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The Daily Planet's Opinion: Hold on to your land, Biltmore!
Monday, 30 November 2020 19:57

The Biltmore Estate was formed by the far-sighted George Washington Vanderbilt II, who first visited Asheville in 1887 and, reportedly, was captivated by the area’s natural beauty and decided to build, and live in, his dream country home here.

Vanderbilt, an art collector and member of the prominent (and wealthy) Vanderbilt family, was a grandson of famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt. 

He slowly began purchasing land and ended up with 125,000 acres. What’s more he built a 250-room châteauesque-style mansion, the largest privately owned home in the United States, which he named Biltmore House.

The Biltmore House opened to the public on March 15, 1930 and the family has done a splendid job of keeping up the estate. As a result, it has been a top attraction to tourists from around the world. In addition, many locals, who often are Biltmore passholders, visit the estate regularly to enjoy its many unspoiled natural splendors.

That said, it worries us as we see parts of the original tract continue to be partitioned off for business development, sold off or even given away as industrial incentives, such as the deal with Pratt & Whitney, a Connecticut-based aircraft engine-maker. The development company Biltmore Farms recently donated 100 acres to P&W.

Biltmore owns some of the most gorgeous raw land on earth and we hope Vanderbilt’s heirs change course and choose to hold on to the land amassed by their visionary ancestor. If they do retain the land, future generations will be able to enjoy this heaven on earth, which surely surpasses the desire for, and profits from, short-term industrial development.

The United States is not united ... again
Monday, 30 November 2020 19:56
Special to the Daily Planet


One morning recently, as I sat with my dog and my coffee, my great-great-grandparents came to mind. 

During the Civil War, Asbury and Ridley Ansley were living in Rising Fawn, Dade County, Georgia.

Their four oldest sons were in the Confederate army, and it’s said the Ansleys could hear the cannons of Chickamauga from their front porch.

Their fifth son, my ancestor, had been taken away by a Yankee patrol, to be killed before he would be fighting age. He had escaped and was hiding in nearby woods. On top of all this pain and stress, their six-year-old daughter, Teckie, burned to death when her dress got too close to the fire under the clothes-washing caldron.

They were people of old-time Methodist faith, and sure enough, all four of their sons survived the War and had careers with the railroad.

So why was I thinking about the Ansleys of Rising Fawn that recent morning? Why was I drawn to people who lived four generations before me?

Because their time and mine are alike in a most basic way. Then and now, the United States is far from united. We’re ferociously divided. And at war.

It’s likely the Ansleys were always more Southern than American. The United States was way off yonder and the declared enemy in slave-free political conflict. The Ansleys were a good fit for the Confederacy. (They gave my ancestor the middle name, Calhoun!)

The United States today is similarly divided. Trump is pulling every lever to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, in state election boards, the courts and state legislatures. The result: 70 percent of Republicans don’t believe the election was free and fair. And interviews with militia group leaders are clear that they’re ready to answer the president’s call.

I find it interesting that a local right-wing columnist wrote this: “A united America is a successful America, and a successful America is immune to the left’s socialistic seductions.” A united America, really? The end of his sentence belches out the golden oldie that ties “the left” with “socialism.”  It’s low-grade trickery, but heck, why not?  It works with voters who think socialism is the same as Cold War communism.

The Civil War schism was North and South. Today, the United States is divided between Constitutionists and Trumpists. I don’t say it’s between conservatives and liberals or between Democrats and Republicans. The split today is between those who live their political lives according to the Founding Fathers’ Constitution and those who set aside any provision of the Constitution that’s inconvenient.

The former group is equivalent to Civil War Unionists who believed in the United States; the latter group has pledged allegiance to a man — a demagogue whose four years in office have been spent above all laws, precedents, traditions and principles of democracy. Trumpists are in fact at war with the United States. 

The Constitution makes demands on those who lead our country, perhaps most notably the separation of powers among the three branches of government. Donald Trump holds the legislative branch in no esteem at all. Congress has constitutional power to allocate government funds, regulate trade, undertake acts of war. 

Ho-hum. Trump moved money around to construct his wall, even though Congress had specifically denied funding. He instructs people in his government to ignore Congressional subpoenas. Many cabinet members are “acting” — a Trump ploy to avoid Senate confirmation hearings.

Conservatives, before Trump, were champions of the Constitution. Some even wanted judges who would follow its “original understanding.” The document, with all its wisdom and weirdness, was sacred.

They once shared strong beliefs: small government, spending discipline, free trade.  When Trump appeared, their principles were put away, wrapped in the irrelevant Constitution. Trump demands total obedience, and they give it. These people don’t have standing anymore to be defenders of anything. They’re humble Trumpists.

On the other side of our divided United States, opposite the Trumpists, stands the new Democratic government. It will be guided by Constitutional principles. These patriots are true Constitutionists.

So, Trumpist America, please give up this “socialist left” foolishness. It’s a sham show designed to keep the faithful from heeding Joe Biden’s call for national healing. Support a united America. 
Lee Ballard lives in Mars Hill. He was a longtime linguist and lexicographer, before heading a naming and branding firm for 25 years.



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