SEABROOKS SAYS: Jason Shoemaker is right – how you describe our county to others, either in the county or outside the county, will make a difference. As he says, you don’t have to love Gaston County or leave it, but at least be proud of the positive things happening here. Now that you know, what will you do?
“Love it or Leave it.” Some pro-war demonstrators used this phrase during the divisive Vietnam War. We have heard it many times in our lives, usually in reference to issues of national debate. Of course, this binary choice is not fair. One of the great things about our nation is the ability to express dissent, displeasure, and even dislike of the United States. That freedom of expression is a foundation of our democracy.
Although the “love it or leave it” statement itself may not be fair, the phrase reminds me of something meaningful that a friend once told me. He and I were discussing Gaston County, in particular how many residents reluctantly and sheepishly admit that they live or work here. When some citizens tell others that they are from Gastonia, or even Gaston County, they lower their heads or go along with a degrading joke about the area. To this point, my friend questioned, “If you are not proud of something, why be a part of it?” Gaston County citizens should ask themselves this question.
We are all part of the Gaston County community. Although you may not agree with everything — and certainly there is room for improvement — we have seen many positive changes in the County during the past 13 years that I have lived here. Gastonia overcame the loss of thousands of textile jobs in the 1990s. Our local hospital has become a well known regional medical center. Centered around Crowders Mountain, the western part of the county has become an attraction for outdoor enthusiasts. Belmont and Mount Holly have become destinations in the eastern part of the county. Cramerton and McAdenville firmly established themselves as vibrant, small town communities with their own unique identities. And the list goes on. Not everyone will be a cheerleader for their city or county, but at least acknowledge the positive efforts.
Regardless of whether you chose to relocate here, moved here for work (like I did), or have lived in Gaston County all your life, we almost certainly share a similar goal – to make this county a better place (after all, it would be hard to imagine anyone hoping for their hometown or home county to decline or fail). With that in mind, the next time someone asks where you live, do not be afraid to tell them. When someone makes a negative joke or comment about the area, tell them something positive. Speak about downtown Belmont, Goat Island Park, Crowders Mountain, Loray Mill, or the multi-use stadium district which will transform the western part of Gastonia. Even if you do not give the person specifics, remind him or her that we are trying to make Gaston County a better place.
This is our community. How you describe it to others, either in the county or outside the county, will make a difference. You don’t have to love Gaston County or leave it, but at least be proud of the positive things happening here.
Mullen, Holland and Cooper, PA