Perhaps I've read one too many novels, but as the Wachovia story unfolded this week, I couldn't help casting it as a Civil War-era melodrama: Miz Wachovia, a belle, attends a ball where her Father loses her in a card game to a Citi slicker, but she is rescued at the last minute from a fate worse than death by the dashing fellow from California.
Still, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average pitching ominously in the background like a tense soundtrack, the panic tone seems to have given way to anger. Any Southern Belle worth her fluttery eyelashes knows that neither panic nor anger are solid foundations on which to make sound decisions. Scarlett O'Hara marshaled her fear and anger – and resolved to rebuild Tara.
As flawed as Scarlett is, we can learn something from her. Even with the more desirable union between Wachovia and Wells Fargo, the dynamic in Charlotte will likely change. While change is nothing new to this city, envisioning its shape is almost impossible while standing in the maelstrom of the global financial crisis and an election year that has hit a shrill new note of nastiness up and down the ticket.
It's time for a reality check. William Faulkner once said: “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” The past provides exactly the perspective one needs at a time like this, and, fortunately, Charlotte has an excellent place to explore it: The Levine Museum of the New South at 200 E. Seventh St.
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Inside the exhibit, “From Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,” the distractions of stock market tickers, screaming headlines and fomenting talking heads evaporate. One can hear the voices from our past. It helps to know where you came from in order to figure out where you should go.
The Museum of the New South holds special educational sessions called “The New South for the New Southerner.” A schedule is available on the Web site: www.museumofthenewsouth.org.
At an NSNS event in June, School Board member Trent Merchant and City Council members Edwin Peacock and Anthony Foxx told how they were inspired to run for office in Charlotte because they felt that in this particular city, they could make a difference. Our elected officials will need our help as we reshape our city again after the financial conflagration finally burns itself out.
While the direction of our city may seem beyond our control, it is firmly within our grasp. Early voting has already started, and our recovery begins with our votes.
Panic is a momentary response. Anger subsides or consumes, so we must choose to put it aside to make way for more constructive emotions like resolve. Think of Charlotte like a Southern Belle: lovely no matter her age, ever calm, always charming, able to become whatever she needs to get what she wants. That's my girl.