Can you hear Johnny Cash?

To the Editor:

The late, great Johnny Cash wrote: “Don’t take your guns to town, son.” In the song, Billy Joe repeats his mother’s warning as he lays dying. Shot down by a cowpoke who could draw faster than him.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, two young men lie in eternal rest. A third man is maimed for life. All three were shot by a young boy like Billy Joe who took his gun to town. But the young shooter in Kenosha had much more firepower than the cowpoke in Cash’s song. Kyle Rittenhouse carried an assault weapon strapped on his shoulder.

The jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on five charges leveled by the state prosecution. He will go on with his life. But it won’t be that simple. He has gone into a room that he can never leave. He killed two fellow human beings. From a legal standpoint he may have done all he needs to do. Still, there is a moral question to resolve – was it really necessary for Kyle Rittenhouse to kill those two people? From a Biblical perspective how does he atone for his deadly deeds? He can (1) accept the facts. He can (2) confess his wrongdoing. That is where his process of atonement hits a snag, though. He can’t complete the third requirement – restitution. Those two victims can’t be brought back to life. That will surely haunt Kyle Rittenhouse.

It should haunt every American. As Cash’s long-time friend Kris Kristofferson asked: “…who’s to bless and who’s to blame?”

Can you hear Johnny Cash somewhere in the distance: “Don’t take your guns to town, son.”

Dave Waldrop, Webster


Our democracy is in peril

To the Editor:

Voting is fundamental to a representative democracy. Participation is an essential part of the social contract. Besides, as an old saying goes, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about it.”

I have lived and voted in Western North Carolina for 23 years. During that time our Congressional representation has changed four times.

On at least one of those occasions, the elected official declined to run again because his seat was deemed vulnerable due to redistricting. In other words, the state legislature re-drew the district lines to favor their own party and disadvantage the party of the incumbent. When this is the way district lines are drawn, it amounts to parties choosing voters, rather than voters choosing who will represent them. Both parties do it, and it is a practice (called gerrymandering) that is designed to entrench power, not to serve the will of the people. It is a practice almost as old as the Republic, but modern technology has made it possible to design a winning district for your side “with near surgical precision.”

There ought to be a law against that, you say?

The proposed Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would end partisan gerrymandering and ensure more fair, transparent and nonpartisan maps. The same technology that makes maps unfair can be used to make them fair, after all.

Sens. Burr and Tillis need to deliver the Freedom to Vote Act to the American people. To do that, they need to defy the majority leader in the U.S. Senate by eliminating the filibuster, a remnant of the Jim Crow era, which is blocking the progress of this overwhelmingly popular and urgently needed legislation. Then they must vote for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Our democracy will not survive any other way.

Betsy Swift, Sylva


Stop the fraud

To the Editor:

According to CNN, The Rosemarie Hartle mystery is now solved. And it turns out that the fraud was committed by a Republican.

Hartle was married to Las Vegas businessman Donald Kirk Hartle, a registered Republican. In November 2020, Hartle told Las Vegas television station 8 News Now (KLAS-TV) that he felt “disbelief” when he found out that a mail-in ballot was submitted in his late wife’s name. It was “pretty sickening,” he said at the time, adding that he didn’t know how it could’ve happened. But Hartle had actually cast the phony ballot himself.

In November 2020, the Trump campaign highlighted a case in which a ballot was cast in the name of a long-dead Pennsylvania woman. Her son later pleaded guilty to casting that ballot for Trump, saying, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he had “listened to too much propaganda and made a stupid mistake.”

And Republican voters were responsible for some of the small number of known crimes.

A Republican local official was the perpetrator of one Ohio case, admitting to forging a signature to cast a ballot under the name of his recently deceased father; he told NBC News it was an “honest error” and also that he had simply been “trying to execute a dying man’s wishes.”

In Colorado, a man who was charged in 2021 with murdering his wife, who had disappeared in May 2020, was also charged with illegally casting her ballot, for Trump, in the November election. He allegedly told FBI agents that he submitted the ballot because he thought “all these other guys are cheating” and his wife would have voted for Trump anyway.

In some of the confirmed cases, including Hartle’s, it is not publicly known which presidential candidate the illegal vote was cast for. Regardless, there is no sign that the crime of voting under the name of a dead person happened even close to frequently enough to have swung any state to Biden, that this crime was committed overwhelmingly by Biden voters, or that the crime is generally going unnoticed by the authorities.

“No one claims that voter fraud never occurs. Multiple studies have examined the frequency of voting fraud, and it is extremely rare,” said Paul Gronke, a political science professor and director of the Elections & Voting Information Center at Reed College.

Ron Robinson, Sylva