D.G. Martin

One on One: Stealing our Shadows

Has this year’s presidential election stolen our shadows? “What do you mean?” I can hear you asking that question. To understand about such shadows, it helps to read North Carolina beloved former poet laureate and UNCG Professor Fred Chappell’s new book, “A Shadow All of Light.” It is a magical, or speculative, story set in an Italianate country hundreds of years ago. Readers are required to suspend disbelief as Chappell asks them to believe that our shadows are something more than the images our bodies cast by interrupting a light source. These shadows are an important, integral part of a person’s being. They can be stolen or given up. When lost, the person is never the same. In Chappell’s tale, an ambitious rural man, Falco, comes to a big port city where he attaches himself to a successful shadow merchant, Maestro Astolfo. Over time Falco learns the trade of acquiring and selling shadows that have been detached from their original owners. The business is a “shady” one because the acquisition of human shadows often involves underhanded or illegal methods, something like today’s markets in exotic animal parts and pilfered art. But Maestro Astolfo and Falco, notwithstanding public attitudes, strive to conduct their business in a highly moral manner. Although losing one’s shadow can be devastating, the situation can be mollified if a similar replacement can be secured from shadow...

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Why Democrats Could Benefit from a Trump victory

Most Democrats are happy that Donald Trump’s campaign is stumbling. But some, looking at the long term, might think that a Trump win next month would be a good thing. Not for the country, they would explain, but for the future of the Democratic Party. Just like Barack Obama’s win in 2008 hurt Democrats in elections later on, Trump’s victory would be terrible for the Republicans in future elections. Obama’s victory seemed to be the prelude to a long period of Democratic dominance and control of the House and Senate. But it did not last long because Obama’s victory provoked a powerful Tea Party-like response from an angry segment of the public. These motivated crowds marched to the polls in 2010 and reversed Democratic gains, retook control of Congress, and gained control of the state legislature in North Carolina. Control of state government, sealed in 2010, enabled Republicans in North Carolina to redraw congressional and state legislative districts to insure their party’s long-term dominance. The same thing happened in other states. Most Democrats hope that a Trump loss in North Carolina would help Democrats gain in the U.S. Senate and state legislative races. Still, nobody thinks control of the North Carolina legislature can be returned to Democrats this election. But, if Trump were to win and become president, he would provoke anti-Trump and anti-Republican voters in the 2018 and...

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Eastern North Carolina is my Tuscany, my Szechuan, my Provence

Who is the most famous woman in North Carolina today? Think Eastern North Carolina. Think restaurants. Think public television’s popular program, “A Chef’s Life.” Then, on October 4, think books. On that date, the revolutionary new cookbook of our most famous woman, Vivian Howard, hits the bookstore shelves, and her photograph on the lovely book cover will be everywhere. “Don’t you dare skip this introduction!” she writes. Good advice, because she explains in that introduction how and why her book is no ordinary cookbook. She writes, “This book is the story of my life so far, told through the...

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The election will be over, not HB2

What do you hate more? The presidential election campaign? Or the furor over HB2? The good news is that one will be over in a few weeks. The bad news is that the other won’t. On November 8 the election campaigning ends. The heavy doses of drug-like campaign ads and cable news coverage the mean-spirited, misleading, and malicious barrages fired by and at the candidates will halt. But HB2 will still be with us, tearing us asunder, holding our state up to ridicule. Unnecessarily, because reasonable people could have worked out a common-sense solution that recognized, respectfully and practically,...

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Remembering what we thought 15 years ago

Fifteen years ago, following September 11, 2001, I wrote the following: War. War. War. What is it about this word that excites us, that unifies us, that puts aside at least for a moment our selfish preoccupation with ourselves? The word brings with it a spirit of action that rises out of September 11’s time of despair, questionings, and anger. It rushes through my system like a miracle drug, wiping out my depression and lifting my spirits to new heights. A flag banner decorates our front porch.  My chest puffs out with pride as the Army calls my son...

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Local Eateries for Politicians and for us

It is here. Just in time for the election season, this new book can guide this fall’s political candidates to the North Carolina eateries where locals gather to eat and exchange information and viewpoints about public affairs. For instance, the book features a barbecue in Concord where Hillary Clinton campaigned in 2008, a downtown café in Kings Mountain where the speaker of the North Carolina House eats breakfast, a country buffet in Randolph County where a powerful state representative holds court on weekends surrounded by Richard Petty memorabilia, a famous barbecue in Gastonia where the parents of a top...

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Books for Trump and Clinton

Could reading a few North Carolina connected books help Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton be better candidates, campaigners, and debaters during the next couple of months? I think so. If Trump read UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Konrad Jarausch’s 800-page “Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century,” it would amaze us. First, we would not believe he had read such a long book. But then he would wow us with his newly attained broad background on a topic critical to American interests and responsibilities. “Out of Ashes” is indeed a very long book. But it is...

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The Minotaur and Today’s Politics

Do you think that the Greek legendary half-bull, half-man called the Minotaur could help us understand what is going on in American politics this year? In case you do not remember the Minotaur, he was the offspring of a queen of Crete, who, subject to a curse from a vengeful god, fell madly in love with her husband’s prize bull. The resulting offspring grew up to be a feared monster who devoured small children. More about the Minotaur in a minute. Meanwhile, others are trying to help us understand the Trump phenomenon and explain its success in securing so...

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Hard to Win After Beating the Party Establishment in the Primaries

Is Donald Trump really a unique political candidate? Did North Carolina ever have anybody in politics who compares with him? When I asked that question in a column last year, I suggested U.S. Senator Robert Reynolds “out-Trumped” Trump and was so full of bunkum that it was part of his nickname, “Buncombe Bob.”  Reynolds served in the Senate for 12 years beginning in 1933. He kept people all over the country entertained and shocked by planting a big kiss on Jean Harlow, the famous movie star, right on the Capitol steps; getting married five times; snubbing the King and...

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A Word to Make Trump Immortal

He has put his mark on buildings and businesses that might last a lifetime. But could he more effectively gain immortality by adding his name to the language? That is the way, for instance, that Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry did it 200 years ago. He signed a partisan redistricting plan in which one district looked like a salamander, and he gave his name to the despicable, but constitutional, tactic known as a gerrymandering. Of course, Donald Trump would rather his name be associated with some more positive or elegant term, say Napoleonic. He might settle, should he lead his...

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