Madison County Opinion...

 June 28, 2000

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
June 28, 2000

Frankly Speaking

Why we celebrate July 4th
Why do we celebrate July 4th? What are the parades, concerts, speeches, fireworks and cookouts all about? On this day 224 years ago, 56 men signed their names to a one-page, hand-written declaration dissolving the union between 13 colonies and the British Crown. In signing the document, these men were fully aware of the risk they ran. In the last sentence, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Each of them paid a high price for their actions. Each of them suffered severe loss, ranging from their freedom, their families, their property, and often their lives.
Most of you have a general idea of what is in the Declaration of Independence, but are you sure you fully understand the intent of those brave men? For example, if I ask you to quote the best-known sentence from the Declaration of Independence, you would likely say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." But can you quote the most important sentence?
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies. Formally publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of Right out be Free and Independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiances to the British Crown, and that all political connections between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which Independent States may of right do."
Read the above paragraph again. Read it carefully, and you will make a startling discovery. The Declaration of Independence does not declare the United States of America to be a free and independent nation. It declares each of the 13 colonies to be Free and Independent States!
This is where the argument for states' rights begins. Each state was free and independent. Each of them voluntarily assigned a limited portion of their rights as free states to the federal government by approving the U.S. Constitution. Then by ratifying the 10th amendment, they specifically reserved all other powers to themselves or to the people.
I am convinced that our great wars to preserve our independence have been lost. We are no longer a nation of free and independent states. Our states are now under almost total domination of that same national government we formed to preserve our freedom. We need a new American revolution.
How do we fight this war? We must hold our elected officials to a pledge to uphold the Constitution by restoring limited federal government, greatly reducing federal taxes and bureaucracy and returning power to the states. We must seek out and support those candidates for president, senate and house who will pledge to return sovereignty to the states, even if we have to turn to the small parties to find them.
It took direct action by our founding fathers to win our freedoms. We must make the same commitment to restore them.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at

By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
June 28, 2000

For You, Daddy
I remember the summer evening and the bats wheeling overhead as I ran back and forth in the damp grass. I remember my mother's voice calling me to come in. Daddy felt bad, she said. He wanted me to come in please, because he was worried about me taking a chill.
I looked up at the sky one last time. Dark was coming on fast. I smelled the smell of sweet summertime and watched the bats wheeling overhead. I spread out my arms to fly....
It is the last totally carefree moment that I remember. I knew as I walked back toward the house and my sick father that he would die. If I had known it before then I can't really say. But when I walked in the house and back to the bedroom where my mother knelt by the bed washing Daddy's feet, I knew. I sat next to him and rubbed his back, laying my head against his shoulder. His breathing was heavy and labored and he no longer seemed like the daddy I knew.
He didn't have the breath to play or laugh with me. His body was burdened and ravaged by disease; his mind depressed and absorbed with problems I couldn't begin to guess at. My 10-year-old soul could not absorb it all.
The next day we took Daddy to the doctor and he told him to go to the hospital. On the way out of the building, he stopped to talk to his friend, the janitor of the medical center, who suffered from emphysema as well. Daddy shook his hand solemnly. I know that he knew it was for the last time.
At the hospital the nurses put him in a wheelchair and he held out his "Sunday" hat to me. "Keep this for me," he said and I kissed him goodbye, rubbing my face against the stubble on his cheek.
I stepped back reluctantly and watched as he was wheeled down the hall. He looked at me and smiled sadly as the elevator doors closed between us. When I could no longer see him, I looked down at the hat in my hand. The band was beaded with sweat and I took a finger and rubbed it and kissed the moisture on my finger. All these moments are frozen in time.
Daddy lapsed into a coma the next day. I never saw him again.
All night the night before he died, Sam, our black Labrador, howled at the moon; long mournful howls. I tossed and turned in bed with my Aunt Donnie and dreamed of Daddy's funeral, bats wheeling overhead and black dogs howling at the moon.
In the morning my pillow was wet and the world I had known up to that time was gone, with all the security and comfort that my Daddy, only Daddy, could provide.
Now 31 years later, an old "Sunday" hat still rests in the bottom of my bureau drawer, along with other keepsakes.
I'm still keeping it for you, Daddy.
(This is a tribute to the memory of my father, Joe Gordon, who died June 30, 1969.)

Send Us A Letter

By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
June 28, 2000

Violence is never the answer
The murder of Douglas Benton has grabbed the attention of people across the state. The details of his death are shocking and repulsive. Yet still we clamor for more. The more sordid the story, the more people want to know. And press members such as myself scramble for every little nugget of information about the case to share with the public.
It's sickening to all involved. But news of this nature cannot be ignored.
Still, the tragedy of the situation cannot be exaggerated. Three kids are without a father. According to those who knew him, Benton was a kind and quiet man, willing to help others. He looked out for his neighbors and for his kids.
In his place now is a gap that can't be filled. And apart from the wounds he suffered, other lives have been torn apart.
Unfortunately, many will associate Benton's name with the way he left the world, a final injustice inflicted by his murderer(s).
It remains to be seen whether Benton was murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Tracy Fortson, who was charged with the crime. Investigators are now saying it appears she acted alone.
Hopefully, the investigation will reveal the truth and those with any participation will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
That's the best anyone can hope for now.
But a tragedy of this nature also deserves some introspection from all.
Most everyone is shaking their head wondering how someone could be filled with such evil.
However, every week Madison County crime reports show fists thrown in homes, threats and assaults against "loved ones."
In fact, there are many people quite willing to cross boundaries that should never be violated, drawing blood and bruises from those closest to them. Many of those who do these things face complex issues, such as substance abuse problems that are not easily conquered. There may be long stretches of good intentions, followed by short, but destructive, lapses into weakness.
Of course, it's easy for people to judge others. And oftentimes, words hurled by those ignorant of another's experience prove more harmful than helpful.
But domestic violence is perhaps the greatest problem in this country today. Consider that the best curriculum in the world may not help the kid whose dad beats his mother with the end of a pistol.
There is an awful cycle in many families of private hurt thrown on top of private hurt. And those raised in this type of environment often impose this lifestyle on their children.
Remember: Someone who acts violently toward one he is supposed to love is no longer a positive force in that person's life. And those who flail closed fists at others should also realize that they may provoke fear, but they do not demand respect. Because respect comes only when it is offered.
Last week's discovery of Benton's murder was shocking and sad. The man was denied years of life and treated in the cruelest of ways with utter disrespect.
As we consider the sickness of this story, we must also consider that violence is never a remedy to a problem. It's a sickness.
And unfortunately, in this county and in this country, many are infected.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

Letter To The Editor
The Madison County Journal
June 28, 2000

Former mayor speaks
out about water dispute

Dear editor:
Regarding recent statements concerning the water line contract dispute with Athens-Clarke County (ACC) and the city of Hull, the facts are as follows:
1.) The area to be served by the water line in dispute was in desperate need of the service. Mayor Wayne Phillips and the city council took on the major challenge to get water for the needy residents.
2.) The contract signed with ACC was approved by the entire Hull City Council, although only Mayor Phillips' signature was required.
3.) The final contract was reviewed and it was understood that revenues for water sales would not be credited. The reason given by the ACC was because of the cost of line maintenance.
4.) Former Mayor Phillips is disappointed to learn that the contract made with ACC has not been adhered to by the subsequent mayor and council.
5.) Some of those on the current council, as well as the current mayor, were among those to be served by the water line dispute.
We (the then mayor and council) got the best deal we could for the least amount of cost to the city. The people to be served were part of Hull and we wanted to give them some assistance with, and relief from, their water crisis. The contract with ACC was determined feasible and agreed to in good faith.
I regret it if my statments cost my hometown of Hull any revenues, but I feel the integrity of both the (then) council members and myself - as representatives of a great community - have been called into question - at least by ACC officials.

Sincerely, Dr. T. Wayne Phillips

MCHS athletes should get out
of stands and onto football field

Dear editor:
I recently heard that Madison County High School is the largest school in AAA. With the coming of summer football practice in mind, it's pretty sad when you field a team that resembles that of a small class A football squad. Yeah, there are plenty of so-called athletes at that school. You can hear them talk about how good they would be if they were out there. Many of these so-called athletes come out for the first couple days of practice, but they are gone after a few days. However, come fall you'll find them in the stands "trying" flirt with the girls, talking about how good they are. Obviously, these guys are all talk, no action, and don't have the heart to make the physical sacrifice to wear the pads on Friday night. I know that football is not for everyone - it's not easy - but there should be a hundred guys on that team. You only have four years to play, make them count. Talk to anyone who played and he'll tell you that they wished they had just one more game. Playing ball is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don't let it pass you by. So for all you underclassmen, who are thinking about playing: go out, you'll remember it for the rest of your life. And for all you talkers: put your money where you mouth is and see how good you really are.

Sincerely, Thomas Munro, Raider football letterman 1997-1998
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