Bless our stormwater system's heart (does it have one?). Seemed to hold up pretty well to me, Calvin. Stormwater is...

Garner: A more perfect union

Bob Garner

Bob Garner


Sunday, June 24, 2018

We should all force ourselves to take reflective retreats.

Since most of us just can’t or won’t do it, it’s a very good thing that our wonderful American system inevitably forces all of us into a tough “time in the wilderness.”

No ideological philosophy, no political party ever has or ever will build a dynasty at either the state or federal level. It only seems that way to whoever’s on the “outs.”

Sooner or later, every team and every tribe is going to get a “W” on the scoreboard and throw the rascals out.

And the truth is, no matter how much we may think our preferred governmental style is the long-term solution to human events, all of us will deservedly wear the “rascals” badge for a time. We’ll always take things too far.

Every ideology, indeed every theological framework, has its genius and its fatal flaws. We must have an Old Testament of law, order and one type justice. We also require a New Testament of compassion, grace and a different justice.

A uncomfortable, dynamic tension between conservative and progressive notions is essential to muddling through the broad sweep of history. If the Bible is true and congruent throughout, it is so despite the seeming contradictions between “proof texts” for one predominant school of thought or another.

Each of us has a basic human outlook more or less baked in, although it can change. We’ll seldom totally remake our design, with its inherent flaws, so we need people of different outlooks around us to help keep us straight. We can do the same for others.

“You have heard it said ______________, but I tell you, ________________.” The world’s most influential person liked to use that introductory clause before imparting some unassailable truth, probably just to disconcert all of us equally.

Church people occasionally admit we’re all parts with different designs and functions, designed to keep the body honest and functioning. But left to our own devices — and biases — we’ll practically always pick out an assortment of body parts more suited to assembling a Dr. Frankenstein monster than a marvelous human creation.

Fortunately, we aren’t left to our own devices. The mid-term elections or their non-political equivalents always come. Off to time-out we’re sent, grousing about how much we hate to “rough it” in the wilderness.

Dark nights of the soul can be good for us. Sometimes we rediscover our long-lost empathy before dawn.

Pulitzer-prize-wining biographer Jon Meacham has written an unusually helpful best-seller, “The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels.” The central message: We can cling hope and optimism because we’ve “been there before” as a nation.

We have survived the Civil War and reconstruction, the battle for universal suffrage, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, “Segregation Forever,” losing an unpopular war in Vietnam, and 9/11. We are surviving modern media.

The nation has struggled with the issue of immigration and borders before, and while we were wounded, our injuries weren’t mortal. Meacham argues that there is reason for cheer, even in the midst of our current ambivalence about the separation of families, our universal anguish over the tears of children and parents alike and the supposed “tough-love necessity” some perceive.

He observes that we can reflect, read, pray, discuss and then choose as best we can, without the ship of state necessarily being sunk by any collateral damage.

The only achievable goal in this life isn’t a perfect union, but a more perfect union. Yes, we should all take an occasional retreat, but if we don’t, we’ll surely be deployed on one.

Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at bgarner2662@gmail.com.

Rocky Mount- The Prime Smokehouse from Bob Garner on Vimeo.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


September 16, 2018

It should come as no surprise that Pitt Community College found its new president, Lawrence Rouse, just 63 miles down the road in Kenansville.

Rouse is a native of Sumpter, South Carolina, but he spent 13 years in Duplin County as president and CEO of James Sprunt Community College.


Bob Garner

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How did Carrboro writer and teacher Georgann Eubanks become the leader of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association?

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Q I am reading your book “The Well-Behaved Child” and have a question that it doesn’t address. I am a single mom with children from two different fathers. One of my ex-husbands (my son’s father) and I have arranged to do regular “child-exchanges.” One weekend,…


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Q I have been married to my second husband for 24 years. We have a 16-year-old and I have two adult children.

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Dear Short Answers:

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September 14, 2018

The 99th annual Pitt County American Legion Agricultural Fair is scheduled to be open Tuesday through Sept. 23 at the county fairgrounds, 3910 Martin Luther King Jr. Highway.

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September 14, 2018

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, especially during hurricane season.

Weather permitting, the Pitt County American Legion Agricultural Fair will open Tuesday. Canceled following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the fair has managed to go on almost every year for nearly a century.



September 14, 2018

Editor’s note: The aftermath of Hurricane Florence could cause events to be canceled or postponed. Call for more information.


Pitt County Fair

The 99th annual Pitt County Fair will be held Tuesday-Sept. 23 at the Pitt County Fairgrounds, 3910 MLK Jr. Highway. The opening ceremony will…

September 14, 2018

Q During extended family get-togethers with my side of the family, there is one person who does 95 percent of the talking. When I ask someone else in the room a question about their lives, this person always jumps in and takes over the conversation again. This talker also never inquires about what…

Carolyn Hax

September 14, 2018


Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge will exhibit “The Black Light Project” and “Black Peace” through Sept. 28 in the Don Edwards and Harvey Wooten galleries. “The Black Light Project” is photographic documentary designed to highlight positive images of…

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