Don’t let perceptions alter reality
One of my favorite quotes is from Aldous Huxley: “There are things known, and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” I like that not only because “The Doors of Perception” inspired an unknown poet named James Douglas Morrison to name his rock band The Doors, but because it repeatedly has proven to be true.
Gustave Flaubert took it one step further when he said, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” He could have been talking about news in the 21st century, where more and more people simply dismiss any facts that don’t perfectly align with their political ideology. He also could have been talking about communities, which sometimes suffer from stigmas long after the event that caused it has passed.
When homegrown terrorist Eric Rudolph was on the run in the forests surrounding Cherokee County two decades ago, the national media didn’t give Murphy the most flattering portrayal. Anybody wearing overalls and chewing on a weed was given air time, along with anyone else who showed the slightest sign of support for the Olympic bomber. Our best and brightest folks didn’t fit the narrative of small-town rural America being Hicksville, so television largely ignored them.
As of May 31, it has been 15 years since Rudolph was arrested at the green Dumpster behind Save-a-Lot that soon because a tourist attraction. Thankfully, the picture of Murphy that had been painted when he was a fugitive has largely vanished in the fog of the Smoky Mountains.
At the other end of the county is Andrews, which unfortunately hasn’t been able to get past its reputation. People who moved here from the 1980s on don’t remember when Andrews was the county’s primary shopping district. They don’t remember when Andrews High School routinely gave Murphy High School a lesson on the football field. They don’t remember the many industries that gave local residents a great way to support their families for generations.
However, they do remember when the mayor was on the front page of the Andrews Journal with a black eye, courtesy of a town alderman. They have watched the entire town government get the boot during three different elections. They know the state has threatened to take over the town’s finances. They see a police department that is only a fraction of what it used to be.
All of that may be true, but it’s also true that Andrews is filled with good people who want to see great things happen in the place they call home. Over the last few years, several new businesses have opened, and more are on the way. Downtown beautification has occurred in the form of hanging baskets, and infrastructure has improved with new sidewalks.
While Andrews is facing a drug problem, so is virtually every other community in America. Yet, a few people have told local businesses they have hesitated to come to town because of it.
Don’t let misperceptions get in the way of the truth – Andrews is open for business. There is great opportunity here. The town is a safe place to live, work and shop. Sure, things always can be better, but that’s never going to happen unless we continue believing in the small town with a big heart.
Come on down and see it for yourself. We believe if you do, you’ll want to come back for more.
David Brown is publisher of the Andrews Journal. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; email, email@example.com; or message him on Twitter @daviddBstroh.