Friday, March 1, 2013

Cornerstone Communications: the Vision

For about a year now I've been talking to people about the store, or computer center, I want to open. Local people may need to put a memory out of their minds; I didn't make enough money selling secondhand junk in flea markets to be willing to sell secondhand junk in a full-sized store. Mountain Treasures is a good place to look for secondhand junk in between Friday Markets. What I want to do next is to benefit all of Scott County, as well as me.

Although someone else got the building, the name "Cornerstone Communications" was handed to us, along with several hundred books--about 40% Christian, 30% serious nonfiction, 30% fiction and poetry. A vision of what we can do with this has been evolving as I've talked with people who want to be part of it in one way or another, and now I'd like to share that vision with you.

Cornerstone Communications is actively in search of a physical store. I won't bore you with the details of this search; since I'm neither the construction expert nor the electronics expert nor the one with the down payment sitting in the bank, I've not been the one primarily doing it. We may still get the building that's actually on the corner; we may still get the building that was originally named "Cornerstone," which is not on the corner. There are conflicts with both, and I like the look of the building Oliver's got last year (they've moved). Then I want Gate City to have a computer center right on Jackson Street, and another member of the organization would rather work with Weber City or somewhere up in the county, and although I'd like to see sibling computer centers in Weber City, Yuma, Hiltons, Duffield, Dungannon, and Nickelsville eventually, I also want the one where I work to be within walking distance from my home, which probably means Jackson Street. You get the idea. Unless there's a surprising demand for it I won't post any more of this kind of "news." I can show you a clearer picture of what the store will look like once I know where the store will be.

What we want to do is offer online access in a completely different way than the Gates Foundation has decreed for the local libraries. We're not trying to sell people on the idea that they need the Internet in their homes; that's not working for Scott County. We're encouraging people to use the computer center for business and serious research--as it might be coming in for one full day a week, rather than being forced to pop in for frustrating timed sessions every day.

We will also display and sell books, new and used, and other local products, and offer a forum for local people to connect and communicate...with schools, publishers, writers, politicians, and others who want to share their messages with the public. We will be the place where people can physically browse and buy Fair Trade Books.

We will not seek licensing as a restaurant or coffeeshop. Gate City already has enough places that have paid for that extra licensing. We will allow people to bring in food from existing restaurants or coffeeshops, and will distribute coupons for those, especially if the owners sponsor work spaces.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and my vision for Cornerstone Communications, and for this web site, is actually "The stranger the better." I have the right to my opinion on issues about which I know enough to form an opinion, and youall have the right to know what that opinion is. Youall also have the right to know what other people's opinions are, and why they hold their opinions and what they have to say for themselves. This web site opposes all censorship. Although I see much more need for a sympathetic forum for conservatives and libertarians in cyberspace, because George Soros is doing so much to provide forums for left-wingers, in real life I want to offer to bigotry no sanction.

That's why, as local lurkers remember, although it's my idea and I'm the Tea Party, last summer Cornerstone Communications was represented by a person who claims to be a Kilgore supporter like everyone else in Gate City but is, otherwise, a Democrat. Would we really have hosted Democratic Party headquarters? Yes--if we'd had the space in the time, we would have displayed both Democratic and Republican literature, and that of other parties, and hosted all (sane, nonviolent) parties' meetings as well. We don't see one party as all good and another as all bad. I personally see good things coming from an exchange of views.

"Even letting people display a Kaine campaign sign?" (eye roll). Yes. I voted for George Allen, but I think exposing the public to more than a TV sound bite from politicians I don't personally favor may well boost the campaigns of the ones I do. Tim Kaine has as much right to be heard as Mark Warner, whom many Gate City residents like, or Rick Boucher, whom Gate City residents kept reelecting for years, or anyone else. We're not so much about boosting one politician or party (however much I personally may want to do that) as we are about holding all of them accountable for what they say. I post material with which I disagree on this web site, and would host speakers with whom I disagree in the store...that's a skill we learn in Washington.

And I'm committed to a similar approach to religious material. I am a Protestant, and I've been accurately described as conservative, liberal, and radical on various questions that have been used to divide denominations. If anybody manages to get into Gate City without knowing what Christians believe and why, I'm prepared to teach a course on that topic, with diversions to study denominational differences if requested. However, the purpose of Cornerstone Communications is not to impose any religious position on anyone. We've inherited a tremendous supply of Christian books, including some Catholic and Mormon books. We will display Jewish, Buddhist, Humanist, and possibly also Muslim and Pagan books (if we think the authors have something reasonable to say). We will consider hosting study groups led from any religious or philosophical perspective. The unifying idea is that in America everybody has the right to be heard, and everybody has the right to choose how long they want to listen.

I see the computer center as a place where work spaces will be separated by shelves containing ads, books, recordings, and other merchandise, but where each work space will be primarily about what the individual using it wants to do and say in it. As a user you'll be reminded, by an unobtrusive sign and selection of other things you may or may not take time to check out, that your work space is being sponsored by some generous person or group. Then you'll be free to use the Internet as you see fit.

People who sponsor a work space will be able to display their sign, decide which books they want on the shelves, and put in other merchandise if they're selling merchandise that fits onto the shelves, for a month at a time. I see this as a venue for farms, musicians, entertainers, crafters, web designers, and other local entrepreneurs whose enterprises don't really fit into a flea market or antique-boutique setting and aren't suited to a full-sized store. (Some things local people want to sell don't mix well with computers. Preserves in sealed jars could be displayed, but fresh fruit couldn't. Hunters' calendars could be displayed, but rifles couldn't. Pictures of fireworks shows could be displayed, but fireworks couldn't. However, signs, phone numbers, and directions to any licensed local business could be displayed.) If the computer center works, we'll be able to set up enough sponsored displays to cover building payments and utility bills, at prices people like Amanda McCracken, Dwain Reed, or Gena Greene could pay with a reasonable expectation of profit.

Scott County is where all of my paternal-line ancestors have been for almost two hundred years, some longer than that. We will promote Scott County businesses first. If Scott County businesses fail to keep all work spaces sponsored, we will then offer sponsored displays to businesses in Kingsport, Wise County, and then other jurisdictions in order of physical proximity. However, since Grandma Bonnie Peters still pays property taxes in Scott County and uses the name of one of Gate City's founding families, into which she married, we will count her as an honorary resident of Scott County.

Reusing and recycling are hobbies of mine...I don't want to ask anybody to donate sets of identical new computers or furniture, as we've seen in Gates Foundation computer centers. I want to reuse vintage furniture and used keep start-up costs low, and to promote the idea of using up and wearing out things before we buy more. Restoration, renovation, and recycling are good for the local economy too.

If you want to see a genuinely liberal, not left-wing, computer center slash bookstore slash small-community-group meeting place slash local-marketing place in the real world, watch this space...and feel free to contribute money, computer parts or supplies (we want to reuse and recycle electronics as long as possible), and sturdy tables, chairs, and shelves.