Wednesday, June 11, 2003

North Carolinian Allan Gurganus, on "Why We Fed the Bomber", Atlanta Olympics and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph:

He somehow knew that the land and his neighbors would accept then favor him.

How could he be sure? North Carolina's state motto is one of the few that matters: "To be rather than to seem." Often described as a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit -- Richmond to the north and Charleston to the south -- North Carolina has always been a state of small yeoman farmers who in the old days owned so few slaves, ours was one of the last states to join the Confederacy. Here, to be called "a common person" still constitutes high praise.

The truest answers are the ones of being, not appearing. To locals, it didn't matter if a neighbor had been named the most wanted and dangerous criminal in America (at least of the blue-collar sort, since no one from Enron has yet made the list). Everybody knew him. He worked as a freelance carpenter. This guy enjoyed a sterling reputation, especially if you were white. He trucked to work wearing clean clothes, he used the best materials, he stayed until the job was done. He undercharged. He said "sir" and "ma'am." Last Monday, when Eric Rudolph appeared, manacled, before the judge in Asheville, N.C., his only words were, "Yes, your honor."

You see, manners matter here, even to our bombers.

In short, he seemed like a nice guy, so even though everyone knew that he was a stone killer, they were happy enough to pass the cold cuts. So, um, what was that motto again?


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