Downtown Fayetteville’s Subtle Success

Today, I ate lunch in downtown Fayetteville at a place called Agora. Try it. It’s good. But, it got me thinking.

Per wikipedia: The agora (/ˈæɡərə/Ancient Greek: ἀγορά agorá) was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. It is the best representation of city form’s response to accommodate the social and political order of the polis.[1] The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life in the city.[2] The Ancient Agora of Athens is the best-known example.

Per Atlas Obscura (a really cool site): But what marked the Agora with everlasting glory was the other commodity traded and peddled daily: ideas. The Agora was the meeting grounds and hang out spot for ancient Athenians, where members of the elected democracy assembled to discuss affairs of state, noblemen came to conduct business, ordinary citizens got together to meet up with friends and watch performers, and where the famed philosophers doused their listeners with wisdom (or rubbish).

Downtown was exceptionally busy today. It’s been that way lately.

After lunch, I passed protesters camping out at the Market House. Yesterday, there was a larger protest on Hay Street. It got a little rowdy.

Our police chief was right in the middle of it.

There’s an idealistic clash in America right now. It’s a war of ideas about what the Nation was, is, and should be moving forward. A similar war is raging over what Fayetteville should be. We’re being tested. But at least we have a place to show up and present those ideas that’s not the internet. When people meet face to face, they often find they have more in common than they think. Truth emerges eventually when we listen to one another.

Covid has destroyed many of our communal traditions that hold us together as a city. We’re not going to church, ballgames, and Fourth of July fireworks shows. It’s hard to listen when you’re sitting at home. The virus isn’t going away anytime soon. In the meantime, at least we have a public space where people are going to hash it out.

America is full of ideas. You’re free to peddle yours daily in downtown Fayetteville, be they wisdom or rubbish.

Fayetteville, NC – Healing Field® 2020 – Colonial Flag Foundation

Predictable Divides

Fayetteville was in the Washington Post today.

You should read the article. It’s about race.

“The divisions are not always predictable.”

“In Fayetteville, many young activists have cared little about renaming Fort Bragg or what the city does with the Market House — even as a diverse coalition calls for it to be torn down — but they have become particularly incensed over the words painted on the street around the structure, which they say symbolize the overcautiousness of a council not wanting to offend.”

I think the author gets it wrong about the “unpredictability” of the divides. Of course, I started a blog to write about them, so I’m biased.

My take: the divisions are alive and well and paint will do nothing to solve them. In fact, this paint job probably made them worse by angering both sides.

But that’s my take. Make your own decisions about these issues.

You live here.

Inside Agitation

I am who I am. I’m a straight, white guy that grew up with many advantages. I won’t apologize for that, as I had nothing to do with it. We don’t get to pick such things. But I’m getting some grey up top, and I have more than a little experience on planet Earth, so I’ll share this. Take it or leave it.

I made the best argument of my legal career in a courtroom in New Albany, Mississippi, while standing a few feet in front of the Mississippi Attorney General, a few years after he had wrongfully convicted an innocent black man of murdering a white man, a few hours after the same A.G. had threatened to put my father in jail for standing up to him. I literally poured out my heart into that courtroom. Strangers hugged me on the courthouse steps afterwards.

We had to wait months for the decision.

We lost.

The Judge didn’t think my argument was worth a damn. I’ve thought about that day a lot, and I know that I couldn’t have done it any better. The law was on our side. The facts were on our side. But we lost. More importantly, our client lost. Such is the case for marginalized people on a daily basis in America.

It’s hard to hope after that.

What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?

I set out to prove a black man could receive a fair trial in the south, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That’s not the truth, because the eyes of the law are human eyes — yours and mine — and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices, so until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts — where we don’t know better.

A Time to Kill – Grisham

America is a government of the people and by the people and all of us people are flawed. We’re endowed by our creator with inalienable rights and deceived by evil forces, mainly fear, into thinking that others aren’t. If you’re a minority, you get the short end of this equation more often than not. And so change isn’t going to come from the top. Indeed, it’s less likely to. Those in charge rose to the top by mastering the current system.

So it is not surprising that the protesters want to burn down the system. Just break it, burn it down, and start over. This takes the form of a gas can on the Market House balcony or calls to de-fund police departments across the country. It’s not going to work unless you burn it all down.

If you love America as I do, even with its flaws, you might be more receptive to this closing argument:

Change will come, if at all, by changing the hearts of Americans, and the majority of Americans are decent and good people.

Remember that you are created in the image of God. Seek the truth, not with your eyes or your mind, but with your heart…

…where you don’t know better.

Still Standing

In 1960, Terry Sanford decided to run for Governor. He announced his candidacy in front of the Market House in Fayetteville. At that point in time, Fayetteville was a strategic spot for a state-wide political launch.

Triumph of Good Will: How Terry Sanford Beat a Champion of ...

More importantly, at that time, you could be a champion of civil rights and still use the Market House as a back drop.

There’s one image that’s been on this website from the beginning. It shows a man under the Market House, looking out over Fayetteville. I think it sums up what I’ve been trying to do.

That picture is staying.

Some pieces of the past need to be remembered.