New Jersey and North Carolina – Comparison/Contrast

Posted: February 18, 2012 in States
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Most of the news I hear about my state of birth (notice I did not say state of choice) New Jersey comes from the news or second and third hand from Facebook and people I know who still live there.  I managed to make it there for the first 23+ years of my life before volunteering for the Army and Uncle Sam seeing fit to station me at Fort Bragg, NC.  I have been down here at Fort Bragg for the last 17, almost 18 years, 15 of which I have lived in the city of Fayetteville; the largest of many cities and towns associated with the base.  Over the years, my wife and I have often spoken of the things we miss about being back home and the things we both love and hate about both of these places.  Suffice it to say, there would have to be an enormous salary offer to even think about, possibly entertaining, even the remotest possibility of moving back to my home of record.  Having said that, the state we both thought we were going to retire to in just a couple years, albeit in another part of the state, has given us some cause to question our intentions over the last few years.  As my military career has passed the point of not being able to think about or no longing planning these things, I have lost a little bit of sleep these last few months over our future.  Here are a few of the things that bring me a little bit of mental distress when I think about where I have come from, where I am and where I would like to go.


NJ, the Garden State – There is a reason all the tv shows from New York pick on my home state and the distinct lack of gardens or a reliance upon the agriculture industry is one of them.  NJ does seem to have an innate ability to grow chemical plants along with television shows that emphasize the negative stereotypes the other 49 states have come to expect.  Quite possibly fertilized by all the bullshit coming out of shows like the Jersey Shore or all the bodies Tony Soprano and his henchmen left throughout the state.

NC, the Tarheel State – A term coined during the Civil War (or war of Northern Aggression) used to describe the fighting spirit of troops from NC against all enemies.  The nickname is the name of the University of North Carolina’s sports teams and Tarheel blue is the most prevalent color as the university gains billions each year in marketing dollars in competition with other great schools like NC State, Duke, Wake Forest and East Carolina.  To this day, NC politicians hold this nickname to heart as no one can hold fast to an outdated ideal, despite public opinion, quite like they can.  They will go down fighting to try and get what they want, often using their ‘Good-Old Boy’ system, cultivated through generations of familial wheeling and dealing.

The last line about NC brings me to compare the way things get done in each state.  I may be perpetuating the stereotype for NJ, but the arrest and conviction of how many mafia bosses and associates over the last few years, combined with the investigation and arrest of numerous Mayors, leads me to believe the organized crime and good old-fashioned nepotism is as alive and well in NJ as it is down here in the South.  Corruption in many aspects is not only alive and well, but is expected in certain industry.  In NJ, the construction and sanitation industries are amongst the most popular, while down here you can find it everywhere from the farming and agriculture industry right on down to the local DMV.  It is everywhere.  I can tell you that up until just a few short years ago, there where way more DUI’s issued in Cumberland County, NC then ever made it to trial.  This is a by-product of the good old boy system of lawyers that work down here.

Lets take a look at religion differences between NJ and NC.  Both states have a good bit of population diversity, but growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in NJ I think the greater number of religions was Christian (Catholic, Lutheran) and quite fervent in belief, with quite a liberal sprinkling of Judaism.  I am sure there were other religions present, especially as the 80’s saw a greater influx of different nationalities.  Down here in NC, the greater number of people are of the Christian faith, leaning more towards the Baptist and Methodist, with a good mix of just about everything you can think of making up the difference.  Growing up in NJ, you knew where the houses of worship were, they actually looked like one.  Down here in NC they have churches, even ones that look like one, but there are more “churches” that have taken over space in strip malls.  It is not uncommon to see a “church” in an old gas station, beauty parlor, or on a few occasions, a former strip club.  While I admire the ability to recycle, some of these so-called “churches” have no greater of a lifespan than the businesses they replaced.  One thing about the South, anyone can be a lay-preacher down here.

Lets take a look at some government policies.  We used to think that the local governments down here in NC were just ass-backwards.  After all, we grew up in a state that had pretty strong and involved local governments.  Everything was done at the town level, Union county was just a collection of 21 towns or cities.  Down here, everything is run at the county level with only the larger cities having any real influence over how they govern themselves.  The Sheriff’s department is more likely to police a smaller town than their own police force and the local tax rate is set by the county with a percentage to the city.  Deeds, Superior Court, and the jail is a county responsibility.  In NJ, some of these same things are county, like Superior Court, but each town maintains its own government services.  After years and years we have finally figured out that the governments in each are just two sides of the same screwed up coins.  As backwards and partisan as the city council is here in Fayetteville, they are no more or less inept than their similar counterparts in the Garden State, they just bring a different flavor of that ineptness and occasional corruption.

Both NC and NJ, from a state perspective seem to have issue with same-sex marriage.  NC going so far as to try and make it directly against the constitution of the state, and NJ has a governor who hopes it will go to public vote and everyone will follow his misguided views and vote it down.  It seems North or South, almost a half-century after the Civil Rights movement began we can still justify rights to people just because they may not be the same as everyone else.  Guess progressive is a word only good in industry and not when it comes to humanity itself.

Sharing the I-95 corridor, my current town is a midway stopover for people who run illegal goods from Florida back to NJ/NY.  Just like the NJ Turnpike, NC is about to start collecting tolls on the Interstate.  It looks like within the next couple of years, NC will install a tollbooth every 20 miles to collect a $1 per car fee.  Truckers, you about to get road raped.  NC already has some of the highest per gallon fuel taxes in order to pay for roads, but since they are no better at maintaining a budget than the federal government, they need to find new ways to stick it to us.  Any of my NJ peeps that want to go to Florida sometime after 2014, let me know and I can give you the work around to paying more for your trip than you really need to.

Not to let NJ off of the toll road tirade.  I remember way back in the late 80’s, 1988 to be exact.  The Garden State Parkway (or Parking Lot) was supposed to do away with it’s .25 cent toll because the original roadway loans were to have been paid off.  Well when the time came, not only did they not do away with the tolls, but they raised it .10 cents.  Does anyone in the class of 1988 remember the difficulty of blowing through a toll booth and learning to adjust from slam dunking a quarter as you passed by to slowing down because you needed at least 2 coins to do the same thing?  I am going to skip the whole convoluted Turnpike toll fees thing, no way for a mere mortal to figure that one out.

I could go on an on comparing and contrasting just about anything; schools, crime, gangs, social convention, bad accents, etc.  I finally figured out this morning when I woke up a little after 5 AM thinking about this crazy stuff, that it really does not matter.  No matter where we end up we will be able to draw negative and positive parallels to the last place we lived.  My sincere hope is my wife finds a job, in a place she wants to stay.  I will be following her this time, the least I can do after all the years she has lived down here while I was off to all those exotic places.  I will be able to adapt no matter where we end up, it is what I do.  We have a short list of places we want to end up, NJ is just not one of them.  NC on the other hand has a couple of areas that still interest us, it is just going to depend on the job market when my wife graduates in just a couple of months.

Later on this weekend I will be writing a couple of very targeted blogs on some very specific issues, one with NJ and one with NC.  I look forward to some input on the NC one when it is posted, it is a pretty unique situation that until recently I have never heard of happening before, so I hope to hear from some of you NJ peeps on your perspective of it.



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