President Obama to vacation in Asheville
For this Journal entry, I am addressing the world, and the Christian world at large, and therefore those who know me and/or have been on my postal mailing list for a long time should not try to read too deeply into the following, for it is not intended to be theologically deep, but just an occasion to extend a welcome to the President and get a few personal perceptions about Asheville on the record for those who are, or who are becoming regular readers—given that we have only begun to blog.
President Obama and his family are planning to spend this coming weekend (April 16-18) in Asheville. The White House and media (including local media) are quite vacant about any details about the coming Obama weekend in Asheville. (In other words, there really isn’t much to say: He’ll play golf, hang out with Michelle and the girls, and that’s about it.) Okay, in that case, may I use this occasion of the national spotlight on Asheville to share a word or two about my adopted home town?
Then Senator Obama made a campaign stop here in 2008 and was impressed enough with the area to remark that he would really like to visit here some time. We visited here in 1985, and we, too, were so impressed with the area that we moved here in 1987. Since about the mid-90s, we have noticed that Asheville always seems to be in national magazines’ list of “Top Ten Cities”… “to Live, “to Retire To,” “to Raise a Family,” etc. Even the old west-coast, counter-culture tabloid, Rolling Stone, ran a cover story a few years (maybe even 15 or more years) back proclaiming Asheville “Haight-Ashbury East,” or something like that. (Note to younger readers: Haight-Ashbury was THE community in San Francisco which, beginning circa 1967, became the center of “the summer of love,” i.e., the hippie-drug counter-culture, later known simply as “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.”
Thanks a bunch for that “puff-piece,” Rolling Stone! We really could have done without it. As a result of that one story, Asheville, in the years since, has become home to many San Francisco and other west coast transplants: you know the kind—or maybe you don’t since they’ve all moved here—the kind of young people whose parents might have been 70s hippies, or 80s whatever-they-became in the 80s, or 90s (wasn’t one of those decades called the “X Generation?” Never quite had the urge to follow all that generational nomenclature; who makes that stuff up, anyhow?)
…Anyhow, the Haight-Ashbury and west coast transplants…the kind who have matted hair and vacant stares, and whose lifestyle and values are summed up in the one word: “whatever…” I know I am generalizing. Most of them are young, lost (to their place in the world, hence, the vacant look. I, too, was once lost and “looking for my identity.” I found it in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word, and I pray that they will come to Him as well.
Fortunately, Asheville has attracted transplants from just about everywhere else, too, which is good because many of them have some money—professionals, semi-retired folks and retirees, and their needs can be a source of income for the aforementioned “matted hair, vacant stare” young people, as they serve in the local culinary establishments. All of which makes Asheville a very polyglot and multicultural city. Even though CBS’s Eye on America proclaimed Asheville a “New Age Mecca,” there are also transplants and many natives who are much more socially, religiously and politically conservative.
After all, the icon of evangelical Christianity, the Rev. Billy Graham, not only has a large training facility here, but has also made Montreat (suburban Asheville) his home for decades. So every time, I see another TV program or national magazine proclaiming the virtues of living in Asheville, I cringe, and just want to “shush” them up. Quit telling everybody!
After all, it’s not the same Asheville we found 25 years ago. Many growing pains. Since then, the county population has doubled and the city of Asheville nearly so. Gangs have become a problem here now also, as formerly only plagued larger cities. Some might disbelieve me and charge me with exaggeration, or that my whole description is a bunch of bunk! …
Which leads me to point out the origin of that word “bunk.” It’s been in the American English vocabulary a long time. Henry Ford, Sr., once famously declared that “History is more or less bunk.” (interview with Charles N. Wheeler, Chicago Tribune, May 25, 1916).
Asheville is the seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina. It was named for a 19th century North Carolina state senator of that name. Senator Buncombe was known to be able to filibuster better than any of his contemporary legislators—so much so that all his hot air became known as “Buncombe,” later spelled “bunkum,” and now it’s just plain “bunk!”
But I digress…back to the present and our president. Welcome to Asheville, President Obama and family! I am sure you will enjoy your stay here. The Grove Park Inn where you will be staying is not only a magnificent, world-class, five-star hotel and resort, but as you were probably briefed, it is steeped in history. It was a favorite vacation spot for your political “grandfather,” as it were: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Please know, Mr. President, that I pray often for you. The rigors and decisions of your office are without doubt among the most difficult of any in the world. My prayers to our heavenly Father is that He will cause you to seek His guidance for those life-and-death decisions that U. S. presidents must make almost daily, and I pray further that you will govern precisely as our heavenly Father, the Creator of all, wills for you to do. As I am sure you know, your name “Barack” means “blessing,” and so I always pray and am confident that you are destined to do just that, be a blessing. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
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