed off to the southeast, for a spectacular midnight skyscape.