The Jackson Herald
April 26, 2000
a sign of the times
Monday's groundbreaking in Braselton for
the first phase of a 500-acre warehouse project is another sign
that the west side of Jackson County is on the verge of massive
changes. Although the initial Dukes-Weeks building will actually
be inside Barrow County, the remainder of the property is in
Residential growth has already had a major impact in the West
Jackson area, affecting both Braselton and Hoschton. A limited
amount of industrial growth has also taken place, although the
closure of Mitsubishi was a blow to that area of the county.
But with the Dukes-Weeks investment, the area is set for a new
round of industrial and commercial growth. Giving life to that
may be several significant road projects that would open the
West Jackson area to even more development. One proposed project
would create a new interchange at I-85 between the Braselton
and Chateau Élan exits. That project would reroute Hwy.
53 around Braselton and Hoschton, relieving some of the existing
traffic problems. But more importantly, it would create another
exit to serve that area of the county, including the Dukes-Weeks
land and a larger tract south of Hoschton that may someday become
a major commercial center.
In addition, talks are ongoing about creating an exit at one
of the existing overpasses in West Jackson, possibly at Hwy.
60 and I-85.
And don't forget the Mulberry Plantation project that is slated
to begin grading later this year along Hwy. 124. That project
alone could anchor some major changes between Jefferson and the
western edge of Jackson County.
It won't be easy to absorb all of these changes. The political
and social dynamics will change at a pace never before seen in
this county and the demands on increased infrastructure will
For many, all of these events create an atmosphere of fear about
losing the county's rural lifestyle; for others, the changes
create an atmosphere of opportunity.
Whatever our individual perspectives, however, there's little
doubt that major changes are coming in the next few years on
the western side of Jackson County. Dealing with the problems
of that growth will require a sense of vision and strong leadership.
That won't come from the outside, however. To be successful,
Jackson County needs to cultivate a stronger sense of direction
and a pool of qualified people to take the helm.
Our growth may be driven by forces outside the community, but
developers only construct with bricks, mortar, steel and wood.
It is up to us to construct leaders who have vision and strength.
The Commerce News
April 26, 2000
Of Justification For Raid
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno rolled
the dice early Saturday morning and this time she won.
A raid by U.S. Immigration Service and the Border Patrol managed
to extricate without bloodshed 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from
the home of Miami relatives who resisted every U.S. effort to
return custody of the youngster to his father.
The ordeal has been a nightmare for the Clinton Administration
and for Reno in particular, who is still haunted by the 1993
raid in Waco, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of men, women
and children in the Branch Dravidian sect. Saturday's raid was
a bold, decisive step that, had anyone been hurt or killed, would
have been condemned universally. But what set the stage for the
high-risk raid was the refusal of the child's Miami relatives
to surrender the child to the custody of his father.
One can also recall that in 1993, the disaster in Waco began
when the Branch Dravidians resisted federal authorities' attempts
to serve a warrant. The use of force, in the initial raid and
the subsequent finale, are certainly subject to review and criticism,
but the decision was made after attempts to go through the legal
process failed. Had the Waco raid been pulled off without the
gunfire, no one would remember anything about it today. But it
wasn't, and even now the case is in court.
Use of force should always be a last resort, because when armed
agents conduct a raid there is a strong possibility that bloodshed
will occur. The firing of a single shot, even a loud noise or
a sudden move, can start a bloodbath, even if the subjects of
the raid have no intention of resisting. There must be long and
deliberate consideration before any such action as to whether
the objective is worth the risk and whether the flouting of law
has reached a point where such a dangerous course of action is
Most Americans are relieved that the United States has taken
Elian Gonzalez, ending at least that phase of the biggest media
circus since Jon Benet Ramsey was killed. The matter will not
be resolved until (at least) yet another court hearing, but the
Cuban child is surely better off in the custody of his father
than in the hands of family members who seem more interested
in attacking Fidel Castro than in the welfare of the child.
What is more disturbing appears to be the use of overwhelming
force where there had been no public perception of physical danger
to the child.
The raid stunned even those with little or no interest in the
ongoing events and generated harsh criticism, even though public
sentiment overwhelmingly favors returning the child to his father's
custody. That criticism may be blunted by the success of the
raid, or when details of the status at the time are finally made
public. Some in Congress are calling for hearings and the Justice
Department seems eager to accommodate Congress so it can give
its version of events. Others are eager to condemn the raid and
the Clinton Administration for political reasons.
The prospect of armed agents of the government breaking down
doors in the middle of the night is frightening. Now that the
child is out of Miami, it will be up to the government to convince
a skeptical public that the raid was necessary and was truly
the last resort.
The Jackson Herald
April 26, 2000
Elian affair ugly and all sides share the
Ugly. That, in a word, describes the entire
Elian Gonzales affair.
There are no clean hands here, no side that can claim to have
taken the moral high road. Rather, the young Cuban boy has been
exploited by all sides, used as a pawn for a variety of political
At its core, the Elian affair is a custody dispute, and as in
many custody cases, there is bitterness by all parties. Any time
a custody dispute goes to court, warring parents attempt to paint
the other as the villain. That young Elian is torn between warring
camps makes him no different than thousands of his peers all
What does make him different, however, is that the federal government
has chosen to enforce Elian's custody with the use of force.
There are fathers all across the nation who have been cut off
from their children because of a disgruntled spouse, but the
government doesn't enforce those fathers' rights by sending in
the "black boots." No matter how one feels about the
merits of the Elian affair, the use of force to take him from
Miami was ugly.
One wonders, of course, if there would be such interest in Elian
if he had come from Haiti, or some other equally impoverished
country with little political clout in America. Had the circumstances
been the same, but the country different, he would have been
sent back overnight and it would never have been a major story
But before you join Elian's relatives in their tearful outrage,
consider how they, too, exploited him. Elian was paraded before
cameras in an effort to exert political pressure and the family
used him as a symbol of their anti-Castro politics. They pandered
to the Cuban-American community in Miami and refused the overtures
for a reasonable handling of the child. They can't claim any
of the moral high ground, either.
And it goes without saying that Castro and his puppet Cuban government
are in the moral gutter; whatever the true feelings of the parties
involved, Castro has sought to exploit a child and his father
to bolster his own corrupt regime. Ugly.
What makes this issue additionally complex is the lack of legal
standing by Elian. He is not an American citizen, and thus does
not enjoy the usual legal rights. That is why the federal government
is involved in the child's legal affairs. His status as an alien
resident puts him under federal jurisdiction, but because he
is a child, he has no ability to speak for himself.
Still, there are questions of human nature that override all
of the legal and political issues. Should a child be put with
his father rather than other relatives, even if doing so plays
to the father's homeland dictator? How do we balance what is
best for the child: A life under a dictatorship, but with his
father; or a life of freedom without his father?
One other issue also intrudes on this matter: We really don't
know the true wishes of the father since other members of his
family are being held hostage by Castro to make sure he dances
to the Cuban government's tune. If allowed to speak freely, what
would his real wishes be?
America is known all over the world as a land of freedom and
opportunity. That's one reason why Elian's mother risked her
life to bring him to America. Here, he has a future. In Cuba,
his life would be one of servitude to a corrupt dictator.
There are no clear answers in this case. Despite all the rhetoric
and political posturing, no one can easily decide what should
be done with this child. Those least able to decide are his family
because they all have motives other than doing what is best for
Elian. He is too young to speak for himself, yet his father cannot
speak freely for him either.
So it is up to the American judicial system to decide what Elian's
fate will be.
And given the state of our courts, that, too, is an unsettling
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
April 26, 2000
Effects Of Columbine Still Linger
Last Thursday was one year after the tragedy
at Columbine High School near Denver, and if you don't think
the effects of that incident have rippled into education all
across America, you're living in a vacuum.
After the follow-up shooting at Heritage High School, this area
had its own hysteria amid false reports of "hit lists"
in the Jefferson School System and repeated bomb threats at Jackson
County and Banks County. But those aren't the worst of it.
Elsewhere, first grade students are prosecuted for allegedly
plotting to kill a classmate. Kindergarten students are suspended
from school for playing cops and robbers and pointing their fingers
like guns. Every expression of violence, whether in the heat
of an argument or in creative writing, is prosecuted as a real
Students and staff at Commerce High School were issued photo
ID cards, which they were required to wear visibly at all times
(a requirement that was quickly ignored). Security suddenly became
a primary focus.
Our culture of violence is two-edged; our entertainment, from
video games to movies to professional hockey and wrestling, glorifies
violence, yet we are paranoid about violence coming into our
homes, automobiles and schools.
We like to think of ourselves as enlightened, people who can
separate the violence of play or the violence of entertainment
from real life. The reality is that some people can't make that
distinction. They think violence is manly, that it can solve
whatever problem arises and that it has no lasting consequences.
After all, the video game never runs out of "lives"
if you've got another quarter, the good guy recovers from all
wounds and gets the girl, and the seemingly crippled professional
wrestler is back the next week as boisterous as ever. We are
never asked in those entertainment media to view the suffering
of victims, legal consequences of those convicted of violent
acts and the permanent damage done to the victims and their families.
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. Our culture tells something
quite different, as the T-shirt on a Wal-Mart patron recently
advised: "The 11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Kick Ass."
Society tells us to get even, to take what we want.
For most people, there's a great leap between violence in entertainment
and committing violent acts themselves, but it only takes one
person to create a tragedy. In Columbine, two disturbed kids
stunned the world, devastated their community and changed forever
the way we look at schools. All for what they thought would be
The result is lasting shame for their families left behind to
deal with the results, lasting anguish for the families of the
13 who died and lasting pain for those who survived but will
never be the same again. The result is also an atmosphere of
paranoia in education, fear that every thought of evil or violence
should be reported, analyzed and prosecuted.
The love affair with violence in entertainment continues, but
we suspend kindergartners for playing cops and robbers.