Stuff Ballard Wrote

Tag: WNC

GOP power trip trips

Daily Planet, 8/2014

[one prediction I got right]

During a high school reunion, several of us were talking over breakfast. Inevitably the conversation turned to politics. One of the wives laughingly told how her husband was a fanatic Republican, a GOP cash cow. After Republicans took Congress in 1994, she said, he was joyous. “I suppose you can relax now,” she said to him that night.   “No,” he said, “now I go after environmentalists.” My friend confirmed his wife’s story with a fiendish “Huh-huh-huh” laugh.

That laugh has stayed with me ever since.

In recent years I’ve wondered if Republicans in Raleigh “Huh-huh-huh” as they look around the General Assembly candy store and savor the wrappers that litter the floor.

Yes, I think they do. I imagine closed-door celebrations, like this one from 2012:

“I propose a toast,” says Tim Moffitt. “To the city of Asheville!”

“Yes,” says Nathan Ramsey. “And to their ongoing lessons in humility!” Laughter.

“And to urban well-drilling companies,” says Chuck McGrady. Laughter.

“I drink to Citizens United and wide-open money,” someone shouts.

“And, boys, let’s don’t forget Tom (Hofeller) the Mapmaker,” says Moffitt. “He drew the districts so I’ll driveI-40 the rest of my life.” Laughter.

“Didn’t he do a number on those liberals at Warren Wilson College?” someone shouts. “Zzzzt! Split ‘em right down the middle.”

Right about now, a voice comes from the round head perched on the round body sitting at the end of the table: Ralph Hise. “I raise my Diet Sprite to the NCAE. (mumble) uppity teachers (mumble). Let their union dry up faster than Asheville lawns.”

That moves Moffitt to stand up. “Gentlemen…to the North Carolina constitution! And the power it gives us in the General Assembly to manage local governments!”

I imagine them that all standing up, some shouting, “Hear, hear!” and some shouting, “Here, here!” One is shouting, “Yeah, power!” And one is shouting, “North Carostution!” His glass wasn’t Diet Sprite.

Do I know that GOP legislators slap down their opposition – like the city of Asheville with their Water Act (Moffitt, McGrady and Ramsey) and the North Carolina Association of Educators (Hise) as payback for past grievances?

Nobody can know another person’s heart with certainty.   But I can say absolutely that these guys went waaaay out of their way to take unnecessary actions. With priority needs all over the place, they pushed through hostile legislation.

The record is clear that Moffitt and Ramsey, who represent Buncombe County interests, and McGrady, representing Henderson County, ambushed Asheville in a sneaky power grab. They didn’t consult the city, or even inform them that their water system was going to be seized. Incredibly, Moffitt met with a city delegation in Raleigh fifteen days before filing the 2012 bill (HB1009), and he didn’t mention the takeover.

Their state law applied only to one city – the finding of the trial judge last month in favoring Asheville over the General Assembly on the water system. And their 2013 law (HB 488) offered no compensation to Asheville for its $100 million water system. That’s being vindictive, wouldn’t you say?

Hise’s SB727 (“No Dues Checkoff for School Employees”) similarly singles out one organization. Dues checkoffs for other groups were not affected. It’s been said that Hise had a chip on his shoulder toward the NCAE – or would have if the chip had stayed on his round shoulders.   Certainly unnecessary.

Folks, these men aren’t legislators. They’re thugs, bullies.

They’re aggressive weeds in a garden. They’re prospering for a while, but there are people who love the garden who will yank them up by the roots. And all will be well in the garden again.




They made a gom of it

Citizen-Times, 3/2012

There’s a wonderful word used here in the mountains.  You don’t hear it anywhere else.  The word is “gom.”  A gom is a mess, something done all wrong, not straight, out of order.  It is used most often as a noun and especially in the phrase, “made a gom.”  But things can also be “in a gom.”  “Gom” can also be a verb: “Don’t worry if you gom it up; it doesn’t matter.”  It also occurs as a past participle: “all gommed up.”  And occasionally something can be described using an adjective form:  “It’s kind of gommy.”

“Gom” has size included in its meaning, that is, a gom is a big mess.  So it’s not necessary to say “big gom.”

The word almost certainly came with our ancestors from Ireland, and it may have been a variant of “gum.”  There’s also an Irish word “gam” that means “stupid,” maybe a cousin.

About now the reader might be wondering why I’m writing this letter.  Just a neighborly act.  You see, I want people who aren’t from here to understand what everybody’s saying these days:  “Republicans in Raleigh sure made a gom of our education system, didn’t they?”  An unconscionable gom.

Mountain dialect forever!

Citizen-Times, 7/2011

I dropped my Georgia accent about the same time I switched sides in the Civil War.  I realized the Confederacy wasn’t a “glorious nation bright and fair” but a clique of rich boneheads protecting their slave property.  And I got tired of walkin’ across the flowuh and sittin’ on the front powitch.

Dialects fascinate me. The introduction to a book I just finished on a Philippine language says–in the context of finding a spelling system for that language–“One can only imagine what English would be like if dialect variations had to be represented in dictionaries.  In North Carolina, for example, the word ‘hair’ is pronounced at least five different ways.”

I write here because I find myself emotionally attached to the WNC dialect. Among many things, it’s wonderfully economical in collapsing syllables.  The first person I met here was named Hard.  I said, “Hello, Hard.”  In writing, I saw he was Howard.  I hate to see it going the way of all regional dialects, a victim of the modern world and television.  My wife lost her local accent in college, but it comes back gloriously when she’s enthusiastic.  I hope the grandchildren of today’s children will still be speaking Mountain.


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