Living Out Loud

Stand in the Place Where You Live


My hometown, Fayetteville, NC, has a bad reputation in our state because of its association with the military. People may profess to love and support "our troops" but they do not want to live near them. It's all hogwash. While I totally think the US military budget is a crime against humanity, I don't have any hostility towards soldiers, most of whom joined up as part of an economic draft. I served in the military and so did two of my kids, though none of us made it a career.

A military town is going to have businesses catering to soldiers. That means barber shops, used car lots, pawn shops, military surplus stores and topless bars. It also means lots of other businesses because despite what you may have heard, unless you are a junior enlisted soldier with a bunch of kids, you make pretty good dough and it come in every two weeks. We have every big box store and chain restaurant you could ever want (except Trader Joe's, the bastards).

What we also have is a combination of the old south and an international community. There are lots of immigrants here, many of them married to soldiers and retirees from various duty stations around the world. Every fall we have an International Festival downtown with food booths and cultural demonstrations. I've been going since I was a kid and look forward to it annually. My own family has lived in the area since the 1840s when we came over from France. Various relatives were drafted into the Confederate army during the Civil War. Some were wounded. Some deserted (good for them!). In the old part of town are the ruins of a Confederate arsenal destroyed by the troops of General Sherman after he's laid waste to Georgia and South Carolina. After the Charlottesville riots in 2017, our community met at the old arsenal to voice opposition to the new alt-right. Our city council voted to have the roundabout in the city center painted with a mural for Black Lives Matter. The rural areas around us a solidly red, but we are a big blue dot in the middle with a sizable African American population that votes.

Economically we are in the middle of the road. Our largest private employer used to be a unionized tire manufacturer, a rarity in a right-to-work state. Today the largest private employer is Walmart. We still have some manufacturing jobs, like Goodyear tires, Purolator air filters and the corporate descendants of Westinghouse Electric.  There are lots of health care jobs and a new medical school is set to open here in a couple of years.

I like living here. I went to school here and so did my children. Although the urban population is nearly 400,000, it still has a small-town vibe in places. We rehabilitated downtown over the past 30 years and the last vestiges of the topless bars and prostitutes are long gone, replaced by micro-breweries, coffee shops, museums and a modern baseball stadium.  I've got a pretty good network from having my toes in several communities, a cycling club, a 12-step group, political activism and a career working in educational technology.

That's me. I'd love to know about where you live and your relationship with the place.