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Forgive me, Yellow Dog, for I have sinned

by Ogi Overman

I’m worried. I fear that I’m about to lose a significant portion of my readership, that the Sizzling Seventeen may soon shrink to the Elite Eleven, or possibly even dwindle to the dreaded single-digit mark and become the Nifty Nine.

My loyal army of devotees has long looked to me as the unrepentant radical, the one who speaks truth to power, the guy who thumbs his nose at authority, convention, status quo and closed-mindedness. I’m the poster boy for burned out hippies, peaceniks, tree-huggers, pinkos and other assorted recalcitrant relics of the ’60s.

And now this. Brothers and sisters, I have a confession. I’ve tried to bury it, sublimate it, strike it from the memory banks in every way possible, but, like a bad penny it just keeps coming back. Dear hearts…

I hugged a Republican.

I know, I know. How could such a thing happen? Me, of all people. I throw myself at your mercy and beg forgiveness, but after this next admission, absolution may be impossible. I may be tainted beyond repair. For, in my heart of hearts…

I actually like the guy.

Oh, I don’t mean like-like. But he’s such a likeable guy that you can’t help but like him. It’s not that I could ever vote for him or anything, but the thought did cross my mind, which is more than I can say for any candidate above the local level, like, say, a BJ Barnes. This guy’s name is Pat McCrory and he’s the mayor of Charlotte. Been elected seven times, which tells me that he couldn’t be that much of a right-wing nut job, given that Charlotte is a pretty progressive, cosmopolitan town.

Anyway, this McCrory fellow decided to throw his hat in the ring as a candidate for governor. Normally, that would barely cross my radar screen, meaning only that now there are four Republicans who’ll duke it out amongst themselves in the primary to see which one will be vanquished by either Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue or State Treasurer Richard Moore, the Democratic candidates. But the kicker was that McCrory is a native of Jamestown, a ’74 graduate of Ragsdale High, and since my day gig is editor of The Jamestown News, I had to give it some coverage. But then, after I’d had a long, cordial chat with him before the announcement, he threw me a curve by deciding to make the announcement here instead of Charlotte. So, rather than a boilerplate, local-boy-makes-good feature, now I had a 2,000-word, front page, above-the-fold story plus a self-aggrandizing column on how we scooped the dailies and TV boys on the announcement.

In putting together the story I talked to about a dozen classmates, teachers, coaches and a former principal who knew him growing up, as well as friends from the political arena such as Keith Holliday and Becky Smothers. Among them I figured I’d find somebody who’d give me something negative, or at least something less than glowing about the guy. Jeez, I’m giving some home cooking to the homeboy, at least give me some way to balance it a tad.

But nothing. Nary a peep. I even pumped the TV guys who interviewed me, both from here and Charlotte, for some dirt on him. Nada.

So, the big day came last Tuesday and we had our “gold-truck moment” in Jamestown. I counted 16 satellite trucks in the parking lot of the library, where he made the announcement, and I stopped counting Republicans when I got to 200.

Each of us media types got a five-minute one-on-one with McCrory after the announcement, and that’s when the dastardly deed occurred. I showed him a copy of the paper, complete with photos of him from the high school yearbook (he was student body president, by the way), and he broke out in that durn “infectious grin” I’d heard so much about. Without even thinking, rather than the obligatory handshake, I extended both arms and found myself giving him a quick hug and pat on the back, you know, one of those macho things like football players do after a game.

So, the way I’m rationalizing this is: a) one of the things I harp on is tolerance; b) all Republicans are not knuckle-dragging, war-mongering, narrow-minded xenophobes; c) everyone has the right to their opinion; and d) one’s political beliefs are but one facet of their makeup. Therefore, if I am to walk the walk, it is incumbent upon me to embrace those with whom I might disagree, try to find some common ground, and seek the good in my fellow man. Does that make me any less a leftie tree-hugger?

I think not. Hey, it’s possible to hug a tree and hug a Republican at the same time. As long as you don’t make a habit of it.

Ogi may be reached at ogiman100@yahoo.com, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.

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