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The Daily Planet's Opinion: June 2019
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 11:42

Riley Howell: WNC man ranks as hero in attack

Fittingly, a North Carolina police department has honored — as a hero — a college student from Western North Carolina who was killed when a gunman opened fire inside a classroom

As has been widely reported, the family of UNC Charlotte student Riley Howell was awarded the Civilian Medal of Valor posthumously May 15 from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Howell’s parents, siblings and girlfriend accepted the award on his behalf — and received a standing ovation. Earlier, he had been buried with full military honors

The 21-year-old Howell, an ROTC cadet from Waynesville, was a graduate of Asheville’s T.C. Roberson High School who also attended Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College before attending UNC Charlotte.

He was shot — at least three times, according to his partents— while tackling the shooter who is accused of killing him. Howell’s move is credited with saving lives. Also killed in the April 30 attack was 19-year-old student Ellis R. Parlier. Four other students were wounded.

“‘The chief said no one was shot after Riley body-slammed him,’ said his mother, Natalie Henry-Howell,” The New York Times reported. The NYT’s May 6 story also aptly pointed out, “Mass shootings have their perpetrators and their victims. And then there are those, Mr. Howell now among them, who risk their lives in some combination of strength, cunning and bravery in an effort to save others and themselves.”

In the aftermath, police charged 22-year-old Trystan Andrew Terrell with two counts of first-degree attempted murder and other offenses in the shooting.

In saluting Howell as a hero, we are proudly reprinting below the ending from Maureen Miller,’s blog, which appeared in the May 7 edition of the Waynesville Mountaineer:

“Yes, Riley Howell has the heart of a hero. His life here may have ended, and we feel it’s much too soon; but he lives on — in all those whose lives were impacted by this beautiful soul. And as someone close to him recently said, he did that — made life more beautiful, whether in a small-town elementary school, a large high school, a corner cafe or on a diverse university campus. And though I have no photograph to prove this morning’s beautiful moment, seeing the family of geese as they walked across the wooden dock — the Western North Carolina sunrise behind them — I know that, for a brave boy-man named Riley, the sun will never again set and he, too, has risen to new life having stepped into a glorious new day.

“Thank you, Riley Howell, for being someone who we can all hope and pray to be more like. Thank you for having the heart of a hero. May it beat on in all the lives you touched, in all the lives you saved.”


History waits to see what way we go
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 11:40
Special to the Daily Planet


When Harry Truman left office in 1953, he and Bess went to Union Station and took a train home to Missouri.

It was assumed that he would occupy an obscure line in the list of presidents, with the likes of Millard Fillmore and John Tyler.

But history had other ideas. Today, Truman is regarded as a great president, both by liberals and conservatives, up there with the Roosevelts. 

The Roman emperor, Caligula, is also being re-evaluated. A Cambridge University professor has argued, in writing and on BBC television, that the few sources we have on Caligula were, at best, passing on gossip.  

History doesn’t see through bifocals.  It pays no mind to the current events we bother about. History takes a long view.

Oh, don’t you wish you could see how history will see the times we live in now?

Did Germans have these uncertain feelings in the 1930s?  Some did, but the giddy crowds waving Nazi flags and shouting “Victory! Hail!” were unaware that they were sowing the wind that would bring on the whirlwind. 

That’s where we are. There are various alternative scenarios that might be, but we see darkly. Meanwhile, our churning gut tells us we’re on a tightrope over a roaring deluge.

The wind being sown in America today swirls around our president. He is not guided by right and wrong. He considers himself above laws, rules of civility and ethical conduct ─ and the U.S. Constitution. He feels he can do and say anything, openly, and pay no price. His tweets are vile beyond any civilized measure. He’s more juvenile than a man, more schoolyard bully than leader.

But his moral failings, even his most preposterous lying, won’t necessarily impact our future. A person of integrity can replace him and fumigate the White House.

No, Trump’s festering legacy can be more devastating:  the decline of Congress as a coequal branch of government, the reeking corruption all through the executive branch, his splitting off a loyal base for himself as “us versus them,” our diminished place in the world, and the subjugation of the once-grand Republican Party to be his accomplices.

Our Founding Fathers hoped, as James Madison put it, that those elected by the people would be “patriotic and just, chosen due to their virtues.” But just in case, they built devices into the Constitution to remove those who badly fall short of those qualities. 

Ah, but they assumed that members of Congress, who would do the removing, would themselves be virtuous and patriotic people, the ones Madison wrote about.   Today’s Republicans are anything but. Far from checking Trump, they enable him.

History looks backward and separates the good, the bad and the indifferent. Living in our own prehistory, we feel fear. How will it end?

If Trump is defeated in 2020  —  and he leaves office peacefully ─ the swamp of Trumpism can be drained and the city on a hill lit bright once again. But if he wins another term, people I trust say our Constitution can go defunct, especially if federal judges turn partisan.

How decisive the next 18 months will be!  Who will emerge as heroes of democracy and who, the villains? Will Republicans find courage and patriotism? Will Trump wrongdoings be uncovered that are too awful even for his base? 

Or will the Democratic challenger fail badly and Trump be reelected? No, that must not happen! It must not happen!  Trump must be defeated. The winner writes history, as they say, and that must not be Trump.   
Lee Ballard, who lives in Mars Hill, has a website at



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