By Chad Nance
“Mother, mother ocean, after all these years I’ve found
My occupational hazard being my occupations just not around.
I feel like I’ve drowned,
Gonna head uptown.”
– Jimmy Buffett
“Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.”
– Thomas Wolfe
“You can’t go home again.”… least that’s what Thomas Wolfe said, and he tended to be more right than wrong. Home is a place we long for on our wanderings, but then when we get back, nothing’s like we remembered it and every dream we ever had hangs in the ether just out of reach.
The story of Noah Reynolds is my story. It is the story of several folks I call close friends these days- all native sons of Winston-Salem who have returned home in their 40’s to find it a very different place than what we left, even though the ghosts of the past linger like thoughtless party guest who refuse to go home at the end of the night. When I stand down in the Innovation Quarter I can still hear the bustle of working men and women. I can still imagine the smell in the air of curing tobacco and vividly remember walking downtown with my Father between the Wachovia and Reynolds buildings, never quite able to get my head at the right angle to see the sky above them. With the right kind of eyes it is possible to see what Camel City was and could be again; the only problem is that it often feels like a lot of folks are dreaming small… mashed flat by the Bush/Obama era and willing to accept a life that is less epic, less grand, and less truly lived because getting there simply looks like too hard a struggle.
This city doesn’t seem to appreciate the grand gesture anymore. The bigger-than-life personalities of the past like Velma Hopkins, RJ Reynolds, Katherine Reynolds, Robert “Chick Black”, and William Lemly are long gone, leaving behind bureaucrats, corporate stooges, and wannabe political bosses like Bill Whiteheart. The hat size and the heart has shrunk in the face of lowered expectations and a lack of personal will and discipline.
When I first met Noah there was an instant connection- a mutual appreciation for the grand gesture and for reaching higher than anyone wants us to. I came home to Winston-Salem after years on the road around the world and America, and since then with my love, Carissa, have attempted to create a new, innovative, and more community connected news outlet in the hopes that our faith and passion for Winston-Salem can become contagious. Noah hit the ground back in our hometown hungry to make a difference- starving to leave a mark on this city that our fore-fathers helped to build. Not walking in fear, Noah put his neck out there and ran for City Council. For many small reasons he lost, so he began to move on.
In September of 2013 the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners led by Bill “Boss Hogg” Whiteheart passed a rule allowing concealed weapons to be carried in Tanglewood Park. They did this at the behest of politicians in Raleigh who have been determined to ram all kinds of thoughtless ideas through into law. Of course, Tanglewood Park is probably one of the safest places in Forsyth County- a highly funded play-land for white folks where local Republicans put their names on amenities and the County Commission approves millions of dollars for a swimming pool pump while children go hungry and our schools are beginning to crumble. It began, however, as the country estate of Noah’s Great Uncle, his father’s namesake. The introduction of lame politics and potential violence into what had been a relatively pastoral community asset became a political battleground for the kind of nonsense distractions that politicians use these days to keep folks from seeing what evils they are really getting away with.
Like myself, Noah was clearly disturbed by the politicization, and, ever the follower of his own drum and believer in the grand gesture, he filed suit against the county because by allowing only concealed weapons, the County created a special class of citizen in violation of the United States Constitution.
On Saturday, June 19th, Noah sent me an email indicating that he was going to withdraw his lawsuit writing:
“(1) My co-plaintiff Domingo Isasi has moved to Maine to take a new job and really is not available to be involved anymore.
(2) I really do not wish to pursue any further a matter that is of no apparent interest to
A- the Court, who thinks my Constitutional rights are subject to Mediation
B – the Press, which is also disinterested unless it sells papers, and
C – The Public, which has offered little support besides complaining when it is convenient and timely,
(3) one of the sitting county commissioners who voted for guns in the parks has already been defeated in the primary and another is likely to lose in November. It would be less costly to try my luck with the new set of commissioners since our court date would be in Feb 2015 anyway.
In all earnest, thank you for your enthusiasm and dedication, but I know when the deck is stacked against me. I did voice my concerns and made a tangible commitment to defend the 2nd Amendment and keep guns out of Tanglewood Park, for the Record.
Please inform the Court and the Forsyth County that we are prepared to drop the case on a no fault bilateral basis.”
Mediate Constitutional Rights? Welcome to the world of lawyers and politicians where the truth is for whoever pays the most money and fundamental rights are up for “discussion”- because in the world of the small and petty there can be no winners and losers… just losers.
Noah had made a grand gesture in the hopes of turning the tide from the small-minded politics of the 21st Century- an attempt to shake people in this community out of a malaise built of defeatism and tiny thinking. For one, I’d like to thank my buddy for taking the time and the energy to at least try to do something instead of simply sit on his ass, consume, shop, consume, then die. When the grand gesture dies I will be happy to fade away with it. What are we going to do in this town when no one has the courage and personal quirks that equip them to tilt at windmills?
Noah’s lawsuit wasn’t really just about the 2nd Amendment. It wasn’t even really about the bone-headed politics-only move of County Commissioners trying to appeal to the new dumb that has arrived in the Winston-Salem suburbs over the last couple of decades, aided and abetted by a national political scene that eschews addressing serious issues by focusing on nonsense like guns, the War on Drugs, and an old, cruel form of nativism. This law suit was about a world that feels lost to some of us. A different time where paranoia, fear, and avarice were not the norm and white people weren’t so terrified that they felt the need to carry guns on their hip as an overt threat to the rest of the world to “Back the hell up.”
Maybe our city is now just the stomping ground of lawyers and the scumbag politicians who think that we can mediate the US Constitution. Gone are the strong and the brave like Noah’s great grandparents who had the inner fortitude to bend the world to their will. Gone are the men like my grandfather who scratched out a living in the red dirt with his own worn hands. Welcome to the new normal… it sucks.
I can’t speak for Noah or any of my other friends, but I can guarantee you that this little gray duck will be spending the morning finding a new windmill to crash into. Think I need to go fishing first…
To read background on the County Commission’s decision and Noah Reynolds’ lawsuit, click the links below.