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Advice to a young congressman

Jere Brittain Jere Brittain

Dear Congressman Cawthorn:


I am an 85-year-old registered Democrat who voted against you in the recent election.  But now that you have been elected to represent the North Carolina 11th Congressional District, you are my congressman, and I am your constituent along with all other citizens of the District.  To borrow and paraphrase the great Farmer’s Insurance ads, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.

You should not interpret your impressive win in the recent election as an endorsement of radical protest against the free and fair election of Joe Biden as President of the United States. I believe your association with the maverick, far-right group of congressmen will damage your reputation as a “rising star” in the Republican Party in the eyes of most citizens in Western North Carolina, party affiliation aside. I think you should seek the counsel of experienced centrist Republican as well as Democrat House Members. Listen more than you talk until you know the lay of the congressional land. Make good on your offer to “reach across the aisle” by finding common causes with colleagues. The nation hungers for bipartisanship.

Most Western North Carolinians are freedom loving and patriotic, fiscally conservative and socially compassionate.  We celebrate both our individual roots and our collective diversity. We have ethical and moral compasses deriving from a wide array both secular and religious experiences. We are uncomfortable with extremes at either end of the political spectrum. We respect the opinions of others and avoid inflammatory rhetoric. We value friendships and kinships. We expect our congressman to be an ambassador to the nation for these values.

Help fix the badly broken Covid vaccine distribution and delivery system. My wife, Joanne, and I, like many other elders, are still unable to get an appointment. Advocate for universal access to cell phone and broad band internet services. We live within seven miles of the Asheville airport and I-26 and have neither in upper South Mills River. Seek solutions for our dysfunctional immigration system.  Travel and read more to appreciate the history and role of Western North Carolina in the United States and of the United States in world affairs.

Work to protect and enhance the public lands and water resources that are hallmarks of Western North Carolina. Seek more funding for better mental health services, public education, and safety nets for the homeless and hungry. Promote a living wage for those at the bottom of the earning pyramid.

Most of all, read and heed the Constitution that you recently swore to uphold and defend.  

Journeying on …

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A sixth generation native of Mills River, Hendersonville Lightning columnist Jere Brittain is a retired professor of horticulture at Clemson University, a musician and songwriter and Henderson County history enthusiast. He writes about life in and around Mills River.