BYH, so our president sided with ex-KGB head and dictator of Russia against our own intelligence agencies. Does this...

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.


July 15, 2018


A TV viewer who I’ll call “Joe” recently commented on Facebook about my review of The Prime Smokehouse in Rocky Mount.

“Thanks for the review, Bob, but while I live in Raleigh, I'm a native of Rocky Mount,” Joe said with pride. “It once called itself the…

Bob Garner

July 14, 2018


■ Browns Chapel Holiness Church, 2260 N.C. 33 West, will host a youth service at 6 p.m. today. Evangelist Talitha Stallings will speak.

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■ Burning Bush…

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July 11, 2018

The Leroy James Farmers Market vendor of the week is Yates and Bailey Bee Farm.

Yates and Bailey Bee Farm has been a vendor at the Leroy James Farmers Market for almost six years.

“I am a lifelong farmer,” said Bobby Yates, a Virginia native who got his first hive of bees at age 14.…


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July 11, 2018

Q I am trying to get more vegetables into my meals but still am struggling to make my goal. Got any suggestions? W.L., Winterville

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July 11, 2018

How do you like to eat watermelon? Undoubtedly, it's a summer treat. I remember hot New England summers when the air was so humid you could slice it with knife. My brothers and I would eat thick watermelon-smiles, as wide as our faces, leaning over the grass, while the juices dribbled down our…


July 08, 2018

Facebook back-and-forth can be civil but still confusing. This is a condensed online conversation I had this week.

(Me) Any family-farm Facebook friends know what this is in my backyard? Durn … looks like it will grow too tall to pass as ground cover or natural area.

(Farm guy) Looks to be…

Bob Garner

July 08, 2018

KINSTON — What stands out in Sammy Hudson’s mind after traveling to Philadelphia with a van full of teenagers is the last mile or so before arriving back home.

After a week spent working with the homeless, serving in an after-school program and feeding the hungry, they made their way…


July 08, 2018


Dear Short Answers: A couple of weeks ago, one of the guys I work with was fired. We’re not really friends but we hang out in the same places so we know a lot of the same people. He begged me not to tell anyone that he got fired because he didn’t want any of the girls to…

Short Answers
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