On My Mind

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE.

If you’re a student at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, you have to check your voter card carefully. If you live on one side of Laurel Street, you vote in Congressional District 13. If you live on the other side, you vote in Congressional District 6.

District 6 looks fairly normal on the map. But District 13 looks like it sprung a leak and bled over into Guilford County, where it just by chance splits N.C. A&T – a historically black university – in half.

I remember a time when Thom Tillis did something courageous.

Media outlets across the state had started doing stories about a shameful part of North Carolina history. From 1929 through 1974, the state had forcibly sterilized some 7,600 men and women who had been classified as mentally ill, promiscuous, epileptic or just “feebleminded.”

Let’s set aside, for today, the question of whether President Trump is a racist.

Instead, let’s talk about the ways you should not go about trying to prove otherwise.

I already had lots of opinions about the U.S. House election between Mark Harris and Dan McCready. What I didn’t expect to have was feelings.

But then – after all the talk about election fraud, and who knew about what and when – it suddenly turned into a family matter.

The first hint that this was not normal Charlotte was the barbershop rolling down Tryon Street.

The sign on the front of the van said SHAPE-UP KING, and sure enough, if you looked in the big windows on the sides, there was a guy sitting in a barber’s chair. I couldn’t tell if he was actually getting his hair cut. It’s probably not smart to get it done while the truck’s moving. That’s a good way to lose an eyebrow.

I stepped outside the other morning and caught an old familiar whiff in the air. Were the magnolias already starting to bloom? Was it the old cookie factory down the street? I took in another breath. Ahh. It was a bank merger! It smelled like money and danger.

Now here’s a college class that sounds like it’s worth the tuition.

Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte and governor of North Carolina, is teaching a class at UNC Chapel Hill starting this week.

In 1993, when I first moved to Charlotte, I moved into an apartment in Dilworth. The rent was $385 a month.

I doubt you could rent a doghouse for that price in Dilworth now.

It’s not just our city’s fancy neighborhoods, though. All over Charlotte, we have a serious problem: Thousands upon thousands of people who work here and contribute to this community, can’t afford to live here anymore.

I was thinking that by the time the Charlotte City Council got around to regulating electric scooters, the e-scooter boom might be replaced by something else. Hoverboards, maybe. If we can’t have flying cars yet, we should at least have hoverboards.

Thomas Davis didn’t want to talk about the pain. 

I interviewed Davis, the Carolina Panthers linebacker, in the fall of 2013 for a magazine story. He was in the middle of an astonishing comeback. He was the first NFL player – maybe the first player in any sport – to tear the ACL in the same knee three different times and return to play again.

Over the holidays, while we were in Tennessee, a cousin looked at me and my wife and said, “So what’s going on with that Congressional race in North Carolina?”

We tried to explain. It took about half an hour.

A lot of people take the end of the year to make wild predictions about what will happen in the next one. If you hit on one out of 10, you look like a genius, because nobody remembers the nine you got wrong.

Still, I’m not much of a gambler. I liked to make predictions that I’m pretty sure will come true. So in that spirit, here are my Safe Bets for 2019.

To tell you about the best Christmas present I ever got, I first have to tell you about the worst Christmas present I ever got. It turns out they happened on the same day.

We have four big TVs in the WFAE newsroom. One is tuned to local news, and the other three are on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. All week long, those last three TVs – and sometimes the other one, too – featured the same images over and over again: Someone who used to work for President Trump, being led into or out of a courthouse.

Magicians base most of their tricks on misdirection. They get you to stare at one closed fist while the other hand slips the vanished coin into the magician’s pocket. A good trick depends on the audience looking at the wrong thing.

The magicians in the North Carolina legislature have gotten us to pay a whole lot of attention to voter fraud. But it turns out we should’ve been spending our time paying attention to election fraud.

The city of Charlotte turns 250 years old today. If our city was a person, you might say, yeah, they’ve had a lot of work done. In fact, there’s not much left that anybody who was alive in 1768 might recognize.

There’s the Hezekiah Alexander House, which was built in 1774. There’s a couple of log cabins at Rural Hill and Latta Plantation. There’s the Old Settlers’ Cemetery uptown, which has gravesites that go back as far as 1776. That’s about it.

Sometimes a stranger’s death is a one-day story, not just in the news but in our minds. You can’t live a healthy life if you let too much death cling to you. But the death of Patrick Braxton-Andrew has stuck with me. Not so much for how he died, but for what his family said about it.

In the year 536, a volcano in Iceland erupted with such force that the ash darkened the skies over most of the earth for 18 months. It snowed in China that summer. They ran out of bread in Ireland. It was the beginning of the coldest decade in 2,000 years.

We are not living in the year 536. So there’s something to be thankful for.

Thank you for your service.

We’ll say those words a lot in observance of Veterans Day. It’s the least we can do, and by that I mean it’s the least we can do. They’re not empty words, exactly. Most of us really are grateful for the sacrifices veterans made on our behalf. But it’s sort of like offering thoughts and prayers to people who have just been through a disaster. The words do more good for the giver than the receiver.

The other night, at dinner with a bunch of friends, we were talking politics, because these days it’s impossible to get through five minutes of any conversation without talking about politics. One friend talked about his hopes for the midterm elections. What he said was: “God, I’m just hoping for gridlock.”

The late,  great Molly Ivins once said that voting whitens your teeth, freshens your breath and perks up your sex life. All those things are true. It’s just science.

I’ll just add a couple of things. Voting makes you more interesting at parties, increases your chance of winning the lottery, and entitles you to the last piece of chicken in the box.

You also get that little I Voted sticker, which is as close as you can get as a grownup to one of those gold stars the teachers give out in kindergarten.

Maybe we should build a wall.

Not the wall at the border. I’m thinking more along the lines of the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. A big hunk of granite, a long list of names. All the people who have died from gun violence in America.

Imagine if Amazon or Wal-Mart filed bankruptcy? It seems unthinkable, but the same could have been said about Sears for much of the 20th Century. But last week, Sears filed for bankruptcy. By the time it happened, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Still, the news has WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson feeling a bit nostalgic.

There is no shortage of news. That’s a common refrain in the news business. News is easy to access. But WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says it’s also important to take a break from all the craziness and controversy

When it comes to civilized discourse, Twitter probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But a recent experience on Twitter gives WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson some cautious optimism.

The other day, I did something dumb on Twitter. Sometimes I think the whole purpose of Twitter is for people to go on there and commit the verbal equivalent of stepping on a rake. I have certainly stepped on more than one rake on Twitter. But this time, what interested me is how my dumb thing ended up playing out.

The Carolina Panthers made a big move last week that may have gotten lost amid coverage of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But its significance did not go unnoticed by WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson.

The Carolina Panthers made a strong statement in Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati. Another strong statement was recently made by the Panthers’ new owner that stood out to WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson for several reasons.

Jeff Cravotta

Two years ago Thursday, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. That shooting and the days of protests after his death, are seared into Charlotte’s collective memory. Or are they? 

Tommy Tomlinson
JEFF CRAVOTTA

As North Carolina deals with the fallout from Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Florence, WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson has his own ideas on how to deal with the storm – and how to treat one another, stormy days or not.

Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panthers wide receiver convicted in 2001 of conspiring to murder his pregnant girlfriend, now has a different story about the night Cherica Adams was fatally shot in south Charlotte. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says Carruth’s new version of what happened comes at a time that’s a little too convenient.

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