Southampton County resident have greater needs

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, December 8, 2018

To the Editor:

Yesterday I finished reading the scholarly and very well-written book “Ship of Fools,” by young Tucker Carlson, a man much wiser than his age would suggest. On page 126 he made a few comments about the First Amendment, particularly free speech. He wrote:

“There’s nothing more infuriating to a ruling class than contrary opinions. They’re inconvenient and annoying. They’re evidence of an ungrateful population. They impede the progress of your programs. Above all, they constitute a threat to your authority; disagreement is the first step toward insurrection. When you’re in charge, you’ll do what you can to suppress dissent. The modern establishment has done exactly that.”

Of course, Tucker is writing about our present and recent national political situation; our do-nothing Congress and the various manifestations of government that people my age have experienced and witnessed since we were young adults (in my case beginning with the administration of Lyndon Johnson, following the death of JFK in 1963.)

I remember my experiences in Vietnam when I reported to my senior officers that I could see the evidence of the North Vietnamese infiltrators a few miles over the border in Cambodia, as I flew daily reconnaissance missions along that portion of the Ho Chi Minh trail. My superiors (all the way up to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his boss LBJ) simply did not want to hear the truth. In fact, President Johnson was famous among his peers for simply not hearing what his closest advisers were telling him if it was contrary to his own opinions about the facts. You can find numerous references to that character flaw in the four-book biographical series about LBJ by Robert A. Caro.

I am beginning to see the same thing in our local government — the Southampton County Board of Supervisors. They know how the majority of citizens feel about many issues which we face or have faced in the past few years, and yet, because they do not want to hear or believe the citizens’ positions, they vote their own personal opinions.

I remember citizen after citizen time after time telling the Board that they were going to build a solid waste system much greater than we needed. And now we find the taxpayers having to spend a couple million dollars each year to operate a system that exceeds our current needs. That Board simply refused to believe us.

Most recently (and I was unable to attend the meeting) our supervisors voted once again to grant money to the country club after the vast majority of citizens who expressed an opinion were opposed. Dr.[Alan] Edwards warned us last year (when he voted against it) that the situation would crop up again this year and probably many years in the future.

He was right. Most of the other supervisors do not like Dr. Edwards and they often act as if they wish he were not in the same room with them. But he usually seems to represent his constituents and he votes accordingly. I suspect that many of his colleagues on the board do not.

I have taken a very unofficial and unscientific poll on the issue, asking shoppers in Ace Hardware, at my church, at the Courtland Dairy Queen and among close friends. The answers I get about the country club issue vary, from “No opinion,” “We need a country club to attract new businesses,” all the way to “Hell no!” but an overwhelming majority of people I ask about it are opposed; even some members of the country club are opposed.

I looked up the meaning of the word “perception” (per.sep´.shun) and I discovered that it means: the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation. Another definition is: an attitude or understanding based on what is observed or thought. Some synonyms are: insight, awareness, discernment, observation.

If you think seriously about perception, you will see that Franklin Mayor Frank Rabil is a current example of an elected official displaying a keen awareness of perception, or how his vote would be perceived by the citizens… he recused himself from a vote on the country club grant because he is a member of one of their boards.

At least two of the county supervisors are either members of the country club, or members of one of their boards. How impressive it would have been if they had realized how the public would perceive their vote on the country club grant and recused themselves from voting on an issue in which they have a direct interest, as did Mayor [Frank] Rabil.

In the interest of full disclosure I remind you that I do not golf nor am I a member of the country club. I do however think that the country club and the golf course are local assets, but I do not think citizen taxes should be used to prop up the club’s financial situation. They should figure out another way to support themselves. The citizens of Southampton County have greater needs.

Ash Cutchin