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Opinion
WFAE's reporters, editors, producers and hosts worked tirelessly throughout 2021 to tell the stories that mattered most in the Charlotte area. Here's a look at some of our best work.

In Charlotte, there was a lot to say in 2021. These are Tommy Tomlinson’s top commentaries

When I try to think about this past year, a lot of it’s still COVID, COVID, COVID. That spiky virus, looking like a sweetgum ball, still takes up a lot of my headspace. But a lot of other things happened in 2021, many of them troubling, some which give us — or me, at least — a bit of hope.

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Here are five of my On My Mind commentaries that linger in my mind here at the end of the year. You can hear the commentaries Monday mornings on WFAE. As always, thanks for listening.

The Old Testament Southerners

Whenever there’s a violent attack on the government, one of my first thoughts is dread that another white Southern man is involved. There are a lot of reasons why so many white Southern men have turned into the type of people who would threaten to bomb Congress or actually storm the Capitol. This commentary outlines a theory I’ve been working on for a while about how some of our kind twist the Bible to fit their violent visions.

 It’s been critical race theory all along

Conservatives in the Carolinas and across the country have turned “critical race theory” into a buzz phrase this year, leading to school boards and legislatures banning books and even telling teachers not to teach certain ideas. Well, if you think about it, our school leaders have been proving the tenets of critical race theory for decades now. They just didn’t realize that’s what they were doing.

What the death penalty does to the living

Years ago, I witnessed an execution at Central Prison in Raleigh. The man who was executed had murdered his wife — there was no doubt he was guilty — but toward the end of his life, his children forgave him and tried to stop his execution. They didn’t. I watched him die. I still think about it. It made me think anybody who promotes the death penalty should have to witness one.

A few months after I wrote this, The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, published a piece about men who performed executions in South Carolina, and what it did to them.

Good medicine, in more ways than one

Back in the spring, I got vaccinated in Gastonia (it was hard to get an appointment in Charlotte at the time). I’ve never seen so many people be so happy to be at the hospital. It’s still astonishing to me that so many people resist vaccinations so deeply. For me, getting vaccinated was a bright spot in a tough year.

Remembering the birds we’ll never get back

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a list of animals that it now considers officially extinct. One of the birds on the list was the ivory-billed woodpecker, which was such an amazing sight that people called it the Lord God Bird. But the list got me thinking about a different bird — the Carolina parakeet, which last covered our skies more than 100 years ago. There are so many bits of nature we’ve let slip through our fingers.

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