My turn, Laurel Harry: Turn discord into something good

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2019

By Laurel Harry

Here’s the scene: a bustling, idyllic town with a diverse citizenry of nice folks from all walks of life.

Smack in the middle of this town is a large, attractive, bronze bird bath. Yes, bird bath.

Half the good people of the town love the bird bath. The other half of the people hate the bird bath. There has been a whole lot of arguing about the bird bath over the years. People are very upset over it, and it’s not showing any signs of letting up.

The leaders of this lovely town (let’s call it Yrubsilas) are pretty stinking tired of talking about the bird bath, since it doesn’t generate any revenue and is just kind of sitting in the middle of the road where it’s hard to see anyway.

No matter what they do, half of the town is unhappy. They are in tough position. Then, one day, the leaders decide to think about the bird bath differently. They start to wonder if can they turn the bird bath into a plus for the town. But how?

Here’s where it gets interesting: This pleasant little town is actually sitting right on top of a pretty massively unexploited tourism resource.

If the leaders could form a coalition, build a site that explores the interesting wartime history of the town, explains the history and the origin of the bird bath and set it in a broader historical context, say from 1800-1950, then hordes of tourists might actually travel to the town to see it, learn from it and spend money in the town.

These Yrubsilas leaders are all whip-smart and know it’s going to take some willpower and cash to create this site. They know some historians are going to have to weigh in on the fine print for the placards and whatnot.

They know it won’t be easy, but they also know that plenty of non-fictional towns who have done it. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Manassas, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Vicksburg, Mississippi; Appomattox, Virginia; and, notably, Andersonville, Georgia, home to a, get this, famous Civil War prison camp are all top 10 U.S. Civil War sites and are all massive economic boons to their vicinities. Sounds good, right?

Plot twist. You knew it couldn’t be that easy, didn’t you? It turns out the birdbath is actually owned by some people who don’t even live in town and, therefore, don’t have to deal with the serious strife and discomfort it creates for the nice townspeople.

The good news is that on their own website, the owners of the bird bath affirm they are committed to history and education. This is great news because, if accurate, they should be happy to get on board with a site established to expand and enhance the historical and educational impact of the bird bath. Win-win.    

Yep, Yrubsilas, it’s time: Time to turn a source of discord into a source of knowledge, time to add context and create opportunity to really learn from the past, time to turn a net-zero into a plus and time to stop bickering over a piece of metal.

It’s time to grow.

Laurel Harry lives in Salisbury.