The Opinion Shop

Letters to the Editor: Concealed carry, military pensions, RHA, Steve Beam, Durham Family Theatre

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.


I don’t think I have ever agreed more than with the recent comment by the writer of the Dec. 9 letter “Restaurant rights.” He said: “If I think of going some place that is so dangerous I need to carry a gun, then maybe I would just avoid going there in the first place.” Makes sense doesn’t it? Food for thought.

Norma Hammond

Wake Forest


The writer of the Jan. 7 letter “Pension plans,” like President Obama and nearly all of Congress, is obviously not a retired military professional. So my retirement is too generous!

When I retired as a Navy commander (O5), my retired pay was $32,000 after 29 years (1964-1993). To earn that generous pension, I worked normally 18 hours per day, seven days a week, at sea on submarines and surface ships. I was deployed at sea six to seven months, not counting weekly operations to prepare. In port duty, days were 36 hours long: 24-hour duty day and 12 hours the next workday with duty every third day. Shore duty at the Bureau of Personnel started at 0400 to receive calls from overseas and ended about 6 to 7 p.m. We had 11 geographical moves in 25 years of marriage with average out-of-pocket cost of $5,000 to $8,000. I had yearly evaluations, up or out policy, hazardous duty at sea on submarines, submarine rescue and salvage, diving and deep submergence operations.

At retirement I started a second career because $32,000 would not support four kids 9 to 20 years old. I think I earned my retirement, and I obviously did not serve for the pay.

David Campbell



The Dec. 22 news story “Disappearing act” about a government bureaucrat/executive taking 11-plus weeks off each year in “compensatory time” for working more than 7.5 hours a day – while being paid north of a quarter of a million dollars a year – was unusual and, as your story also confirmed, flies in the face of normal working practices of others in similar jobs with regard to both salary and time off.

Also interesting was that Steve Beam’s board and the Raleigh city administration condoned this activity or were unaware of it. Either way, they were derelict in their supervision.

Beam’s best magic trick may be that of making hard-earned tax dollars disappear while spending well over a fifth of the time away from his office and posting nonwork content online during business hours when he’s in it.

Where’s the outrage?

Fred F. Holt



The Dec. 29 article “Black actors gain ground in Durham” confirmed one of the ideas that fired the creation of Durham Family Theatre four and a half years ago, that the city of Durham is unique in its opportunity to offer the rest of the country ways to do things differently in terms of race and to make a difference.

One of the most helpful courses I took at Harvard Divinity School explored the oppression of racism in the historic and cultural context of the United States. The course demonstrated clear patterns of relationships that exist in our systemically racially oppressive social structure. And where we can see a pattern, we can change a pattern. The course clarified a definition of racism as the systemically unequal distribution of power based on race. It gave me a positive understanding of power as a person’s ability to make and act on decisions over time. These straight-forward insights led me to the good news that the cruel force of racism in my culture is not a static reality but a moving, living set of actions that we can do differently.

Durham Family Theatre was created in a city population that is nearly 50 percent African-American; we have a vibrant opportunity to apply these insights to theater arts and to education. Historically in the United States, community as well as professional theaters have treated white actors as a neutral or universal race. Until recently, white actors played Chinese, African, African-American, Spanish, Italian, Puerto Rican and Mexican persons with little note or discussion. This systemic practice gave white actors a greatly disproportionate opportunity to practice and progress in their career, craft and art.

If we are committed to positive change, to including ever more of our society in expanding freedoms of choice, access and action, it is simple to accomplish. It only takes clarity of purpose and hard work. We might begin, as Jay O’Berski suggested in your article, by expanding our understanding of the term “the right actor for the job.” This term, which in the larger system of community theaters across the United States has meant an African-American actor cannot have the role of a natural sibling in a white family, is transformed in Durham.

In Durham, when we say we are looking for “the right actor for the job,” we mean, “Come, audition, show us what you’ve got and if you are the actor for the job then it’s yours.” Not, as O’Berski says, blind to race, but inclusive of race.

I’m pleased to be producing theater in a city that not only has exciting, thoughtful, engrossing arts, but also has taken strong steps to create increasing access to resources that allows all of us the benefits of working with, supporting and enjoying more fantastic actors in our midst.

Jennifer Justice

Durham Family Theatre


The length limit was waived to permit a fuller discussion of the article.