RESOURCES FOR SCHOOL HEALTH, SAFETY MUST BE PART OF IN-PERSON MANDATE: North Carolina’s school students and teachers are better off when learning and instruction are going on in a classroom. But, amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, the State Senate legislation mandating it for most public schools (public charter schools are NOT included) lacks the funding for the necessary additional instructional staff to assure effective learning. There aren’t the appropriate health safeguards to assure schools aren’t hazardous and dangerous. No one should be required to risk their lives – and that is NO exaggeration – to fulfill some legislators’ political agenda. If it’s more than political posturing, there should be the money in the legislation to do things right. Opening schools takes more than waving some paper in the legislature and passing a mandate that lacks backing to get the job done.
LEADERSHIP FAILURES CAN TRIGGER EPIDEMICS, LIKE THE 1885 SMALLPOX TRAGEDY IN MONTREAL: “The disease spread like fire in dry grass, and in nine months 3,164 persons died in the city of small-pox.” This included 2,717 children under 10 years of age in a total Montreal population then of some 200,000 persons. History has repeated itself as the former president “with negligence absolutely criminal” downplayed the COVID-19 threat, politicized the wearing of masks and social distancing, withdrew the U.S. from the WHO and promoted superspreader events at the White House and across the nation at campaign stops. As a result, the COVID-19 virus is now spreading “like fire in dry grass” across the nation in rural areas and in cities. Hospitals are overflowing with cases and the fatalities continue. We are now fortunate to have new leadership as well as sophisticated and dedicated biomedical communities and vaccine manufacturers who have made great progress in rapidly developing vaccines for the COVID–19 virus. These efforts, however, will fall short in 2021 – as they did in 1885 in Montreal – if large segments of the population do not to follow basic public health measures and do not get vaccinated.
RICHARD BURR DESERVES SOME KUDOS FOR VOTING TO CONVICT TRUMP: It took Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who voted against convicting Donald Trump of inciting insurrection, 692 words to lamely justify his action. Republican Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior senator, voted to convict Trump and needed slightly more than half that to explain his decision. Tillis took the easy way out. He let Donald Trump off the hook for the insurrection he promoted and Tillis let the Senate and the nation down. Burr acted with principle and courage. Given the volatile times, the vengeful bullying of the ex-president and the unhinged nature of too many these days, we have little doubt that Burr will now face undeserved and unwarranted condemnation, threats and intimidation. Burr knows that – and knew it before he voted. Unlike 43 of his colleagues, Richard Burr left the Senate floor Saturday afternoon with a clear conscience. He doesn’t have to hedge or equivocate. He stood for the Constitution, the truth and the facts.
VP KAMALA HARRIS: THE EXODUS OF WOMEN FROM THE WORKFORCE IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY: About 2.5 million women have lost their jobs or dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic. That’s enough to fill 40 football stadiums. This mass exodus of women from the workforce is a national emergency, and it demands a national solution. Job loss, small business closings and a lack of child care have created a perfect storm for women workers. Women who work in industries such as hospitality and health care are losing their jobs. Women in lower-wage jobs — those living below the federal poverty level — have been hit hardest. These workers, many of them women of color, have been undervalued and underpaid for too long. And now too many of them are out of work. Then there are women who own and work at small businesses — the fabric of our communities. We’ve all felt the loss when businesses in our neighborhoods have closed this past year. In February 2020, around 5 million women were business owners. By April, 1 in 4 had closed their doors. The pandemic has touched every part of our lives. Families everywhere are shouldering a huge burden as homes have become classrooms and child-care centers, and uncertainty plagues each day. Because of that, many working women have been forced to cut their hours or leave their jobs entirely. Even those who’ve managed to keep working full-time are stretched. Before the pandemic, working mothers already had it tough. Now, it seems nearly impossible. Without affordable and accessible child care, working mothers are forced to make an unfair choice. We have to make sure all working mothers have the support they need — during the pandemic and after. Because here’s the truth: Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can fully participate.
TRUMP'S REPUBLICANS, BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Chaos. That’s precisely what Donald Trump wrought. Not metaphoric chaos, but actual chaos, deadly chaos, on grueling, gutting display in the footage of Jan. 6 that House Democrats presented at his Senate trial. It showed rioters coming for lawmakers like lions for lambs. (“Hang Mike Pence!” “Naaaaaancy, where are you?!?”) It showed lawmakers fleeing for their lives. It showed stampeding, smashing, stomping, screeching. It showed hell, or something close enough that when all but seven Republican senators shrugged it off so that they could vote to acquit Trump, they finally forfeited any claim to virtue or to “values,” a word that had long been their mantra. They irrevocably lost all rights to lecture voters on such things. They affirmed that they, like Gingrich, were gaseous with hot air all along. They’re fine with hell, so long as they’re re-elected. The era of Trump has been the era of Republican unmasking, and many Republicans didn’t have their masks successfully affixed in the first place. This trial and that footage left them nothing to hide behind. What Trump incited — the insanity of it, the profanity of it, the body count — represents the antithesis of everything that the party purported to hold dear. Both before and during the Senate trial, Trump’s defenders asserted that there’s no clear causal link between his malfeasance and that police officer’s screams. But the House Democrats effectively destroyed that argument by documenting not only Trump’s words in the days, hours and minutes before the mob attacked but also his long, painstaking campaign to erode trust in democratic processes, so that if those processes didn’t favor him, his supporters were primed to junk them. He’s a study in slow-motion treason. Jan. 6 was simply when he slammed his foot down on the accelerator.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ZAC LENTZ: NC SHOULD FOLLOW IN VIRGINIA'S FOOTSTEPS ON MARIJUANA: Regarding “Medical marijuana has broad support in NC, Elon Poll finds,” (Feb. 12): The new Elon University poll regarding cannabis shows that the N.C. General Assembly is out of step with a majority of its constituency. Though North Carolina remains one of 14 states that has yet to provide a legal path to cannabis as medicine, the poll shows a majority of N.C. residents — Republicans and Democrats — support providing medical marijuana to those who would benefit from safe access to it. The end of criminalizing the plant should be an immediate next step. Virginia is on the cusp of legalization. As N.C. board chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, I worry that North Carolina will miss out on the economic benefits of legal cannabis if it does not act quickly.
ELLEN POWERS: IF YOU STILL NEED A REASON TO OPPOSE GERRYMANDERING, JUST LOOK AT MADISON CAWTHORN AND MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: I’ve been thinking a lot about gerrymandered districts. Republicans thought that they might get lasting power by gerrymandering. Instead, they engineered something that risks tearing this country apart and destroying the Republican Party. One needs only to look at recently elected U.S. Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Green. How will we ever repair the damage? Maybe a first step would be to stop gerrymandering districts.
ANTHONY LADD: MARK ROBINSON IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE POST-TRUTH ERA: Regarding “Apologies, not whining, needed from NC Lt. Gov.,” (Feb. 5 Opinion): As a N.C. citizen, I am beyond embarrassed that we have an elected leader, an African-American lieutenant governor no less, who not only believes the U.S. has never engaged in systemic racism or overt discrimination, but that such facts of history have no place in the school curriculum. Unfortunately, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s willful ignorance is but one example of the post-truth era we’re in, where lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories have become acceptable political discourse for millions of voters. Fueled by social media, institutional distrust, scientific and historical illiteracy, and Trump, the cultural tribalism of our time has encouraged people to embrace the reality they prefer, rather than the one evidence supports. The next state election cannot come soon enough.