The city of Asheville is a cultural hotspot in Western North Carolina. There are buskers on every street corner, a vibrant art scene and multiple live music venues. Asheville is also the seat of one of only a handful of counties in North Carolina that voted in majority – fifty-five percent – for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. Local entrepreneur and Marketing/PR strategist Pepper Parris (58), married with two children, wasn’t one of them. I met Pepper at the World Coffee Cafe to discuss conservatism, common sense and spiritual sightings.
Before you went to the University of Texas at Austin, you studied at Trinity College in Dublin. You also volunteered at the Corrymeela Community Centers in Belfast and Ballycastle. What lessons from the resolution of “The Troubles” could be applied to the present-day United States?
Primarily, I came to understand how finding “common threads” among those politically divided is the key to peace and progress. I was able to go to Ireland – where my dad was born – immediately after graduating high school in 1976. And thanks to a scholarship I received from my Presbyterian church, I volunteered in Belfast, Northern Ireland for the peace organization, Corrymeela. They created refuge and retreat for those exposed to IRA violence in their communities. But also, they created programs, then built and operated twenty-three community centers, located on the borders of Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. I worked teaching their youth to work and play together. This ultimately helped to ease tensions, melt divisions and encourage peaceful resolution of differences. A united Ireland would be a great example to the rest of world. It just makes sense to come together under one government. That’s what we in the U.S. should realize, too. Too many people on the left engage in hateful protest. Common sense should govern our actions, not hate, or worse, stupidity.
Before and after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, there were numerous protests all over the country under the banner of the anti-Trump resistance movement. What’s your opinion on these demonstrations?
A good deal of it was based upon a belief, instigated and empowered by the media, that Trump was sexist due to remarks he made about grabbing a woman inappropriately in the ‘80s. I don’t condone his comment back then, but it was unknowingly recorded during a time when Trump worked in the entertainment industry, and men spoke more callously than is acceptable today, thank goodness. There’s a lot of money behind the protests surrounding his election. People are being paid to demonstrate, most notably by business magnate George Soros. He does that to further his own agenda for a one world government and his hatred of Trump. These women’s marches in particular are a mystery to me. Some of these women think it makes a statement to parade around in vagina costumes, while sporting their young children next to them. So what was the message there? How can the marches be representing for all women, while uninviting some, such as pro-life groups? What do they want that they don’t have already? It is unclear to me and I think even to them. I believe these women are being used as pawns to create a big, negative media picture against Trump. People like Soros create untruth and buy behavior to further their own interests. That constitutes an evil our country can ill afford.
Overall, fifty-four percent of women voted for Hillary Clinton, much higher than the forty-two percent of women who voted for Donald Trump. Wouldn’t you have liked to see the first woman president in charge of the country?
The thing that disturbed me the most about this election was seeing women voting for Hillary merely because she was a woman, blindly disregarding the laws she broke. There is no common sense in this thinking and it disturbs me. I totally want to have a woman president. Just like I always believed it important to also have a black president. But it must be because they best represent my views on critical world issues. We should never vote for a president based upon their sex or skin color. I would ask of those blacks who voted for Obama, what has he done to improve race relations? They are worse, in some ways, than when civil rights were originally fought for. Our vote must always go to the person who best answered the question: “What can you do best to protect and improve my life while representing my values?” I think Trump got more of those answers right than anyone running.
Asheville is a relatively liberal city. Have you ever personally felt threatened by demonstrators from the left?
There was a big pre-election Trump rally at the Asheville Civic Center in October of last year with over 6,000 people attending. Many of them in attendance – and the media doesn’t like to report this – were the doctors, lawyers, teachers and clean-cut kids. There were two very small disturbances inside by protesters. Afterwards, we all had to leave the center in a single file line, as protesters were allowed to block the exits. We had to walk through them. Some spit on us and one woman approached a man shoving a sign into his back, yelling at him. She touched him and he did turn and shove her away from him, in true defense. She obviously made herself fall. The local news reported an arrest warrant was issued for the man. It was reported nationally as a big negative scuffle, which it was not. Later, all charges were dropped by police and it was uncovered that the woman was indeed paid by the Soros organization. But that was never reported nationally, or even locally. The rally was a success, but that narrative didn’t get the attention it deserved. I love that we have a president now who calls out “BS” when he sees it. He is not in anyone’s pocket and I honestly believe he has a heart to serve our country. I can’t imagine why he would give up his life at the age of seventy to take on this country’s big problems that everyone admits we have, and no one seems to deny.
Critics of this administration accuse Trump of taking the country back in time. Are their concerns valid?
Instead of backward, I’m confident he will take us forward on specific issues. Look, I’m not saying I was a huge Trump supporter from the start. He is awkward and in no way politically correct. Actually, that is probably one of the main reasons most did vote for him. But I believe his intentions to run for president were genuine – he showed heart to serve this country. And he’s smart. I find it funny how the entertainment industry has turned on him, he was a beloved member for decades. And there was no negative media about him back then. He ran the Miss America pageant for twenty years, with no claims of inappropriate behavior. And this was during a time when many sexist men were being exposed, including President Clinton. I also think the way Trump uses social media to circumvent mainstream media and speak directly to voters is brilliant. Maybe he stumbles a bit, jumps the gun to tweet. But it’s honest and it’s human and I love that it drives the media a little crazy trying to catch up. They can’t change or misinterpret what he says. He has outsmarted them.
An average of forty-two percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing. What is it that the rest of the country is not seeing?
The rest do not want to see what he is doing, or intends to do. They make erroneous assumptions based on often “fake news”, as Trump calls it. I see it that way too. Social media spreads lies, from both sides, and you can’t even trust the fact-checking websites, as they are obviously biased too. Trump is not a politician; he is a businessman – and an extremely successful one at that. The country needs someone like that right now. Bill Clinton’s ego is or was at least as big as Trump’s, but Clinton gave birth to a world of out of touch, mafia-style politics. People are sick of politicians. They just always sound like they are double-talking, never really answering questions, and running to the polls to pose their opinions. Those polls are bull too, I think, for and against Trump. What’s more, years of liberal government has made people lazy and raised their sense of entitlement. Liberals are pandering to a small part of the population, giving way to minority rule. These people expect the government to give them free stuff. And they want to protest everything, burn flags, and show no respect for our laws. Trump is cutting them off, finally.
You’re particularly vocal about the issue of abortion and the role played by Planned Parenthood in offering abortion services. What is it that worries you most?
As a Christian, I don’t believe in abortion because I believe all life comes from God. Without life, how can anything else matter? My fight with Planned Parenthood is three-fold. First of all, it is the utter hypocrisy of its existence. They claim to perform services that they do not. Their function is literature, birth control pills and abortion. They do not provide any services for those who need prenatal care. For those who do not choose abortion. The irony is that free birth control is already provided by all county health departments. My biggest problem is that they perform partial-birth abortions, which are legally performed up until nine months of pregnancy in twenty-nine states. The government, via Roe vs Wade, only states that a fetus can feel pain at twenty weeks. Then the states get to decide if and how to enforce restrictions about how far along a mother can be allowed to abort. There are accounts by nurses and by doctors who have had to kill babies at nine months in utero, and in afterbirth. There are well-documented cases of Planned Parenthood selling body parts of aborted fetuses for money. There is video evidence of this, yet liberals say it was misrepresented. What was said, was clearly said, there is no denying this occurred. Why don’t we use Planned Parenthood’s funding to promote adoption and improve fostering programs instead? God never said that mothers have to raise their children. He just asked that we honor life and the Bible commandment “thou shalt not kill.” We live in a country where dogs are more likely to be adopted than babies. And they sure do a better marketing job of getting them homes. Where’s the sense in that?
In addition to being a “Blue Ridge Mountain Host” you are a tour guide for “Ghost Hunters of Asheville”. How did you get into the business?
When my kids were little, I did architecture tours in downtown Asheville. In 2009, I started doing the ghost tours for a friend who had started a business. I have always been fascinated with the spiritual, though I am merely a story teller, not a ghost hunter. Asheville has a lot of stories to tell. My father, on the other hand, firmly believed in ghosts. In the ’50s, he owned a building on Haywood street in Asheville. He often saw spirits there of soldiers from all wars and branches of service. As it turns out, many veterans, housed there, died in the top floors of buildings on Haywood St during the 1930s. I had my first and only, so far, ghost sighting when I was in my twenties. But I keep my eyes open and have seen unusual things happen on my tours. The most haunted building in downtown Asheville is probably the old S&W Cafeteria, several suicides occurred there. After the stock market crashed in 1929, approximately one hundred fifty previously wealthy people took their own lives in downtown Asheville, eighty of them jumping suicides. You don’t have to walk far to have a good spooky ghost to talk about.