Notes by Eric Byler written on the day this interview was recorded in Aug. 2013. Release of this video was delayed due to a tense political climate in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Today we met with the Ledford family and filmed a long interview. They wanted to be interviewed all at once so it was six people plus Annabel. Not easy to light or to film, but I got most of it using 3 cameras.
Lee Roy Ledford, a former Mitchell County Commissioner, and the family as a whole are trying to navigate the shifting dynamics of politics in the region.
Luke and Jake Deyton, Lee Roy's grandsons, are college-bound very articulate and identify as Democrats, which the family light-heartedly tolerates. Lee Roy's daughter Tracy married into the Deyton family which she described as conservative Democrats, or "Dixiecrats." Lee Roy's son, their uncle Tommy Ledford, is a school board member who says he does not plan to seek higher office. He was the most conservative person at the table, and expressed the closest thing to disapproval of the boys' Democratic affiliation.
Lee Roy and his grandsons all expressed frustration with hate-based political rhetoric and what they called propaganda. Lee Roy's fallout with fellow Republicans in Mitchell County began with the marriage amendment (On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters approved the amendment, 61.04% to 38.96%, with a voter turnout of 34.66%). He and the other county commissioners voted unanimously to encourage voters to vote their conscience. This was turned into, "Lee Roy is for gays getting married," and he was defeated in the next primary. He says his political career is over, and he and his son Tommy gave emphatic, negative responses when I asked if they were thinking of running a slate of moderate Republicans in the next primary.
Tracy spoke passionately about the teaching profession, and lovingly about her experience in Raleigh attending a Moral Monday protest themed around education.
Sen. Josh Stein, Democrat from Wake County, is considered a rising star in the Democratic party. His debate with Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) on the legality, fairness, and the necessity of voting restrictions in North Carolina spanned the final three days of the Senate's 2013 session, culminating in the passage of the most restrictive voting law in the United States, HB 589, which awaits a signature by Gov. Pat McCrory (R). McCrory has said he has not read the legislation but intends to sign it.
Let's remember that it's okay if we disagree. We are not meant to create uniformity in America. Diversity makes us strong.
We do, however, need a process that is truly representative of We the People so that we feel that our voices have been heard. That process is failing us and many Americans from all sides are feeling strangled and fed up. That process must include not only transparency, fair and clean elections, it must include opportunities for the public to be part of the deliberation.
Tragically, we keep going to war with each other over specific policies and we leave the battlefields wounded and bitterly angry with each other. This prevents us from uniting as We the People to restore self-governance.
How about if we focused on improving the representative process? Most people don't feel represented given our current process.
We must learn from the lessons of the past. As Lincoln implored us to do in 1861 in his Inaugural Address, we must be friends, not enemies.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
We must call on the better angels of our nature and insist on reason, civility, tolerance, compassion and democracy. We must recognize and value each other as We the People. If we are fractured and don't value each other, our governments and corporations will feel no pressure to value us.