One year ago today I moved back to western North Carolina. Apart from the job insecurity and the huge cut in pay — my income this year is in the four-figures range — it seems to have been the right choice. It is becoming apparent that it will not be a forever choice. I can’t abide here indefinitely without a living wage. But Thomas Wolfe (buried just up the road) was mistaken in thinking you can’t go home again. You can go home again, only you’ll have to leave because you’re not cut out for waiting tables, and that’s about the only job to be had in these parts.
On one point, it is incontestable that I am living in the best place ever. Other locations may rival western NC for scenic beauty, but nobody can top this:
This picture, taken two days ago and featured on Romantic Asheville, is part of why living here is great. Doesn’t matter how broke I am, all I have to do is look out a window and there’s going to be something like this to see. The fall leaves are in the process of turning glorious, but even when they’re merely pretty, there’s always the interplay of the clouds and the sunlight/moonlight/starlight to change things up. Or no, that’s not quite accurate. The scenery around here sucks when it’s nighttime with heavy cloud cover. But that’s true everywhere.
Another cool thing about Asheville: we seem to attract people in the national spotlight. Mitt Romney’s in town today, and last week, Joe Biden was here. “Vice Presidents Eat Free” said the marquee at the barbecue place just up the street. Which is a different just-up-the-street than the just-up-the-street where Mr. Wolfe is buried. Deceased authors are not an ingredient at the barbecue place, as far as I know. Though it would be locally sourced.
The Vice Presidential debate is coming up in half an hour. I’ll watch it, under protest, because it’s important to be an informed citizen. But I just hate watching politicians bicker, and honestly — and I never thought I’d say this — I kind of miss Sarah Palin. Now that she’s no longer a threat, I can afford to wax nostalgic for her. Or maybe it’s Tina Fey I’m missing.
So: twenty-nine minutes remain for me to get around to put my spin on politics. About the presidential elections I’ll say only this: since neither candidate is making a big deal out of Issue Numero Uno, climate change, I’ll fall back to my second big issue, class, which means I’ll be voting for Obama. Romney’s disdain and contempt for poor and working-class folks, as evidenced by his 47% message, is reprehensible.
More food for political thought: when it comes to personal liberties, I can sometimes pass for Libertarian rather than Classic Liberal. The marriage issue in particular is a sticking point. The sex of the person I marry should not concern the government.
But what about whether I get married at all? The government offers tax breaks to married people — and in a way I can see this, even if I don’t like it. The government has an interest in promoting stability among its people, and marriage used to be a way to do that, before the divorce rate happened.
Even when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was still a stigma against children born out of wedlock. (Does anyone remember reading Cynthia Voight? Her Young Adult problem novels are now hopelessly dated.) This stigma has now flown completely out the window. Like it or not, marriage has now become entirely optional for reproduction.
So: should the government still be giving tax breaks to married folks? I think the time for that particular incentive has passed — though for me, the bigger issue is not that these tax breaks exist, but that these tax breaks exist for straight couples but not queer couples.
Time now for my civic duty.