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The Daily Planet's Opinion: How will Asheville prosper if its national rankings drop?
Friday, 16 October 2020 22:08

A downtown Asheville merchant contacted the Daily Planet in early October to alert us that had published — briefly — negative comments from recent visitors urging folks NOT to visit Asheville because of the protests that sometimes have turned violent, with looting and property damage, in the downtown area ... coupled with defunding of our police force by city officials.

However, the merchant, requesting anonymity, said the next time he looked, the negative comments had been purged — and the city had returned to being rated a terrific choice for daytrippers or tourists. The merchant wondered if pressure had been brought to bear by the “powers-that-be’ in Asheville to brazenly force up the city’s ratings. 

Then there’s the Sept. 10 press release from AdvisorSmith in which the agency unveiled its newest report on the “Safest Cities in North Carolina.” 

AdvisorSmith conducted a research study where “crime scores were calculated for each city — and the cities were ranked to find the safest places in North Carolina.” The study analyzed 17 large, 57 midsize and 174 small cities. 

To our utter shock, the research discovered that Asheville ranks a lowly 16th out of the 17 largest cities in North Carolina in terms of violent and property crimes. The report adds:

“Asheville had a total crime score of 112.4, which was above the average of 74 in large North Carolina cities with over 100,000 residents.”

The report found that “Asheville’s violent crime rate was 26.2 per 1000 residents, compared with an average of 17.3 per 1000 in large North Carolina cities.

“The city’s property crime rate was 51.4 per 1000 residents. Statewide, the average property crime rate in large cities was 29.8 per 1000.”

Anecdotally, the Daily Planet has heard lately from lots of Asheville and Buncombe County natives who declare— privately — that they despise what downtown has become (in their view...  a cesspool of anarchy and violence) and swear never to visit or support  downtown again.

We urge those who care about Asheville to express their views to city leaders to do what’s needed to restore and protect the public safety and reputation of the “Paris of the South.”

May our leaders guide us to happiness!
Friday, 16 October 2020 22:06
Special to the Daily Planet


"The left wants to…take us into socialism.  [They] will…close the Church down in many places. We see right now because of COVID, the government trying to tell the Church that they cannot meet.”

This was Franklin Graham earlier this year. Who is the “left” he’s warning about?  Who? The Democratic Party in the United States, people who share most of his values. 

James Dobson goes farther: “Socialism, at its core, is a secular framework that installs government as ‘god.’ It has no use for faith, freedom, or the will of the people.”

This is all in the context of politics, Trump versus Biden. Graham said: “I am just asking that God would spare this country, for another four years, to give us a little bit more time to do the work before the storm hits.”

Hold it. Is there anything in Joe Biden’s past or present that hints he will shut down churches? Of course not. He’s a devout Christian.    

So why this fierce attack on him? Nobody can judge another man’s mind and motives. But well, it sure looks like a scare tactic to get evangelicals to the polls. And I also feel a niggle that these men might cherish  being near the president. 

The gloomiest forecast I’ve seen is from Graham: “Our country is deteriorating. We are in a nosedive. If God doesn’t save us, there is no hope.”

I can understand if he’s thinking politically. But not spiritually. American culture is certainly becoming more secular. It is. But at the same time, more and more, Americans are incorporating into their lives, from many sources, the powerful ideas that C.S. Lewis called “the sole source of all value judgments.” 

I look around me, at Christians and non-Christians, and I see improvement – my children’s generation over mine.We’ve learned about good parenting.  It’s not unusual when minorities succeed in every field of endeavor. We don’t tolerate sexual harassment.  

Columnist David Brooks wrote on this topic: “The decline in family violence is part of a whole web of positive, mutually reinforcing social trends. To put it in old-fashioned terms, America is becoming more virtuous. Americans today hurt each other less….They are more likely to resist selfish and shortsighted impulses… A result is an improvement in social order across a range of behaviors.”

And socialism? Socialism is not, as many evangelical leaders teach, the enemy of Christianity. The Dobsons of America use the word “socialism” as a bin to hold all the frightful things they disapprove of. It’s their private brand of socialism.

Honestly or deceptively, they seem to confuse socialism with 20th century communism, which did persecute Christians.  Socialism is a system of policies – how government taxes (more) and spends (providing support to citizens).

Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine reported a study that ranked 156 countries on their level of “happiness,” based on how their citizens feel. In top-ranked countries – Finland, Switzerland and Australia, for example – socialism and capitalism coexist and complement each other. None is communist. The U.S. is ranked 18th.

Previous studies explained good happiness rankings as “peace of mind that people experience from government support.” To me, that’s something to be desired.

The study cited in Forbes included pandemic relevance: “A high-trust society quite naturally looks for and finds cooperative ways to work together to repair the damage and rebuild better lives. 

This has led sometimes to surprising increases in happiness in the wake of what might otherwise seem to be…the face of disasters. People are pleasantly surprised by the willingness of their neighbors and their institutions to work in harness to help each other. This delivers a heightened sense of belonging, and pride in what they have been able to achieve.”

A high-trust society. Let that sink in. It’s exactly what we don’t have. And much of our discord comes from our leaders, political and spiritual, who zealously encourage distrust of those with differing views. It’s clear, I think, that America has performed poorly in the pandemic because we don’t “work in harness” with one another.

The days ahead will test us. May we perform well! 
Lee Ballard is a published semanticist and lexicographer who lives in Mars Hill.



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