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In My Opinion

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Will you still read me, Charlotte of 2064?

By Taylor Batten
Editorial Page Editor
Taylor Batten
Taylor Batten is The Observer's editorial page editor.

Dear Charlotte Observer editorial page editor of 2064,

I am moved to write to you by a little blurb that popped up this month on a web site called Twitter.

A local TV (that stands for a thing called “television”) newsman, Jeremy Markovich, discovered that the Charlotte mayor of 1964, Stan Brookshire, had written a letter to the Charlotte mayor of 50 years later. Brookshire buried it in a time capsule at Park Road Shopping Center. Our current mayor, Patrick Cannon, is expected to open the capsule and read the letter in May of this year.

We don’t know exactly what the letter says. But according to a story in the Charlotte News from that day, Brookshire summarizes some of the bigger projects going on at the time. He especially notes, with pride, the progress Charlotte was then making on civil rights.

Brookshire also said he guessed that the mayor of 2014 was wrestling with some of the same problems he was tackling in 1964.

All I can say is, I hope you – and Charlotte, the state of North Carolina and America – are not dealing with the same problems we are today. Surely by 2064 the human race is smarter than that.

You just wouldn’t believe the state of things today. Believe it or not:

We entrust our children every day to teachers who are paid less than the manager of a McDonald’s.

We give our professional football team $87.5 million in taxpayer money for bigger video boards, but dozens of women and children sleep on the floor at the Salvation Army shelter because it needs $1.4 million to expand.

We have these cool new things called smartphones. It’s not unusual to see four friends sitting together at lunch, but instead of talking to each other, they’re each staring at their phone screens, mouths agape.

Our own legislators “representing” us in Raleigh tried to take our airport away.

One of those same legislators led the way on cutting down more trees to make room for more billboards. I know, crazy, isn’t it? But wait, there’s more.

You know how Brookshire touted progress on civil rights? We’re still fighting, incredibly, for the idea that all people should be treated equally – though now the fight is over whom they love. Surely you treat all people equally in 2064?

(That reminds me: TV has gone down the tubes. One of the hottest shows today features, get this, the antics of dudes with long beards who got rich selling duck calls.)

The middle class, which is what made America great through most of the 20th century, is disappearing. The richest 1 percent of Americans hold 35 percent of the wealth, and the upper 20 percent own about 90 percent. That leaves 10 percent of the wealth for the remaining 80 percent of the people.

A gunman killed 20 schoolkids, ages 6 and 7. Many states responded by loosening gun laws.

We blame children for the transgressions of their parents. We consider kids who are failing in school to be hopeless when their problems stem from hunger, or a lack of parenting. There are kids in America who were brought here by their parents when they were infants, and after 18 years of being stellar students and hard workers, they are not eligible for the financial aid that would allow them to continue their education.

We are extending the Blue Line, but at the rate we’re progressing on mass transit, I’m guessing the Charlotte of 2064 has some serious traffic jams. Gas is $3.29 a gallon; I imagine you’d consider that hilariously cheap?

The governor is gung-ho on opening up our state to fracking. How did that work out? Did the companies ever have to disclose the chemicals they’re shooting into the groundwater?

Music has gotten progressively worse since the ’70s. I can only imagine what it’s like in your time.

There’s more, but I know you’re busy. You probably have stories even bigger than the Jody Arias trial to write about. I imagine there’s no such thing as a print-on-paper newspaper anymore. But whatever the vehicle, whatever your economic pressures, keep up the good work. The public will always need a vigilant, independent press holding power accountable.

I’ll be 94 when you get this. Here’s hoping that we’ve finally won the Super Bowl by then – and the World Series.

Reach me at tbatten@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tbatten1.

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