News from North Carolina is that a new Voter ID bill will be introduced this week. Many conservatives we have talked to in North Carolina are concerned that demographic shift will make it more difficult for Republicans to win elections, especially at the statewide level. Others have told us that the motivation for Voter ID laws has to do with concerns about voter impersonation. They point to the fact that, often, voters who move out of state or have passed away are not removed from voter roles in a timely fashion, which leaves the door open to fraud.
There is no evidence of voter impersonation in North Carolina, but Republican media outlets have generated countless stories suggesting that there could be. This has created concern among constituents, and offered lawmakers a justification for a series of new government regulations that will spend taxpayer money to make it more difficult for North Carolinians to vote.
North Carolina has a US Senate race next year, and legislation that would limit the number of young people, people of color, and poor people who make it to the polls could determine the outcome. Voter ID laws are only one avenue being considered to achieve this. GOP legislators in North Carolina are also considering restrictions on voter registration and early voting in order to decrease turnout, and create long lines at the polls in more populated, more diverse areas of the state. Also, partisan redistricting has carved up areas where students and people of color live, changing their districts and polling places so that they are confused about where to vote.
To their credit, the North Carolina House of Representatives has held extensive hearings to ascertain whether a bill can be written that would address concern about voter fraud without disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of American citizens who do not have a drivers license or other government issued ID, but still wish to vote in North Carolina. Above is the moment that I found most revealing. Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat, is questioning Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, a non-partisan advocate for clean elections.
My general worry is that the economic elite has irreconcilably split the rest of the country into a red and blue fight over mostly settled issues while they simultaneously siphon off most the growth in wealth of this country.
It's a common tradition for people in the United States lie to their children about Santa Claus. As the children grow older, most of them figure out the truth. But it's surprising how long some continue "to believe," even in the face of overwhelming evidence from their peers. It's also interesting to note, that when the parents are finally caught in this silly lie, their credibility is not questioned. In fact, there is often the development of a nostalgia for the time before the kids "found out" about Santa Claus.
I’m reminded of this when I listen to conservatives who yearn for better days when gender roles were unquestioned; the races lived separately but in harmony, and a booming economy lifted a growing middle class. There were few prominent depictions of disenfranchised minorities. Our views of society were mostly shaped by what we saw on TV (Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Dick Van Dyke, etc). Even though large parts of society were being left out (people of color, people who questioned gender roles, people who questioned sexual identity, people who questioned authority...) many of today’s conservatives look to the 50’s and 60’s as a romantic ideal.
My name is Ju Hong and I am an undocumented immigrant.
I was born in South Korea on October 23rd, 1989. In South Korea, my parents had a Japanese restaurant in downtown Seoul. Due to the economic recession, my parents hardly made any income from our business.
Shortly thereafter, my parents filed for bankruptcy. In the following year, my mother and my father decided to divorce. After that, I lived with my mother and my older sister, barely able to afford to buy food and a place to stay in South Korea.
In 2001, my mother made a bold decision – she left everything behind and decided to move to the United States to seek a better life for my sister and me. However, once we arrived in the United States, we faced a different set of challenges.
As a single parent, it was hard for my mother to raise my sister and me in a new country. She worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, sacrificing her time and energy to support my education and provide food on the table each day. She was and still is exhausted and overwhelmed after work.
Like my mom, my sister works full-time. Until recently she attended community college at the same time but because of financial difficulties, she had to drop out. My sister had the chance to attend more prestigious colleges and universities. Instead, she is 27 years old and working two shifts at a restaurant, mopping floors, and washing dishes, while her friends are experiencing college life.
I learned that Roger had passed in an email from my mother, read to me by Annabel while on one of our frequent road trips. It took a long while to sink in. It happens from time to time that there are erroneous reports. But when I read the blog post by his lovely wife, Chaz, I knew it was true:
"I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger -- my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I've lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.
"Roger was a beloved husband, stepfather to Sonia and Jay, and grandfather to Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph. Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were "the best things in my life." He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life.
"We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition."
We are touched by all the kindness and the outpouring of love we've received. And I want to echo what Roger said in his last blog, thank you for going on this journey with us."
As Roger mentions in the video above, I first met him at the Hawai'i International Film Festival in 2002. My first feature, Charlotte Sometimes, included cast and crew with Hawai'i roots (I went to high school and middle school there), so it was a special occasion even before we encountered Roger at a luncheon that kicked off the festival. We asked him if he would be kind enough to attend one of our screenings. He said he would need to check his schedule.
We ran into him again that evening at the opening night party. He said he had checked his schedule and that he would be attending the first of our 3 screenings. We let out a loud cheer and he immediately ducked his head below his shoulders. "Please, not so loud," he said. "There are a dozen other filmmakers here who asked me the same question."
We had a feeling that Roger liked the film based on the questions he asked during the Q and A. The audience was filled with friends and calabash family, and it was announced that we were all going out to eat afterwards. To our delight, Roger and Chaz joined us. This was the first time that I got to know Chaz. What a glowing, loving, charming person she is and was. Years later, Chaz and I would become quite close as Roger's health deteriorated, as we worried and fretted together in hospitals or at their Chicago home. But these were the wondrous years, times she and I both long for now. Let me stay with them a little longer.
At the dinner following the screening, it was a shock to see my high school friends pinging Roger with questions about reviews he'd written, his opinion of their favorite movies, recent movies, etc. We knew that in the morning, it was likely a review of Charlotte Sometimes would be published in the Chicago Sun Times. This was the early days of the Internet. In order to read the review, we had to find a Kinkos, and pay by the hour to go online. Since we were in Hawai'i, it wasn't hard to stay up. The review appeared at about 1 am. I knew that some good things would happen as a result of meeting Roger. I didn't know that the best of them would have little to do with film.
The video above was shot at Roger's film festival in March of 2003, about 4 months later. EbertFest, known then as "The Overlooked Film Festival," is an annual pilgrimage for film lovers around the nation and around the world. We really had no idea what an amazing community we'd been invited to join. Somewhere, I have photos from the festival with Roger and Chaz. When I find them I will post them. Suddenly, images from the past are a treasure. You know how it is.
Selma, Alabama is, triumphantly, associated with voting rights. Newtown, Connecticut is, tragically, associated with gun violence. Tonight we connect the issues thanks to our special guests, Chellette and Darren, on The Middle Ground.
From the Selma, AL, Chellette Henderson is a retired aerospace purchasing agent who returned to her childhood home after her husband and her mother passed away. Having participated in the historic voting rights marches in Selma 48 years ago, she is getting reacquainted with Alabama after raising a family, making a career, and helping to establish MLK Day, in Mesa, Arizona.
From Newtown, CT, Darren Wagner will make his second appearance on The Middle Ground, and his first since he launched the Newton Action Alliance. He is a former Deputy Sheriff who has become a leading voice on the issue of gun violence after he and his family were shaken by the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.
CLICK HERE to listen to archived recording of Darren and Chellette interviewed via Coffee Party Radio by filmmaker Eric Byler.
More about our visit to Chellette's family farm:
Has the South Changed? Justice Roberts made this claim while implying the Supreme Court wants to undermine the Voting Rights Act. In this video, Annabel Park asks Chellette Henderson of Selma, Alabama if Roberts has a point.
Annabel Park and I were invited by Chellette Henderson to stay on her historic family farm just south of Selma, AL. We were treated to an old fashioned country breakfast, a tour of the property, and a days worth of captivating and illuminating conversation.