Both of these women were great dames - who, in their way, helped make me, ME. You could say I have emerged from Asheboro's "underground" to honor them.
Last summer, I submitted an original work of art to the Randolph Arts Guild's "Invisible Man" exhibit. I knew it was not going to win any awards (and really, what do I care about "awards" at this point?). The organizers were looking for teen-aged/young-adult angst and faux victimhood . . .in a fairly lame attempt to offset the nasty publicity that rained down upon Randolph County when a local school board stupidly banned a literary classic. The Guild never bargained for an adult showing up with an artistic expose on one of Asheboro's uglier stories - long marginalized/buried by local journalists desperately pandering to the very powers-that-be who drove our little mill town into the ground.
We must emphasize the positive. Never mind that the purpose of journalism is to speak truth-to-power . . . to tell us what's wrong so that we might be moved to fix it.
I composed a blog post to accompany my submission. But then I put it away. I just didn't care enough to flesh it all out.
I was also afraid . . . but that's another story (see the sidebar - there may be more to come).
I do believe the piece (a photo of the home page of this blog - scrawled over with inconvenient/unpleasant truths) captured much of the spirit of disillusionment/betrayal/raw-anger inherent to the narrative of Ellison's "Invisible Man".
And I would think it packed a sharper jab (never mind that I'm white, straight and a conservative Christian) - because it's a true story right out of Asheboro's past - a past that put it on life support (at least according to Forbes magazine). The place never really was Mayberry - no matter how much some of us fancied it to be.
But the piece "offended" some people - particularly those born/raised here - who view the place through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. I cannot really hold that against them. For it is EXACTLY what I did, as a very young and idealistic Pediatrician committed to public service - who bought into what Randolph Hospital was selling back in the early 90's - and who came home to serve the community where she was raised . . .
. . . a community where women of substance had once lifted her up to be something more.
Of course, that worked out like a Shakespearean tragedy on the professional level of "Titus Andronicus" . . . if Shakespearean tragedies included "slow-moving-train-wrecks" (the description afforded my predicament by a sympathetic anesthesia colleague who left Asheboro behind in the dust).
Because I took what my Mother and her Friends and my Teachers taught me to heart . . . and did become someone better than the adolescent-smart-ass I started out as at Asheboro High School . . . I really had no choice than to do what I did all those years ago - as a young Pediatrician forced into making a choice that would define the rest of my life/career.
I had a conscience. I had a soul (not for sale). I took an Oath.
I did the right thing by a dying baby girl - who did not die because one-night-in-the-middle-of-the-night-when-I-wasn't-even-on-call, I answered the call of yet another woman-of-conscience. I told the truth. It MATTERED.
Just not in Asheboro. Right was not might amongst the "right" folks.
Andy Taylor would have been gutted. We get Maynard and Sandy Reid.
And yes, the Shakespearean reference was on purpose. I can forgive nostalgia. But blowing the whistle on bad medicine . . . and fighting back against an injustice (as hard as I did - in all of the venues that I did) . . . does NOT make someone "insane".
And if you play that card, KNOWING all I have been through because I came home to the place you left behind (to try and make it a better place for the babies and children that came after us), I WILL hold it against you.
From Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man":
And that, boys and girls, is the Asheboro I lived and practiced in.
The lesson is over.