Wineka column: Many Rowan voters uneasy about the future
ROCKWELL - Evelyn Cagle meets all walks of life at Variety Produce.
From behind the counter or out among the potatoes, tomatoes, apples and beans, Cagle senses an uneasiness as the country heads toward an important Election Day Tuesday.
"The main thing people talk about is the economy," she says. "People are afraid."
Up the road at Johnny's restaurant, waitress Melissa Correll reflects the uncertainty Cagle speaks of. Correll's husband, who has always been able to find a job, is still unemployed, and they have two children.
The couple are in their mid-30s, when they should be entering some of their most financially productive years, but "we're at about our worst," Correll says.
"I'm scared to know what's going to happen," she adds.
The overall mood of Rowan Countians going into Tuesday's presidential election is a mixed bag.
You can find people who think the country is on the right track. You talk to others who say it's going down the tubes.
But certain election themes keep cropping up no matter where you stop - at produce stands, restaurants, barber shops, meal sites, stores, laundromats and early-poll locations.
Voters wonder whether they're being fed the same old lines.
They have concerns about the future for their children and grandchildren.
They don't understand why government seems paralyzed about doing anything, such as addressing an enormous national debt.
They say everything costs more - gas, groceries, utilities and a good education.
They question candidates who say they'll create jobs and blame past policies for sending all the jobs somewhere else.
They're tired of politics, and they feel stuck.
Those without jobs are stuck. Those with jobs are stuck. Those coming out of school are stuck. Those with their own businesses are stuck. Those on fixed incomes are really stuck.
Stuck in the middle, they are, with candidates on either side telling them what's best.
Who should they believe? And when they choose - well, that's the crux of voting.
"Either way," Correll complains, "they're just telling us a bunch of stuff we want to hear. I don't feel like anything gets done."
They've tried everything at this location - a variety store, a video store and a headquarters for Rachel's auctioneering business. Meanwhile, John has sold stuff at the Webb Road Flea Market since its opening.
But you're lucky to catch them at the store these days. The front door is open now because Rachel is in the back, loading a freezer with some of the baked goods she and her daughter make.
"I think we need a turn-around," Rachel Corl says. "I think we need a big change."
Besides teaching a water aerobics class at the East Rowan YMCA, Rachel Corl hopes her family's newest venture, "Backwoods Bakery and Catering," will take off, especially behind her specialty of fried apple pies.
She's typical of any self-reliant entrepreneur, looking for ways to diversify and survive in a tough economy.
"We're praying for the right person to be in there," Rachel Corl says, "and I know who I'm not voting for."
The United States didn't have anything close to a $16 trillion debt in 1929-30, Eudy says.
A retired city of Concord employee, Eudy says he made his own way in life by always working two jobs. He found extra work for years, for example, topping and cutting on trees after Hurricane Hugo.
Eudy thinks the government supports too many people, and he says a person should own as many guns as he wants. When this sporting goods store was Holshouser Hardware, Eudy bought his first .22-caliber rifle here as a 13-year-old.
"The government's going to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it," Eudy protests. "Our government's got too much control over everything."
Audrey Randall started Lead Chunkers with her husband in 2009, maybe one of the most challenging years for any business, new or otherwise.
Her husband had been laid off from his construction job when this opportunity presented itself.
Their expansive store sells all manner of hunting and fishing equipment and supplies, and the couple have found a way to keep the lights on without any help, Audrey stresses, from the government.
"We're paying a lot of taxes and not seeing a lot of return," she adds.
But she emphasizes that the couple have hope for the future. "Without hope for a better future," Audrey says, "you may as well not get out of bed in the morning."
"Going to the dogs," he replies.
The government is simply spending too much money, Brady says, and "our young kids don't have a chance."
Brady's daughter, Teresa Shinn, has a college degree, but she can only find part-time work for now. Why don't members of Congress take a 5 percent to 10 percent cut in their pay for starters, she asks.
Dora Corbett buys a small bag of candy for trick-or-treaters she expects to come by her house.
"To me, it's going the best it can," she says of the country's direction. "And it's up to the Lord who wins."
Cagle, the store's owner, says the price of produce has tripled in just four years. And four years ago, she notes, the cost of diesel fuel was $2.10 a gallon. Now it's $3.97.
She knows people are pinching pennies just to pay for necessities "because I deal with the elderly all the time."
As for her own operation, Cagle says, "small businesses are struggling the hardest they ever have."
Army veteran Jesse Watson, waiting for an open chair, says compared to the ways things were under President George W. Bush and the shape the country was in when Obama took office, why go back?
"I think it's going good," Watson says. "... Right now, we know what we've got."
Reggie Reg, reading the newspaper, says he was laid off from jobs in 2006 and 2007. Since 2010, he has worked for a company near Cleveland where things are on the upswing, Reg reports.
"I hope it continues going on in the right direction," he says.
Reg wishes he saw more local candidates going to job sites and being more visible. And he longs for the day he will hear politicians say, "If I don't do what I say I'll do, I'll step down and be unemployed like you."
Meeks complains that it's not right for a wealthy presidential candidate - Romney - to pay less as a percentage in taxes than most middle-class Americans.
LaTosha Horne, 37, learned this year that she will lose her good-paying job at Salisbury's General Electric plant next May.
But she still has hope things will get better.
"The president we got came into a situation where four years is not enough to get us out - it's going to take time," Horne says.
Barber Erick Neely says most of the customers sitting in his chair want the best presidential candidate for the job.
"People on both sides are making it about color," Neely complains.
A lot of times, Neely says, he doesn't see a big difference in political candidates.
"But this time I can," he adds.
For Goodman, the devastation from Hurricane Sandy puts the national debt into perspective. The hurricane caused a whopping $50 billion in damage, but it pales in comparison, Goodman says, to $16 trillion.
"That's just hard for anyone to imagine that," he says.
Goodman and his wife, Darlene, have seven grandchildren.
"At this point," Darlene says, "I'm not sure how secure the future's going to be for them. ... Our nation is at a turning point. I'd like to see things go a whole lot better."
Darlene Goodman says stores such as theirs tend to do fairly well in a tough economy because more people are looking to save and go back to "the old way of living."
"You just have to stay with what the people need," she adds.
One of the Goodmans' children, 21-year-old Caleb, will be voting in a presidential election for the first time. If Obama wins re-election, he says he's not too hopeful for his future.
Waiting for some feed to be ground, Delbert Bostian says he thinks both Obama and Romney are crooked.
"I don't understand how you can create a job," he says, "when you have nothing to sell."
It's as though the middle class is lost, she says.
"I won't say forgotten," Driver says. "They talk about us on TV all the time."
Tony Haney of Kannapolis has been spending time during the election season handing out Republican information at the early-voting sites. He says the next four years would be disastrous if Obama were re-elected.
Haney says he can't believe he hasn't heard one word mentioned this election about the North American Free Trade Act.
He blames NAFTA for eliminating textile jobs, and says the country must have more manufacturing jobs period.
A Krisy Kreme employee, Haney characterizes the Obama administration as regulation heavy and meddlesome in people's lives.
"I think people should have a right to eat a doughnut if they like," Haney says.
She says the country seems to be on the right path. Job security is the most important issue for everyone, she adds.
As for candidates, Miller wishes they would "stop making empty promises and do what they say they're going to do, especially with creating jobs."
Thurmond Cowan has been voting in presidential elections since the days of John F. Kennedy.
Since early voting has become an option, he always votes the first day. He describes himself as a political junkie who wishes a third party would emerge so most of the people holding office could be purged.
Working an early polling location on behalf of Republicans, Nancy Holshouser notes she has seven grandchildren.
"I want this country to be here for them," she says.
One reason bipartisanship hasn't been the order of the day nationally, Holshouser offers, is that "maybe in Washington, they went along too long, and now they're up against it."
Talking about the election and politics gets Dorsey revved up.
"I don't like to get started," she says, "because I'm a pure old Southerner. Lord, what a mess this country's gotten into."
Dorsey complains that taxes added temporarily to necessities such as fuel and groceries never seem to come off, eating into paychecks instead.
"Working people are having it hard right now," she says.
Mary Young of East Spencer says regardless of who wins the presidency this week, people still have to live their lives knowing that all things come from God.
"It gets kind of deep sometimes - that's politics," Young says. "Some of it turns out to be true, some not true."
But Young wants to know why everyone can't get along, no matter what happens with the election.
"We must not let that interfere with how we feel about one another," Young says.
"Rome wasn't built overnight," she says. "He walked into a mess. He needs a chance.
Not unlike Young, Cornelius asks why Democrats and Republicans can't work together. "That really frustrates me," she says. "We were all created in God's image and all created equally. If Obama wasn't a black man in the White House, we wouldn't be going through all this stuff."
At Third Creek AME Zion Church, the West Rowan meal site, 75-year-old Sylvia Clendenin says the electorate should get rid of all incumbents and start over.
The country needs good, honest people in government, Clendenin says. She also sounds a warning:
"I think we have walked away from God, and I think he's going to punish us."
While her husband, Jerry, cleans up the lunch site, Rosia Mae McDuffie sits close to Clendenin and expresses her concern for seniors on fixed incomes.
Once they pay their rent, food, utilities and medicine - "there's nothing left," Rosia Mae says.
Close by, a couple of fellow seniors stand next to a window where 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are spread before them.
The borders are done, as are a few sections inside. But the majority of the pieces have yet to be connected.
The country's future is a lot like that puzzle. Just ask folks in Rowan County.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or firstname.lastname@example.org.