West Jones Street, The NC General Assembly, and The Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg

eyes2

“But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one-yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground” (The Great Gatsby, Chapter 2).

Almost every student who passes through an American literature class has the opportunity to at least glimpse into the classic text of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In a day and age of instant gratification and movie adaptations, plot lines and lists of symbols are easily accessed, the patience needed to be pleasantly haunted by a work of true literature sometimes escapes even the best of intentions.

But Gatsby is a book that is rather quick to read, easy to absorb, and forever reflected upon. Among my junior English classes, whether AP level or not, Gatsby tends to be the favorite. Students feel smarter for having read it. They despise the right people. They wrestle with the shallowness of the characters. They seem to like the character who spent so much time becoming the person he was not. They sometimes come to look at a narrator as unreliable.

And they pick up on the symbols like the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.

When someone sits for a picture or portrait and stares straight into the lens, the result is the appearance of constant eye contact. The poster of James Baldwin in my classroom as he looks into the camera allows his eyes to always make contact with mine no matter where I am in the classroom. His smile, however, takes away any preclusion of judgement.

But the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg simply stare without any other expression. They are there to judge. They are the “eyes of God” in a society where many in power lack a moral compass, show spiritual depravity but scream religious fervor, and worship profit more than the welfare of others.

eyes1

They never blink.

They always look.

They seem to see all.

I followed him over a low whitewashed railroad fence, and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg’s persistent stare (Chapter 2).

I am thinking of starting a GoFundMe Page to raise money to construct another billboard for the obviously deceased and still fictional Doctor T. J. Eckleburg complete with the same “blue and gigantic” eyes with “irises one-yard high” on “no face” complete with “a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose.”

And this billboard would be placed right outside of the North Carolina General Assembly building on West Jones Street, possibly near the parking area where each lawmaker who leaves the building would have to lock eyes with the celestial oculist after a day of wielding power that affects so many people.

“I spoke to her,” he muttered, after a long silence. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window.”— with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it ——” and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!’”

Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night (Chapter 8).

Amazingly enough, if you were to visit the webpages of most of these lawmakers during election periods you might find some sort of piety meter that reflects their allegiance to a faith in God and Christian tenets.

We are in the Bible Belt. We are in a nation that calls itself Christian. We are by far the most evangelical country in the world. We are used to hearing people talk about how they bare their souls to God and look to God for guidance.

Yet,

  • Lawmakers passed a resolution to repeal a discriminatory law called HB2 that still allows for discrimination.
  • Lawmakers are playing with bills like HB13 that are forcing public school systems to contemplate how to keep vital arts programs alive and keep teacher assistants in classrooms that are already crowded in years to come.
  • Lawmakers are funneling more money to religious private schools like Trinity Christian which is guilty of embezzlement and shoddy accounting.
  • Lawmakers are refusing to expand Medicaid that would help more North Carolinians.
  • Lawmakers considered measures like HB467 to keep NC residents from suing industrial farms for polluting their air and water.
  • Lawmakers are not holding companies accountable for coal ash spills and GenX contamination.
  • Lawmakers are considering increasing health care costs for state employees while bragging about “surpluses.”

I understand. It may be a tad bit hyperbolic to equate a book that talks of a man who uses organized crime to build a life of opulence during the “Jazz Age” / “Age of Prohibition” in an attempt to control destiny who ends up crossing paths with a man of immense wealth who steamrolls over people because he can and looks at women and minorities as inferior then eventually gets killed by a mentally, spiritually, and financially crushed man to a modern setting.

Or is it?

By the way, the original billboard for Dr. Eckleburg is in the “Valley of Ashes.” Imagine if those ashes got into the water.

eyes2

In some places, they have.

The 160 Mile Radius of HB2

160 miles.

Two and ½ hours in a car on the highway if you are barely breaking the speed limit on an interstate.

160 miles is also the radius for the strongest aftershocks for the GOP earthquake called HB2 whose epicenter lies beneath West Jones Street in Raleigh.

This past Friday the newspaper in Roanoke, VA, The Roanoke Times, wrote on their editorial page under the title “Our view: Ballot selfies and other election thoughts” the following:

“Which candidate would do the most to help our local economy? That’s easy. It’s Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, who’s seeking his second four-year term in the November election. We can point to specific and multiple ways he has helped the economy — our economy. North Carolina panicked and made a spectacle of itself by passing HB2, its so-called “bathroom bill.” In response, various companies and even sports leagues pulled events from the state. Three of those have wound up in Salem — the NCAA Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, as well as the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football championship. That’s money in the bank for us.

McCrory has given Virginia a competitive advantage in economic development, as well. When the University Economic Development Association recently held its national conference in Roanoke, the keynote speaker highlighted a North Carolina program to encourage partnerships between colleges and companies, as a way help recruit technology companies interested in research and development. The speaker hailed it as a model for other states to follow as they try to build a “knowledge economy.” Then the speaker noted that McCrory had cancelled it. The pro-business audience groaned.

On Monday, a data company picked Richmond as the site for a new office, with 730 jobs. Industry officials said it beat out Charlotte specifically because of HB2.

Feel free to argue all you want which presidential candidate would be best, but it’s clear that Virginia would be best served if North Carolina re-elected McCrory” (http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/editorials/our-view-ballot-selfies-and-other-election-thoughts/article_bb97e9ce-ff92-580e-8b8b-6d3390b921b1.html)

It was not really that satirical. It seems very sincere in some ways.

But, “Wow!”

To be endorsed because of how bad your policies are in your home state and that you are driving jobs and economic development into another state might be one of the strongest remarks ever delivered concerning HB2.

Roanoke is about 160 miles from Raleigh.

Then there was that time this past month when Gov. McCrory’s hometown newspaper The Charlotte Observer openly explained why it was not endorsing the governor for the first time in over 25 years (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article108338327.html). It begins,

“The Charlotte Observer’s editorial board has endorsed Republican Pat McCrory in every one of his bids for office since 1991. That includes twice for City Council, seven times for mayor and twice for governor. That streak comes to an end today.

McCrory’s term as North Carolina governor is the ultimate illustration of the Peter Principle: that people are promoted based on their past performance and not the abilities needed for the new role and thus rise to the level of their incompetence. McCrory has certainly done that.”

It is a stinging piece of truth from the town that was first targeted by the “bathroom bill.”

Charlotte is about 160 miles from Raleigh.

Then there was the News & Observer on October 17th which ran full page news ad for a group called the Writers for a Progressive North Carolina who proved the McCrory that on your 60th birthday, you could have your cake and eat it too.

Facebook Cover Photo and Profile Picture Template

The News & Observer is about a 160 second drive from West Jones Street in Raleigh.

The 160 mile radius that surrounds the governor’s mansion engulfs a wide swath of the state. To feel strong aftershocks in places like Roanoke and Charlotte, there’s no telling what the people within 160 miles of Raleigh are feeling. Places like:

  • Greensboro and the rest of the Triad area.
  • Chapel Hill and Durham and the rest of the Triangle area.
  • A Large part of the Charlotte area.
  • Places affected by Hurricane Matthew.
  • Places affected by Duke Energy coal spills.
  • Places affected by bad education policies.
  • A Large part of the border with Virginia.

And to think that this area within the 160 mile radius has the largest amount of voters in the state.

Imagine the aftershock on November 8th.