Letters to the editor
Our neighbors should let us express who we are
To to the editor:
Last week, Mitchell Countians blew up on social media for a demonstration that took place in response to a drama production at the High School. Community members gathered to pray and praise a group of “brave” students for walking out of what they described as crude, inappropriate display of dramatized vulgarity.
The news coverage was fairly extensive and focused on parental efforts to shield students from productions that included themes of sex, violence and suicide. Every account I read forgot to mention the play was not shut down because the students felt ethically obliged to protest immoral behavior. It ended because a few students were angered by a staged kiss between two males, making sure to shout homophobic slurs to the actors while leaving.
As a gay teenager, I spent many closeted days feeling deeply ashamed of my sexuality, often praying God would cure me of my affliction and make me like everyone else. Nothing I did changed who I was on the inside. Now, I’m a seminary student at Boston University, studying theology with the goal of eventually returning to Mitchell County and giving back to my hometown. In the meantime, I must say my heart is breaking. Not only for the LGBT youth who were forced to hear their classmates yell hurtful insults during a performance but for the many residents who think it’s appropriate to call another human an “abomination.”
I love Mitchell County, and I want to see it flourish, but this will not happen if citizens routinely rally around a message of hate and exclusion. I’ve been assured the protesters love me despite my “sinful lifestyle.” But, I thought to love your neighbor as yourself precluded yelling homophobic slurs at them in public.
Mitchell County is fiercely religious, so allow me to speak theologically for a moment. The good news of Jesus Christ implores us to overcome our prejudices and cherish all in divine unity. Love is all that truly matters.
Using scripture to justify hate and intolerance is not the will of God. In reality, the locus of divine power is the manifestation of compassion in every expression of our being. Gay people have always existed in Mitchell County and contribute much to the community. We only ask that our neighbors let us honestly express who we are. Besides, if God hates gay people so much, why did he make us all so cute?
Fear is not a motivator
To the editor:
I am not a worldly person, nor am I ignorant, just a regular guy, dad, husband, godfather, uncle, friend and neighbor. Fact: kids do drugs, watch pornography (all kinds, particularly on their school Chromebooks), drink and some kids commit suicide. I know because I drank, did drugs, watched porn and buried two classmates to suicide who did not drink, do drugs and were not gay, they just had parents ignorant of their struggles.
I don’t drink, I do not use drugs and I am still on this side of the grass and thankful for all of those experiences. Every kid who leaves home after living in a rural area has already or will experience more conflict than this and will participate in some or most of them. Sheltering adolescents from the reality of the world makes them weaker, prone to fascination and unable to understand the consequences of a complicated situation.
Your kids will stand at a campfire sometime soon with a bunch of kids drinking and goofing around and want in because it’s faster, easier and more fascinating. Had they seen the humor and stupidity of the Shakespeare characters they would be stronger to resist the temptations of a world unknown to them. Knowledge and skill keep us alive, not innocence and ignorance.
You can tell a kid drinking is a sin, a dereliction of your body and to God’s will, and dangerous to yourself and the well-being of those around you. You can pray away the gay, demonize intoxication and drugs and pretend suicide does not exist, but fear will not protect them; it is not a motivator.
There is value in fun and humor of hushed topics, especially with young adolescents who are innocent and inexperienced. Help them understand fully, or someone who loves them a lot less will do it for you.
Questions posed about economic development
To the editor:
Economic development specialists stress the importance of involving a broad range of community members – age, class, gender, ability, background, geographic location, etc. Does the EDC need to make this a reality in Mitchell County?
The EDC board is made up primarily of males over 60 years old living in Bakersville and Spruce Pine serving a population that is more than 50 percent women that own about 265 businesses. More than 12,000 people in Mitchell County live outside the town limits of Spruce Pine and Bakersville. Nearly 5,000 citizens live in the Buladean and Tipton Hill areas and about 50 percent of the population is 20 to 60 years old. EDC board members are capable and dedicated leaders, but they do not represent our population and communities. Thus, the EDC is missing out on a great deal of knowledge, expertise and support.
Is Mitchell County’s economic development planning focused on the common interests of the whole county, as well as that of individual participants and specific geographic areas? Such a broad focus makes it imperative to accomplish the planning diversity described in the first question.
Has the EDC developed and distributed a compilation of the resources, talents and abilities in the county that can be a foundation for planning and development projects?
For example, it could include a description of the technical expertise in our workforce or the availability and cost of transportation services that might be used by industries interested in locating in Mitchell County. The production of such a guide requires a significant collaborative effort.
Have we analyzed the flow of wealth in, out and within the county with the goal of plugging “leaks” that reduce the economic dependence of the county?
For example, we know much of the county’s wealth is leaving by way of the sale and shipment of minerals mined and processed here. Some of this leak could be “plugged” by a “removal” tax on minerals shipped, which is used in most mineral-rich areas. This tax would be a reliable source of income to support schools, recreation facilities, etc. A tax of 25 cents per ton of ore mined would be a significant addition to the annual budget of the county. Also, if we can build a jail, we would save approximately $1 million per year and create 15-20 jobs. The county commission has often discussed this. Many other leaks may be identified if we pursue this study.
Are we planning economic development projects that will sustain the long-term well-being of the community?
Sometimes we need to reject projects that offer quick success and will expire soon. Such projects can drain the county’s resources.
My family has lived in Mitchell County for 250 years. The great and wonderful people here deserve the opportunity to inhabit these mountains. This is why a unified, inclusive economic development effort is essential. Everyone should be interested and involved in this task.