Jackson County Opinions...

September 19, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 19, 2001

We Can Rebuild Something Better From The Ashes
We've had a week to absorb the shock, feel the anger and think about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and still the scope of devastation is beyond reckoning. Reports trickle in of our own people who were directly affected because they or their loved ones were at or near the scene. The toll in human tragedy, as in any disaster, is incalculable, not just in the lives lost, but also in the lives changed.
Yet, tragedies have their positive aspects; Pearl Harbor served to free the world from a horrible tyranny and gave rise to the "Greatest Generation." Disasters make us focus on the events at hand to the extent that we set aside the things that drive us apart and we come together to deal with the crisis. Last Tuesday night, a congress that 24 hours before couldn't agree on whether or not the nation was involved in deficit spending stood together singing "God Bless America" and on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution of unity. Southerners who on Monday would have dismissed all New Yorkers as damn Yankees on Tuesday wept for them, prayed for them and gave blood for them.
It is too early to tell, but the unifying nature of this attack may spread throughout the world, bringing responsible nations to the table to seriously deal with terrorist groups. Perhaps only Israel among all nations has fully understood the need to treat harshly those who use terror against civilians to achieve their goals. Today, maybe other governments are thinking about their responsibilities in relation to terrorists who commit acts of terror elsewhere but who use their countries for training, to hide, to manage their money or to acquire weapons.
On Wednesday, Senator Max Cleland, being interviewed by one of the networks about the country's reaction to the attack, quoted Admiral Yamamoto, who planned and carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor. "I feel I may have awakened a slumbering giant," Yamamoto said, and subsequent events proved him right. And was it President Bush who commented that Sept. 11, while being the worst day in American history, might also be its best?
Let's face it. America has been complacent about world events in the past decade. Our attention was on the Dow Jones Industrials, the spread of technology and the pursuit of enjoyment and material goods. Sept. 11 shook us out of a spiritual lethargy and it could make us better human beings if we'll stay focused. It made us see the suffering of thousands but it also restored our sense of humanity; it both astounded us at man's capacity for depravity and restored our faith in mankind with reports of heroism, self-sacrifice and the outpouring of support.
That Sept. 11, 2001, will live in infamy is a certainty. The evil, the damage and the suffering are now part of our history. What remains to be seen is whether we will build something good to top the ashes of disaster. The potential for good is unlimited.
Hopefully, that is how America as individuals will respond. How better to react to this great evil than to commit ourselves to being better people building a better America?



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
September 19, 2001

Here's what Bush should say...
Everyone has an opinion on how President Bush should proceed in dealing with those responsible for last week's terrorists attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. For what it's worth, here's what we'd like to hear the president say in the coming weeks:
My fellow Americans. I come to you tonight from the Oval Office, but half a world away, American forces are laying waste to Kabul, Afghanistan. Through diplomatic channels, we demanded that the regime in Afghanistan to turn over the terrorists operating out of their country and all financial resources of those groups. The Afghanistan leaders refused. Tonight is the start of our response to that nation, and indeed any nation, which knowingly harbors terrorists within its borders.
I would advise everyone, both friend and foe alike, to listen closely as I outline exactly where America stands this day:
We want all known terrorists linked to those who carried out the attacks in this nation turned over to the United States from wherever they may be hiding. We want all the assets of these groups seized by the governments of those countries and those funds turned over to the families of the victims of the attacks on America.
We expect our allies to cooperate in this effort, for their fate is tied directly to our fate. If for some reason our friends refuse to help us in this, we will use all available covert means to capture, dead or alive, those terrorists who seek shelter in any nation anywhere in the world.
To our foes who refuse to hand over these terrorists and their resources, we say watch CNN tomorrow morning when the images begin flowing out of Afghanistan of what is left of their capital city. If you shelter terrorists, support terrorism or profit from terrorists, your fate will match, or exceed, that of Afghanistan.
To my fellow Americans, I want to ask that you remain calm in this difficult time. This is not a Holy War we are engaged in and this nation will not tolerate reprisals against those who practice Islam, or any other faith. If we are to be the light of freedom in the world, we have to practice freedom in our own communities first.
I want to close tonight with a quote from Captain Simeon Ecuyer during the French and Indian War siege of Fort Pitt:
"Hammer the American hard enough and you forge the best weapon in the world."
We have been hammered, but from the anvil of New York and Washington has risen a nation forged in strength and determined to avenge the evil which visited our shores September 11, 2001.
Good night, and may God Bless America!

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 19, 2001

Jefferson mayor's race a key battle
It feels almost obscene to write about local politics this week. The dust has yet to settle in New York and Washington, D.C., from last week's terrorists attacks. The shadow of that event casts a wide pall across our land and dwarfs our seemingly petty concerns here.
The strange emotional mix of apprehension about the future with patriotic unity is something new to my generation. Although I can vaguely recall the emotions which surrounded the assassination of JFK, that event now seems small when compared to what we witnessed last week.
And yet, for all the uncertainty of these last few days, our lives and the lives of our individual communities move on. Tuesday, Jackson County citizens had an election on a sales tax issue and last week a number of people came forward to run for local municipal office. Local governments are in the process of setting tax rates and reviewing budgets for the coming year and people are concerned about a variety of zoning issues.
And so we forge ahead.
***

One of the biggest issues this fall will be the local city election for mayor of Jefferson between long-time incumbent Byrd Bruce and challenger Jim Joiner. It will be a watershed struggle for the town and may mark where the community is headed for years to come.
Jefferson has long been a typical small town with its share of petty politics and other "family feud" issues. But for a number of years, it did have strong leadership, albeit not always totally democratic in nature. Still, whatever the shortcomings, one did have a feeling that town leaders were progressive and forward-thinking. We might argue among ourselves over the governance process, but the decisions being made were generally positive for the community.
Over the last decade, that sense of leadership has largely diminished. If Jefferson were a ship, it'd be difficult to name a captain today.
That unfortunate decline in leadership has come at a time when the town has seen great challenges as a community. Growth is straining infrastructure and resources in ways that didn't exist just a few years ago. But for all the strain on the system, there is seemingly little interest in those issues by city leaders. It is pretty much business as usual, circa 1980.
None of this is really news to Jefferson leaders. To their credit, some have recognized the situation and earlier this year, established a new form of government with a city manager.
And that, in a nutshell, is THE issue of the upcoming mayor's campaign. Bruce opposes the city manager government and wants to create a full-time mayor's position. Joiner supports the city manager government and wants to see it succeed when it becomes effective Jan. 1, 2002.
As the incumbent, Bruce is in the position of defending his record as mayor. Indeed, there are many positive things Bruce is responsible for, such as investing city resources at I-85 where today stand a number of industries.
But Bruce's critics charge that the mayor can't live in the past and run simply on what he did 15 years ago. In addition, critics claim Bruce has lost interest in the mayor's duties, preferring to deal with city business out of his restaurant and not exercising a strong hand over a fractious and sometimes unruly city council.
Earlier this week, Bruce added to that criticism when he appointed councilman C.D. Kidd to "oversee" the city police department. Each councilmemeber in Jefferson is nominally "over" a city department. It's a bad system, but that's another story.
The naming of Kidd to oversee the police department was a shot not just across the bow, but directly into the ship. Joiner had previously been the councilman over the police department, but to run for mayor he had to give up his council seat. In naming Kidd to replace Joiner in that position, Bruce took a sledgehammer to those he believes support Joiner.
A few weeks ago, Kidd had a verbal altercation with a Jefferson policeman during a call at a local apartment complex. In the aftermath of that incident, Kidd verbally threatened the job of police chief Darren Glenn, according to a report filed by Glenn.
What Bruce set up, then, is nothing more than a slam at Glenn, who Bruce apparently considers a Joiner supporter. It's an untenable position for Kidd and Glenn and is sure to lead to a lot of internal conflict within city government. And critics ask, if he does this in the middle of a campaign, what actions would he take to undermine the city manager government next year?
It remains to be seen what kind of campaign will result in this key race. But while Bruce has the incumbent's advantage, his traditional base of support appears to be dwindling. New residents who don't have strong ties to Bruce or the city are ripe for a new face in city government. And even some long-time Bruce supporters are saying that the mayor should have retired at the end of this term and not put his name on the ballot again.
Whatever the outcome, this race is a turning point for Jefferson residents. The two candidates are strikingly different in their views. More than most city elections, this race will be one with a stark contrast.
How Jefferson residents view themselves, and the future of their community, will be spelled out clearly with the outcome in November.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
September 19, 2001

The Need For Blood Is Always Critical
One of the good things that came out of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was that record numbers of Americans turned out to give blood. In fact, there were so many donors and potential donors that some blood banks were actually full.
America in general and the southeast in particular have had blood shortages for many months. It would be nice to think that a positive legacy from a terrible event would be a renewed willingness of our people to give blood, not just in times of national or regional emergency, but regularly.
There are virtually always emergency needs for blood to treat disease and for surgery, whether it is planned surgery or emergency surgery, as in the case of accidents. In the past couple of years though, the region's blood supply has often dipped to critically low levels. Locally, blood drives that used to get 100 donors do well to bring in half that many, and the Red Cross has struggled to attract donors.
It is heartening to see people responding in this time of great need, but we should remember that the need for blood is always critical. For the cancer patient, the hemophiliac, the accident victim or the person facing major surgery, blood products or raw blood are just as important as they were to victims of the Sept. 11 attack.
The Red Cross has regular blood drives at several local industries. It also has regular community blood drives at the First Baptist Church of Commerce and holds blood drives at BJC Medical Center, Jackson EMC and the Tanger Outlets. Its Blood Center in Athens is open daily. The next community blood drive is Monday, Oct. 8, at the First Baptist Church of Commerce, so Commerce area residents who still want to do something to help those in need will have the opportunity. Hopefully, the public-spiritedness that exists now will still be present on Oct. 8 and area residents will turn out in great number to do their part.
We're All Americans
It isn't on the same scale as the attacks last Tuesday on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but some Americans are resorting to equally cruel acts of terror against civilians.
Reports from all over America indicate that people of Arabic descent, Muslims, and immigrants of all sorts are being harassed, threatened, beaten and even killed as if they were connected to terrorist groups.
We need to understand that Americans come in all colors, from all ethnic backgrounds and from all religious groups. American Muslims are just as shocked and angry about last Tuesday's attacks as the rest of us ­ maybe more so, because they understand how the attacks violate the Muslim principles and how they reflect on America's perception of Islam. If we learned anything from our treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, we should apply it now.
The Commerce area has a sizeable Muslim community and there are numerous good citizens here of Middle Eastern descent ­ including many who immigrated within the past two decades. Being American means more than waving the flag in this time of trial; it means accepting people of different religions and cultural backgrounds. It means showing tolerance, kindness and understanding to fellow citizens of all religions and backgrounds, all colors and creeds.
If Americans of Middle Eastern descent or followers of Islam are afraid to go out in public, then the terrorists who struck Tuesday have won. If the attacks cause harassment of discrimination, the terrorists have won.
Now is not a time for hatred of fellow citizens. It rather is a time to embrace and support them as fellow citizens and fellow Americans.


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