7/29 Letters: Smithfield overcame a bad element

Overcoming shameful elements

I recall vividly the years in which Smithfield struggled to overcome a small but shameful element bent on stirring division, fear and exclusion (”What’s the history of Ku Klux Klan billboards near Smithfield? CuriousNC finds out,” July 23). It was ironic that such ugliness was cloaked in the guise of hospitality. Others who cared more deeply about our community, including the churches, organized to have the sign removed, overcoming this regrettable period and shaping Smithfield into the appealing destination we have today. It took courage to stand against the KKK’s efforts to weave hate into the town’s image. We succeeded in isolating this unfortunate relic of our history. Today, we proudly welcome businesses, residents and visitors from all over the world.

The Rev. William Barber is insightful to point out parallels with the more recent divisiveness infecting the state and nation. The noisy “send her back” chorus sent chills down the spines of those of us who remember a time when such voices were on the march. I am confident that, just as we rose above those challenges four decades ago, the state and country can withstand the simmering resentments of a narrow-minded few and forge ahead with a more inclusive, welcoming and forward-looking America.

Former State Senator Allen Wellons


Jail phone calls

A 15-minute phone call from jail in North Carolina can cost the person or family approximately $12.00. People are charged many hidden fees. Jails have contracts with telecommunication companies that are negotiated by elected officials, Sheriff’s office or jail administration.

Many states have set forth laws to lower cost of phone calls in prisons, but not in jails. The cost of phone calls in jail forces already burdened families to make distressing decisions of whether to stay connected or pay for food and rent. Isolation from family or the outside world, during the jail period has health consequences and creates undesirable post-release functioning. It is critical to have phone contact to maintain relationships, find future housing and set oneself up for life after release.

Phone charges are crushing and harmfully impact the most vulnerable, especially the poor, which feeds into a cycle of poverty, isolation, family separation, unemployment, substance use, ill mental health, and poor success post-release. To improve the health and success of our state, change must be implemented in jails to allow for low cost or free phone calls.

Amie Koch


The Ugly American

In 1958, Eugene Burdick and William Lederer created a stir when they wrote “The Ugly American,” depicting why many American diplomats crashed and burned. Simple. They made no effort to know the local people, their customs and language.

That was then. This is now. I watched the entire Mueller hearing and realized with alarm that we are sending modern Ugly Americans to Congress. The Republican Senators who expressed their frustrations by demeaning Mueller’s work and haranguing ad nauseam are every bit the stereotypical Ugly American. They have lost absolutely all contact with the public they serve. They forgot the custom of civility which we teach our children. And, while they know the English language, theirs is a toxic, venomous dialect.

Fortunately, there is a remedy. Overwhelm the ballot box and vote these Ugly Americans out of office.

Jinny Baeckler


Not marijuana

It would be absurd to make illegal a vegetable which the U.S. government has found harmless — because it would be expensive to test it and make sure it is not a related, illegal vegetable. Certainly, it is possible to test hemp to discover if the THC content is above .3%. If the bust is worth making, then the test is worth doing. Otherwise, a law making smokeable hemp illegal would just be an excuse for harassing users of insignificant quantities of cannabis. Hemp contains other substances beside CBD which contribute to its pharmacological activity without giving it the effects of THC, such as a set of active terpenes which are not included in the oil of the flower but which contribute to the effects of the smoked flower. Prohibiting the flower would prohibit these.

Eric Koonce

Chapel Hill

Help Central America

The depressing and stark plight facing the citizens of the Northern Triangle region of Central America is something that must be addressed if we ever hope to curb the mass immigration coming from the countries of that region. And unfortunately, the Trump administration has utterly failed to address the situation, and is even exacerbating the situation, as evidenced by the mass detentions at the border.

James Gemborys