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According to CNN’s Moni Basu, the plight of folks living in Lancaster is likened to Tom Joad’s family in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Steinbeck documents the misery the Joads experience as they leave their foreclosed, dust-covered farm in Oklahoma to find work in Depression-era California.
“In hard-hit S.C. town, faith and finances fuel political decisions,” Basu equates the aftermath of Springs Industries’ demise to the Joads’ struggle as migrant workers.
Basu’s article painted a backward, downtrodden, Bible-thumping populace who lack education, shop at dollar stores, frequent all-you-can-eat buffets and need Southern-drawl translators to communicate with outsiders.
Nothing could be further than the truth. CNN’s depiction of Lancaster is a slap in the face to those who work so hard to make our community a great place to live. And there are many hard-working, compassionate people who truly care about others and what happens in our community.
Just like the sign says, we are “proud and progressive.” Lancaster has much to boast about – even though CNN chose not to include that. We are home to the largest credit union in South Carolina, a telecommunications company that services a big portion of the state and a nationally ranked hospital. We have a top-notch and expanding university.
Yet Lancaster’s most important assets are its residents. CNN’s portrayal of Lancaster as a pathetic southern town not only angered them – it’s unified them to rally. And rally they have.
Just like a fighting gamecock, we’ll fight, too. There’s a saying that goes, “I can talk bad about my family, but you can’t.” You can’t because you don’t know the storms we’ve weathered and the victories we’ve celebrated. You don’t see the faces of those who give of their time and money to help their own in need. You don’t see all the volunteers and non-profit organizations working together to improve our community.
Don’t get us wrong. Just like any other community, we have our problems – high unemployment, closed businesses, crime and educational challenges. But don’t ignore our positives. In addition to our successful businesses, we have more than 30 service agencies that help people with various needs – ranging from basic necessities; like food and lodging, to medical, education and emergency needs. These organizations are staffed by volunteers who do so because they care.
There is a community-wide effort under way to tout our positives. The “We are Lancaster!” campaign is encouraging everyone – from churches to schools, and government offices to local businesses – to put up banners, signs or stickers sporting the “We are Lancaster!” slogan. Signs are popping up already throughout the county.
Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dean Faile said the chamber is producing a video that portrays the true Lancaster.
When companies or media outlets research Lancaster, the video will provide a perspective of Lancaster that differs from the one presented by CNN.
“The only way to provide a balance is to get this message out,” Faile said.
For those who say we can’t change our community with a bunch of signs, take a look around you. Just like family, we’re unified and rallying again.
We believe in this campaign. We believe in our community. And together we’ll become stronger.
After all – we are Lancaster.