To: Bill James
Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners
I drove past Sharon Memorial Park today.
a massive cemetery that sits at the corner of Sharon Amity and Monroe
roads in east Charlotte. If you’ve ever seen it, I’m sure it left an
I hate the place, and yet I can’t divert my eyes. It reminds me, I suppose, of life’s inescapable conclusion.
No matter the time, I can never pass without spotting a new tent or two, or workmen on backhoes digging a fresh pit.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now why I’m telling you this.
Because one day, Bill, you, too, will rest in a quiet spot such as that. And how, then, will the world remember you?
I’m not talking about what Wikipedia will say concerning the facts of
your life, or even what words your friends and co-workers may utter at
your grave. We rarely speak ill of the dead, not even about the
disdained among us.
I mean, what will people feel deep inside when they recall your words and your deeds?
did a bad thing Tuesday night when you referred to fellow commissioner
Vilma Leak’s dead son as a “homo.” And now you refuse to apologize.
is not a letter trying to convince you that your convictions on
homosexuality are wrong. Reasonable men do differ on such thorny
issues. And they certainly may differ on whether it is right, fair or
prudent for the county to extend to its gay employees domestic-partner
But what men and women of goodwill don’t do — mustn’t
do — is say or do things that are hurtful to their fellow way
I’m sure I’ll take some heat for saying this,
Bill, but I don’t believe that you set out to hurt Mrs. Leake. You
probably blurted out without thinking. You may have even thought it
But from the mouth, secrets of the heart are revealed.
said some hurtful things before, like the time in 2004 when you said
Charlotte’s black, urban children live in a “moral sewer.”
you formed those words, did you stop to consider the countless urban
families – the vast majority, in fact – who struggle daily to instill
in their children the same Judeo-Christian values that you, no doubt,
espouse in your suburban home?
If you get a chance this week,
drive by Sharon Memorial Park or some quiet cemetery closer to your
home. Imagine this world after your life is through.
Will you be
pleased with the contributions you made to the human dialogue? Will you
feel good about the press clippings you leave for your children to
read, and your children’s children?
Martin Luther King Jr. was
right: “The arch of the moral universe is long but it bends toward
justice.” History is not kind to those who spew hate, even in defense
of heart-felt beliefs.
Saying I’m sorry won’t make you less of a
man, or diminish what you ultimately believe. It’s simply an
acknowledgement that your words had an unintended effect. We’ve all
It’s time to grow up, Bill.
Apologize to Vilma Leake.