Get Riled Up
What’s so damn funny?
When the mayor took bribes, you laughed. You found funny quotes in the affidavit, and you cracked little innocent jokes on the internet. It was cute. And then you learned that a strip club was one of the corrupt mayor’s pet projects, and you acted like a giggling 13-year-old boy. Even the newspaper had fun. On its Twitter feed one day the paper wrote, “Topless!” exclamation mark and all.
The mood was so damn light around here that the man himself, Patrick Cannon, felt safe and loved enough to take a selfie and post it to Facebook—just smiling away a week after pleading guilty. A week. People commented like crazy on the picture, forgiving him, saying they’d vote for him again if they could. Then again, only about 18 percent of you showed up to the polls in the last mayoral election anyway.
You’re too passive, Charlotte, oh Queen City of khaki pants and button-down shirts.
When the Panthers gave away a favorite player, Steve Smith, you joked about icing up. When reputable media questioned how the pastor of the most popular church in the city, Steven Furtick, amassed his wealth, you went to his church. By the thousands. When it became clear that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds threatened the drinking water of most of Piedmont North Carolina, sure you protested, but you didn’t get arrested. And what’s a protest without handcuffs? As developers keep proposing apartment homes on every city block, you shrug and move in, renters without commitment.
Why won’t you go all in?
Even the baseball stadium. You showed up in force on opening night, paying upwards of $200 a ticket on stubhub.com, to see the new ballpark with the pretty view of the skyline. But when that first game carried into extra innings, you left, only a few hundred of you staying through the last pitch. The Knights lost, by the way, in 12 innings, but hey, at least you were there and it looked good.
Oh, yes, it’s all so good-looking, so clean, so nice. That’s what you say. At one apartment complex near Plaza Midwood, there’s a star in the sidewalk that reads: “Beautiful People Live Here.” That’s nice, right? You know what else is nice? Being so close to the beach and the mountains. And the nice weather. And the nice restaurants and the nice trees and the nice neighborhoods and the nice people. It’s all nice.
What’s nice, though, without mean?
What’s winning without losing?
What’s peace without passion?
What’s contentment without fire?
What’s a good handshake without a good kiss-my-ass?
What’s accomplishment without struggle?
What’s a go-getter without a pushover?
A history lesson for you smile-seeking, pursuit-of-happiness doormats. Pull up your cushioned chairs … and your food truck food … and your tail-wagging dog … and listen: The only person to ever come from Mecklenburg County and become president is James K. Polk. Guess what his campaign slogan was? “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!” Not “Fifty-Four Forty or Whatever!” The number was a reference to the line of latitude serving as the northern boundary of the Oregon Territory, where Polk wanted to establish a new U.S.-British Canadian border. Polk’s opponent in the election was Henry Clay, who grew up in Virginia, and he wasn’t nearly as gung-ho about the border push. America spoke. Our guy beat the wimp and rode into the White House and set out to expand the country. Polk immediately provoked and started the Mexican-American War, and we fought like hell there, brave and bold, and after we won that bloody, gritty invasion, you know what we got to keep?
On second thought, never mind. You just keep being you, Charlotte, and see No. 12. —M.G.