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LETTERS / We Are Stronger United

Dear Editor,

Do you ever feel like you are being played? Politically and socially that is, as if the real agenda is to divide us and keep us fighting. My daily life is very different than how the media portrays life. I work, as most of us do with all kinds of people all belief systems and we all do just fine. A number of community members from different political backgrounds in Watauga County had that realization too, and “Watauga United” was born.

There are far more issues that unite us as a people than divide us. What would happen if we, as a people of this magical county focused on and talked about what united us? Simply, that is what Watauga United is all about.

Watauga United is about crossing boundaries and seeing what we share and all desire. We all care about these mountains. We care that Boone is a healthy, safe place to live. It doesn’t matter what gender, political party, sexual orientation, or race you are….we all want a good life with a healthy earth.

We care that our mountains are being destroyed, and that the population of Boone is over our carrying capacity. Todd Castle (candidate for Watauga County Commissioner) said to me recently, “Look I’m not a tree hugger, but I’m tired of seeing our mountains torn down and replaced by apartments.” I replied, “I am a tree hugger, and I am tired of the same things.” I’m a Democrat, Todd isn’t. Yet the more we talked about the mountains the more we saw eye to eye.

Carrying Capacity is a simple concept that says how much an ecosystem can support and remain healthy. The fact that we take water from Todd, tells you our county is over carrying capacity. The traffic, the way we ship our trash to Tennessee all are strong, clear signs we are over carrying capacity and not sustainable. When a land and a people are over carrying capacity, we all lose.

Healthy communities like healthy people have boundaries and limits. Test this concept yourself. Ask your friends and neighbors why they chose to live in Boone and if they feel like Boone is becoming more like Charlotte or Asheville and if they like it. Watauga United, it isn’t about politics or a political party. It is about crossing boundaries and looking at some of the major issues that unite us. As a united people we are a strong people and our goodness shines. United, amazing things happen.

Most people would be united in wanting safety for all, for school children, for all religions, and genders, we all deserve a safe environment. We all deserve to be safe in our homes and in public. David Searcy (candidate for Sherriff) is deeply invested and experienced in how all of us can create safe schools and communities. Jennie Hanifan (candidate for School Board) a mother is an activist for children and safety. Frankly it surprised me how aligned I was with Jennie. She too believes children should be protected and childhood should be sacred– there is enough that children will have to face as they come into adulthood they don’t need to be aware of and face so many challenging issues at such a young age.

Maybe next time you are having a discussion with people ask them, “What do you think unites us as a people” where are the places/issues that we agree, where do we want the same things.” Sometimes the “how” of it all isn’t so important at first. The “how” can come if we focus our attention on what unites us, what we want for our environment, our families, our friends, and our community.

Local Taxes for home ownership and Rent have dramatically gone up under current County commissioners, this is an issue that unites us and crosses boundaries. The lack of labor force and how challenging it can be to find all kinds of labor from electricians, plumbers, carpenters…it’s one of those issues that affects the majority of people. If we get to talking about it, we have to also get to talking about our education systems and if our values aren’t going astray somewhere.

Walking down King Street one day I passed Braxton Eggers, (candidate for County Commissioner) we were right by the section where new building was occurring, I had a heavy sad heart. He said to me, “This is bad isn’t it, the current county Commissioner should have been prepared for this, known it was coming and taken control.” I really didn’t know what to say, how to even reply. I was happy though that we felt the same way that he was noticing and caring over our once sweet town is changing. It gave me hope.

We all might be surprised at the power of listening to each other, asking the right questions, noticing what issues help us cross boundaries. We are stronger united.

Jasmine ShoShanna
Boone, NC