The Commerce News
September 12, 2001
This War? The Pearl Harbor Of 2001?
First of all, I hope everyone will vote to extend the special
purpose local option sales tax for education next Tuesday. A
column to that effect would be in this space but for the remarkable
events of Tuesday.
The first thought I had when it became apparent that the events
were caused by terrorists was that now I know how Americans felt
in 1941 when Pearl Harbor attacked.
Maybe. At least then, we knew who was responsible. But Tuesday
as I write this, nothing is known, though I heard one Defense
spokesperson compare the events to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The next few weeks will be fascinating.
I've long pondered what the national response would be to a massive
terrorist attack in which the identity of the perpetrators remained
unknown. Will Americans call for blood? You bet.
The speculation has already started as to whether a terrorist
group could mount this kind of attack without the support of
an Iraq, and Iran or some other state that equates America with
the "Great Satan."
If it becomes readily accepted that some country is involved,
a declaration of war is a distinct possibility. But what if the
best we can do is determine that a group, which gets funding
or other assistance or is merely befriended by such a state,
proves to be the culprit? Do we still declare war on the basis
of guilt by association?
We can find someone to blame for this. Clips of Palestinians
dancing in the streets of East Jerusalem can and no doubt will,
be duplicated in Tehran, Baghdad, Kabul and elsewhere and could
serve to incite the kind of bloodlust that could cause our leaders
to identify a target for revenge as much to satisfy the public
as to exact punishment.
But the Pearl Harbor analogy can go further too. That attack
united America, caused us to focus and led to the defeat of the
Axis in World War II. It may well be that the terrorist group
that instigated this tragedy will find that it signed its own
death warrant, finally moving to action the kind of massive response
only a superpower can provide. It doesn't take a brain surgeon
to figure that counterterrorist organizations, the CIA and the
military will get everything they need to respond. Likewise,
policies targeting terrorists, including assassination of foreign
leaders, may be re-established in this time of need. If there
is one thing of which we can be certain, it is that terrorist
groups will get the full and undivided attention of the U.S.
government. All resources will be be available.
Our chore will be to manage our anger and frustration, to avoid
the kinds of shameful actions that led to, among other things,
the internment of the Japanese in the months after Pearl Harbor.
If our national response is to lash out blindly against all who
look like our enemies, if we suspend constitutional rights, if
we cower under this new threat, then the terrorists will have
Let's be wise and patient until we know who is responsible for
this unprecedented terrorist attack. Then we'll show the terrorists
and their supporters just how strong, united and powerful we
The Jackson Herald
September 12, 2001
Next Tuesday, voters in Jackson County will decide whether or
not to continue the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for
We believe that our local school systems have used those funds
wisely in the past and that voters should continue to support
the SPLOST for education.
Growth is putting a lot of pressure on our local schools. The
question is, how will we pay for the facilities to house these
We hope Jackson County voters will agree that a sales tax is
the best and fairest method to build the necessary infrastructure
for our schools.
Next Tuesday, we encourage a YES vote in favor of the education
Beatty wins video poker fight
Video poker will soon be history in Georgia and no doubt state
Democratic leaders will take credit for that action.
But the truth is, video poker was banned because Republican Sen.
Mike Beatty of Jefferson pushed the issue to the surface and
forced his opposing party to confront the matter.
During last winter's legislative session, Beatty attempted to
address the video poker issue, only to be met with resistance
from Democratic legislators. It's not that the Democratic Party
supported video poker, but rather they didn't want to give a
victory to a freshman Republican senator.
But as the video poker problem began to grow, legislators began
to come under fire for not having addressed the issue. Obviously,
the Democratic Party didn't want video poker to be an issue in
the 2002 elections and saw that the only way to avoid a potentially
devastating issue was to do away with the problem now.
While Beatty has been praised by his Republican colleagues, state
Democrats will no doubt attempt to take credit for the action.
Frankly, we don't care about the party politics, just that the
right thing has been done. And for that, we salute Sen. Beatty
and his persistence on the video poker issue.
The Jackson Herald
September 12, 2001
will not yield to fear
When terrorists dove commercial jets into the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon Tuesday morning, the symbolism was obvious -
it was a strike at the twin strengths of the American economy
and the American military.
The loss of life in this attack will likely climb into the thousands
and it will affect the lives of millions more. Sept. 11, 2001,
will long be remembered in the same way we remember Nov. 22,
1963, and the assassination of President Kennedy. Indeed, these
two events bridge across three generations and while the loss
of life differs, the psychological impact is the same. American
institutions were attacked because of what they represent and
the American people find themselves in a state of collective
shock and grief.
Tuesday's attacks were a strike not at strategic buildings, but
rather at American values. That is, of course, the very point
of terrorism. Whether the target is an individual or thousands
of people in buildings, terrorism seeks to spread fear and panic
among those who are not directly involved.
In today's wired culture, the birth and manipulation of this
fear is surprisingly easy. Tuesday's attacks were designed for
maximum dramatic impact, especially in television footage. Those
behind the events sought, and got, both the terrible images they
wanted and a virtual lockdown of America.
But Tuesday's events were not, as some politicians have stated,
another "Pearl Harbor." While both events do involve
surprise attacks on American soil, they do not share the same
evil parentage. Pearl Harbor was a military attack with military
objectives done by a known government. It led to America's entry
into a massive worldwide war that consumed millions of lives.
While a horrible event, Tuesday's attacks were apparently not
done by a powerful government, but rather by a relatively small
number of unknown terrorists whose goals were psychological,
not military. It will not lead to another world war and it did
not weaken America's military standing. To compare the two events
is to trivialize the sacrifices of those whose blood was shed
in the years following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
But Tuesday's events could weaken America by instilling a sense
of irrational fear that leads us to cede freedom in the name
of security. We've already seen smaller examples of how fear
can consume a nation. The Columbine High School shooting led
to days of rumors and fears in other schools across the nation.
Parents kept children at home not because of credible threats
to their safety, but rather because of unfounded rumors. An ugly
form of mob psychology took hold as fear erased reason. And because
of that tragic event, many of our high schools have installed
security systems that in any other environment would raise troubling
questions about individual liberty.
It is important, then, that our reaction as a nation to Tuesday's
events not come from fear, but rather from reason. However horrible
these events may be, we cannot afford to let terrorists manipulate
our society by using fear as their weapon of choice.
In the short term, of course, our response should be one of caution.
The closure of the nation's mass transit systems was the only
option given the events taking place Tuesday.
In the coming days, it is also appropriate that we collectively
mourn the great loss of life that resulted from this terrorism.
Thousands of innocent people died Tuesday not because they were
at war, but rather because they were simply Americans.
But once we overcome our numbness, once we mourn the great loss
of life, we should resume our lives in as normal a manner as
possible. To do otherwise would be to give those behind these
attacks the victory they seek.
And we must not let these events erode the essential freedoms
our nation has long embraced. We cannot trade liberty for security,
for in attempting to do so, we would only lose both.
So while our flags now fly at half-mast in honor of those who
died, the nation which those flags represent is unbowed.
We are strong. Our institutions are strong. Our people are strong.
We will not yield to fear.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
September 12, 2001
Vote 'Yes' To
Renew Education Sales Tax
Voters in Commerce and elsewhere should go to the polls next
Tuesday and vote "yes" for the special purpose local
option sales tax (SPLOST). It's the best scenario available for
the school systems in this fast-growing county to meet students'
Over the past five years, enrollment in the Commerce School System
has grown from 1,055 on opening day in 1996 to 1,321 this year.
Officials project that when the 2008 school year starts, there
will be 2,069 students in the system. When school started in
1996, the Jackson County School System boasted of 4,286 students;
today it educates 5,255. In that five years, the system has opened
two new middle schools and an intermediate school, has another
elementary school under construction and has added classrooms
at every school.
Conventional wisdom is that all of Jackson County is on the cusp
of great growth; in fact, we are in the midst of it, but the
pace is picking up. The need for new classroom space is already
upon us and there is no end in sight. The sales tax is merely
the most economical way of funding the construction that will
be necessary to educate all of those new children.
Historically, Jackson County residents have spent a lot of their
income in Clarke, Hall or Gwinnett counties where they helped
build the schools, roads, water systems and other infrastructure
for those counties. But with the retail development along Interstate
85 in the past two decades, now people from all of those areas
and beyond come here, where the sales taxes on their retail purchases
help finance school construction and build our infrastructure.
It is estimated that the Tanger II Factory Outlet Center alone
generates $2 million a year just for the Jackson County School
We have no choice but to provide schools and classrooms for the
new students entering our schools, but we do have a choice in
how we pay to build them. We can finance them for 20 years with
long-term bonds and pay three times the construction cost (with
property taxes) or we can pay them with the proceeds from sales
taxes, a large part of which is paid by shoppers from all over
the southeast who now spend their money in Jackson County.
Viewed in that context, a failure to pass the referendum and
extend the sales tax for another five years amounts to fiscal
irresponsibility. Make the smart choice and vote "yes"
Tuesday: Day Of Terror
The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, hijacked airplanes...America
is stunned by Tuesday's string of terrorist attacks on America.
Today, the top issue remains rescue and prevention. Tomorrow,
the more difficult task begins. Who is responsible and how should
the United States respond?
The investigation into these events will be the top priority
of a country damaged and provoked to furious anger by an attack
that ranks with that on Pearl Harbor that precipitated U.S. involvement
in World War II.
But let's exercise caution. Whatever retaliation this country
chooses should be measured and calculated, directed not by public
or political anger and desire for revenge, but for the purpose
of bring those responsible to justice including, it may
turn out, any government found to have supported the group making
the attack. The challenge of our leaders will tremendous: to
identify those responsible and to devise a means by which they
may be prosecuted while keeping the citizens calm. Of greater
damage to America than the loss of life and property would be
the loss of security, loss of freedom of movement or a reduction
of the openness America enjoys.
This is a test for all of us. How we respond in crisis will tell
us a lot about our strength and our character. We expect nothing
but the best.