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The Daily Planet's Opinion: March 2019
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 11:29

Riding a bus to Salisbury to catch train? Not test

Could anything be more absurd than the report that Gaston County GOP Rep. John Torbett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said in mid-February that he will give serious consideration to a request for two years of funding — of up to $890,000 — for an Asheville-to-Salisbury bus run by Amtrak?

Under the proposal, passengers would catch an Amtrak Thruway bus from Asheville to Salisbury, where there are connecting trains to Washington and New York. With a bus connection, passengers would buy one ticket to cover bus and train travel.

Torbett told reporters he is waiting to see if Gov. Roy Cooper includes the bus money in his proposed budget.

Sadly, passenger rail service ended 43 years ago in Asheville. The last passenger train reportedly left the Paris of the South on Aug. 8, 1975.

If enough interest is shown by support of the bus line/passenger rail connection, then officials will consider spending to upgrade to passenger rail standards the tracks between Asheville and Salisbury.

Regarding the proposal, postings on social media responded mostly negatively, including, “Yay? A bus to Salisbury! How depressing....”

Another wrote, “I’d always imagined a train ride to the coast would be popular (both directions)... “

Yet another posting stated, “Hell, the city already had/spent the federal money for a station.... Wonder whose pocket that went into?”

Yet another wrote, “One thing I have not seen mentioned is, will this theoretical bus to Salisbury have any stops along the way? If it does have stops, like a Greyhound does, then it would be more like a four-hour trip. I can see no reason why someone wouldn’t already be taking the Greyhound to Spartanburg (S.C.), as that would be much quicker of a bus trip.”

Another writer posted, “If it’s just a direct bus ride to Salisbury with no stops in between, it still will be roughly the same amount of time as it takes to ride a Greyhound to Spartanburg.”

As for Spartanburg, it should be pointed out that the South Carolina city is closer (70 miles)  to Asheville than Salisbury (130.4 miles), but reportedly significantly more costly track work would have to be done to connect reconnect Asheville with Spartanburg, than to reconnect Asheville with Salisbury.

Also, someone posted, “Seems like a novel idea on the surface, but it doesn’t really make sense (time-wise) to add a new bus line ... except, of course, if it’s an Amtrak bus, then they get the money for the ride and Greyhound doesn’t. It sounds like Amtrak would basically be subsidizing these bus trips just to get more riders on their trains.”

Regarding the possibility of a return of rail passenger service to the Asheville area, another write posted, “That would be amazing, but just getting the land / right-of-way to put the rails on would be so incredibly expensive here... And then it wouldn’t be all that useful until they could run a train at least every hour. People won’t use public transit unless it’s convenient to their schedule.”

Perhaps most darkly, a witty writer posted, “We will be dead before this happens. Should have been born in Europe.”

From our perspective, passenger rail service would be a major asset to Asheville, drawing even more tourists and generating more business and employment. However, we think the $890,000 subsidy of a bus line would be a waste of money and a non-test, as it is hard to imagine many people with the time and desire to ride a bus to Salisbury in order to catch a passenger train to some destination to the north. 


Are we harboring horrors like slavery?
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 11:27
Special to the Daily Planet

What will Americans yet unborn think of today’s Americans?

These distant generations will judge us, you know, just as surely as we judge those who lived before us.

In a New Yorker magazine article on Frederick Douglass, the writer includes two sentences that stop your eyes and engage your mind:

“We need to be charitable about the moral failings of our ancestors – not as an act of charity to them but as an act of charity to ourselves. Our own unconscious assumptions and cultural habits are doubtless just as impregnated with bias as theirs were. We should be kind to them, as we ask the future to be kind to us.”

Do unto those in the past as we would have those in the future do unto us.

We can’t help scowling at slavery. So are we shocked that our descendants might scowl at us? 

Our Founding Fathers owned slaves.  John Locke, the guiding philosopher of American liberties, was a major investor in the slave-trading Royal Africa Company.  And yes, my Irish immigrant ancestors in South Georgia, who had very little, nevertheless owned a few slaves.  Free blacks owned slaves.  Priests owned slaves.

Some people today will find it hard to understand all this.  I don’t.

Growing up in the segregated South, I never once questioned Jim Crow.  I never asked why our yard man took his lunch at the kitchen counter and not at the kitchen table.  When I told somebody that Hank Aaron was making $100,000, he said, “I’d call him Boy.” 

But in defense, our indifference reached an end.  We questioned our customs.  The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ended school segregation in 1954, and our Congress ended Jim Crow 10 years later.   

Now here we are, living in a middle ground between past and future.  The past is plain to see.  The present – what we’ll be judged on – is not.  After all, we inherited our forefathers’ “unconscious assumptions.” 

I’m a political critic, but as I sit here now, the future is a fog. What will those people many years hence say about the values of my time?  Are we harboring a horror like slavery?   

I think they will know of us.  I think they will celebrate the changes we’ve made in American culture for the better. We’ve learned about good parenting. Girls can aspire to any career they choose. It’s not unusual when minorities succeed in every field of endeavor. We don’t litter. We stop friends from driving drunk. We don’t tolerate sexual harassment.

So all the more, they will wonder how the heck the American people allowed what their history will call the Great Plutocracy – that era of greed disguised as the “American Dream,” that almost…almost…bled out America’s greatness. 

Their history books will tell of 18th century slavery and robber barons and then use similar condemnations of the runaway power taken by the rich and corporations in the 21st century. They will liken us to Rome near its fall, when upper classes built new villas and ridiculed patriotism.  A quote from our current president will be used in lessons on fairness and equity – his comment to his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago after the 2017 tax overhaul:  “You all just got a lot richer.”  And amazingly, they’ll say, the people shrugged.

A poem will survive into that future time, called…“2020”: 

“Our basics of democracy were hollowed out by greed. 

The richest few and business were hidden hands of power. 

They turned the Founders’ Congress into slavish, grubbing whores.

Their agents viled our sacred halls with stinking flows of cash.

With bedrock crumbling under them, the voters did more harm. 

They chose as president a man well known for nothing good. 

Sweet Liberty stood weeping, but her torch still burned on high. 

And just in time her children cast the vote that saved our land. 

Hist’ry knows their choice that year as Precious Guardian!”
Lee Ballard , who lives in Mars Hill, has a website at



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