The Commerce News
November 21, 2001
One Day Not Enough For Giving Thanks
Thursday is Thanksgiving, our national holiday usually associated
with gluttony, football games, family gatherings and the official
start of the Christmas season, though judging from television
commercials, someone has jumped the gun there.
A typical holiday scenario would show a family of Mom, Dad, Brother
and Sister, perhaps joined by aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents,
feasting on Thursday on turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, scads
of vegetables, dressing, cranberry sauce and various pies, perhaps
dining off the best china. After lunch, the women would visit
and make their plans for the next day's shopping and the men
would lounge around the television set, breaking at commercials
for another slice of pumpkin, apple, cherry or mincemeat pie.
The evening would find the men still glued to the TV and inserting
an occasional turkey sandwich among the pie slices.
That works for me. Add a little salt-water fly fishing Thursday
and Friday mornings, remove about 75 percent of the traffic from
Interstate 75, and there's a recipe for a great holiday.
But every year, as I struggle to put a fresh face on the mandatory
Thanksgiving editorial and/or column, it seems to me that while
a day of giving thanks is appropriate, that day should be every
day. There is no question that we all have much for which to
be thankful; but to whom do we give that thanks?
For people of faith, that is not a problem; we give thanks to
our god. For agnostics or atheists or those who don't place themselves
anywhere, who knows? Yet we all have equal ability to feel thankful.
Being thankful makes us acknowledge that the good things in life
aren't automatic. Life deals out health, fortune, good luck,
opportunity and safety, but it also deals out poor health, bad
luck, missed opportunities and tragedies. Not every airplane
lands safely, not every child is born healthy, not every marriage
is blissful. Life is not warrantied against disaster, difficulty
Most of the citizens of this planet live in poverty so extreme
that the poorest American would be rich by comparison. We see
the protruding bellies of the starving regularly on TV but feel
almost like they're so removed from our reality as to be on another
planet. War-torn countries exist only in the news for most of
us, out of our daily thinking.
Americans are not so much blessed by their own hard work as by
that of those who preceded them. Had there been no men and women
dedicated enough, wise enough and strong enough to build a republic
based on democratic representation and free enterprise and strong
enough to prevent its dissolution in the late 19th century, we
would not be so blessed today. The people in other countries
are not so fortunate.
In recent weeks, maybe we've been reminded of our good fortune,
made more aware of how precious the things are that we accept
as our inheritance as Americans. Life, liberty, family, friends,
nationwide stability, wealth, our entire "American"
way of life are not God-given rights, even in this country.
Be grateful daily. Thanks-giving is a state of mind, not a holiday;
we have too much for which to give thanks to limit thankfulness
to one day.
The Jackson Herald
November 21, 2001
Proclamation of 1863
"It is the duty of nations as well as of men to swear their
dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their
sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope
that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to
recognize the sublime truth, announced in holy scriptures and
proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God
is the Lord.
"We know that by his divine law, nations, like individuals,
are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world.
May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which
now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us
for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national
reformation as a whole people?
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of
heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and
prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no
other nation has ever grown.
"But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious
hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched
and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness
of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some
superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken
success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity
of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God
that made us.
"It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly,
reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and
one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore, invite
my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also
those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign
lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November
as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father
who dwelleth in the heavens."
Signed: A. Lincoln
October 3, 1863
The Jackson Herald
November 21, 2001
The trouble with Harry
I've always thought that the best writers must be a little wacky.
Edger Allan Poe was nothing if not insane. Hemingway battled
personal demons for years before ending his life. Depressed poets
are a dime a dozen.
But the current literary sensation, J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter
fame, is apparently normal and very sane. Even after conservative
critics branded her books as tools of Satan, Rowling continues
to display the famous English pluck.
All of us in the writing business should have such luck. From
unemployed single mom to bazillionaire book and movie mogul,
Rowling has accomplished what every writer aspires to be - a
name recognized in virtually every household in the world.
In fact, the Harry Potter series is credited by many for having
revived the lost art of reading among the young. In a world filled
with electronic gadgets and gizmos of every flavor, and a culture
that is rooted in video as "reality," many children
seldom actually read books. Rowling and Harry Potter changed
Of course, not everyone admires Rowling. As the Harry Potter
movie set box office records the past week, critics have also
gotten a higher profile. That's especially true among a group
of Christian leaders who claim the Potter series leads children
into witchcraft and the occult.
But that seems like an odd reaction. To claim that a child's
fantasy book is leading kids into witchcraft is to give credibility
to such practices. Frankly, I'm not a ghosts and goblins believer,
although it is said that the spirit of a dead printer haunts
The Herald's office building. When equipment breaks down, we
blame it on the printer's ghost. He really doesn't like computers.
While magic may be fun for a child's book fantasy, the casting
of spells and other occult practices is a bunch of foolishness
for adults. Even more foolish, however, is the reaction by Christian
groups in giving such practices credibility. Every denunciation
of witchcraft by Christians is tantamount to saying that an occult
world really does exist.
Some fundamentalist Christians do believe in the power of an
occult world - that in essence, life is really nothing more than
a struggle between the virtues of Christianity and the lure of
a Satanic power. What these Christians oppose is labeled as being
Satan-inspired acts. From this worldview, all actions are either
led by Godly powers or Satanic powers; man does nothing for himself
and is just a pawn in this cosmic struggle.
The current war on terrorism is seen by some as the ultimate
expression of this struggle. In the minds of some Christians,
it is a battle of religions where God leads a Christian army
against Satan, who appears in the guise of Muslims.
While the war on terrorism is indeed a struggle of good vs. evil,
it defies my understanding of the world to say that both sides
are just pawns of spiritual warriors. To cast this war in that
light is to absolve the acts of terrorism by saying it is not
caused by evil men, but rather by an unworldly power that controls
and manipulates evil within men.
There's no doubt that evil exists, but one cannot explain evil
acts by simply saying that they came from Satanic powers. To
do so would be to absolve man of his evil actions by allowing
them to be blamed on some unknown and unseen force. That is not
the nature of mankind in my book.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Harry Potter series is that
his struggle against the dark powers which seek to destroy him
is rooted in self, not spiritual underpinnings. While Harry does
represent good in the books, he fights his opponents with a mixture
of good magic and innate courage. Critics charge that any representation
of good should be rooted in Christian beliefs and not in Harry's
devotion to witchcraft.
But I don't see any of that as being incompatible with one's
religious beliefs. Courage and goodness spring from a human well
deep within each person. Perhaps it is driven by religious values,
or perhaps it is driven by a sense of selflessness that rises
But whatever the metaphysical meaning that drives Harry, in the
end the book series is just a good read for children. It is light
and fanciful and while it brings few new elements to the genre
of children's literature, it does amplify old themes in a new
and fresh way.
I'm sure that within a few days, I'll be taking my 8-year-old
and 6-year-old boys to the theater to see how Hollywood transformed
a magical book into a movie. For the 8-year-old, Harry's flying
around on a broomstick will likely be the highlight. But the
6-year-old will be looking for the scene where Harry sticks his
magic wand up the nostril of a mountain troll. He thinks troll
boogers are a riot.
And isn't imagination and laughter what childhood is all about?
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
November 21, 2001
To Be Thankful This Year
America is at war. Terrorists threaten the country with massive
destruction and we are not over the events of Sept. 11. The economy
appears to be headed toward recession. People are uneasy.
So America finds itself in flux as its national day of Thanksgiving
arrives; yet perhaps now more than ever are Americans thankful
about their country, their families and the opportunities that
come with being here.
As the dust settled around the World Trade Center, the public
was made tragically aware of the fact that our police, fire and
emergency medical personnel stand to put themselves at risk on
our behalf at any moment. As President Bush ordered troops to
Afghanistan, we were reminded that our armed forces personnel
are always on call to put their lives on the line when the need
Yet, even amidst the turmoil that began Sept. 11, our form of
government was never at risk, our personal freedoms not seriously
threatened. Stunned though we were, life has returned to normal,
though a new normalcy at that. We remain the freest and most
prosperous nation in the world.
As the net closes around the Taliban, Americans, seeing the oppression
under which Afghan citizens suffered under fundamentalist Islam,
can only appreciate more the freedom we have to worship and the
freedom we have from religious tyranny. Surely the contrast between
the poverty and desperation of the Afghan people caught between
warring factions also reminds us of not only our prosperity and
freedom, but also of the security we enjoy even in this
uncertain time. Meanwhile the scope of the murderous attacks
on civilians Sept. 11 reminds us that our loved ones are precious
and makes us all the more thankful for them.
"God Bless America" has become the national mantra
and as our national day of Thanksgiving arrives, America can
readily see so much for which to be grateful. Recent events serve
to remind us of all that we have and hold dear, of the love we
have for our families, friends and one another, of the material
and spiritual blessings which we have too often taken for granted.
America has always been truly blessed; at Thanksgiving 2001,
we are truly thankful.
Bad Precedent, Bad Idea
Those who lament the loss of civil liberties as America tries
to find those responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
and to prevent others from happening have more reason to be worried.
Last week, President George Bush signed an executive order to
allow the government to try people accused of terrorism in a
military trial instead of a civilian court.
The advantages to the government are obvious; with trials conducted
in secrecy, the government can better protect its witnesses against
retribution and protect all participants in the event that it
is believed that the trial would put civilians in danger. In
addition, there are precedents; similar actions took place in
the Civil War and in World War II.
But precedents don't necessarily warrant policy and civil libertarians
have good reason to be concerned. While use of a military court
would make it easier to try and convict terrorists, the system
would also be easily abused. Today one may welcome extra protection
against outside threats, but the right of a fair trial by a jury
of fellow citizens is one of the nation's most cherished traditions
The precedents cited in defending Bush's order are hardly assuring.
Confederate sympathizers in the north were imprisoned without
reason during the Civil War; citizens of Japanese origin were
detained just for being Japanese during World War II. Both decisions
went down in history as examples of government abuse. Let us
hope the Bush Administration can avoid making the same mistake.