Jackson County Opinions...

JULY 3, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
July 3, 2002

Not Exactly Helping With
God’s Reputation"
What are you going to do about the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals," Moses asked God during their Thursday morning round of golf last week. "Leprosy?"
He was referring to the court's 2-1 ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag is unconstitutional because of the phrase "one nation under God."
"I'm going to bless those two justices with wealth and long life. Finally, they did something right," God replied, as he hit a two-iron 440 yards down the 986-yard par four.
The response so shocked Moses that he pulled his tee shot into the rough.
"What do you mean?" he queried. "I'd have thought you'd at least send locusts, or maybe head lice. What's wrong with America?"
"Lots," God replied. "Just look at them. Why I would want my name associated with the United States? They're ruining my reputation."
"But I thought the country was founded along Biblical principles," Moses responded. "They're the richest nation in the history of the world. Surely, they've enjoyed your blessings."
"I keep telling you to read the other books of the Bible," God said. "Times have changed. Wealth and prosperity do not constitute holiness. America is rich, but look what it does with its wealth. Look at its culture of sex and materialism. They're worshipping Baal, if anyone. America has a tiny percentage of the world's population but uses huge amounts of its resources," God continued. "Its people are arrogant and shallow. They're more interested in the baseball standings than their spiritual life, and the very worst are those who insist that forcing kids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or pray every day in school will change things. How dare they claim they're a 'nation under God?'"
He chipped to within a foot of the hole with a six iron, waited a minute, and a strong wind came up and blew the ball in.
"Eagle," he said.
"But I thought you wanted them to be a 'nation under God,'" Moses insisted, turning his staff into a four-iron and chipping short of the green.
"I did, and it started that way," God replied, "and there are many who have not turned from me. But have you watched their TV, checked their music lyrics, calculated their substance abuse? It's more like 'one nation under the influence.' And get this - the No. 2 prayer in the nation, the Prayer of Jabez, seeks wealth and prosperity. I tell you, America worships at the altar of greed.”
Moses was catching on.
“So, you don’t like America saying it’s a nation ‘under’ you?”
“Bingo,” God replied. “If it were really one nation under me, folks would love their neighbors, use their wealth to help the less fortunate, take care of the environment and would turn to me instead of Rosie O’Donnell for wisdom.”
They played two more holes (God was six under) before Moses spoke again.
“Maybe you should go back to using prophets instead of billboards,” he suggested. “‘Come over to my house after the game,’ is pretty lame. Or, try newspaper advertising.”
“I’d sooner burn up Colorado,” God replied angrily.

The Jackson Herald
July 3, 2002

Family numbers are staggering
A Jackson County community profile done by the Family Connections Partnership published last week in this newspaper had some unsettling numbers.
The following info, for example, was glaring:
• A little over 30 percent of first births in Jackson County were to mothers who had not completed high school
• Some 25 percent of first births were to mothers under the age of 20 years old.
• Some 17 percent of first births had no father’s name on the birth certificate.
• Over 36 percent of female-headed households had children who were living below the poverty rate.
Despite tremendous advancements in education and social opportunity, these numbers show that a large segment of our society has failed to create strong, core family units.
While the idea of “non-traditional” families is currently in vogue among elitist commentators, one only has to look at the record to see that for most children, traditional families are the best hope for their future.
When the history of our era is written, it will be clear that even as our nation showed tremendous advancements in health care, mobility, educational opportunity and economic opportunity, a large number of people in our society will have fallen out of step with those achievements. The distance between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in our society will have widened and too many of our children will be born shackled into circumstances that even our best social welfare efforts will be unable to break.
There is no “one” answer to these problems. For many of those mired in these situations, broken or non-existent families is just one of many, many problems. Drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse create a myriad of health problems. A weak work ethic and a lack of desire to achieve is often endemic.
For children growing up under these conditions, the future is bleak. Not only do they often face situations of neglect and abuse, they seldom see solid adult role models outside of school. Even that is often too little, too late.
We do not have the answer to all these problems. Indeed, despite decades of research and billions of dollars spent by government agencies, the problems appear to have grown worse, not better.
A cultural shift is needed, a shift toward the rebuilding of strong, intact families. Only then will those children born into difficult circumstances have the foundation to begin climbing out of the mire.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
July 3, 2002

The legecy of Bill Rogers, Sr.
Georgia lost a giant of a man May 31 with the passing of Bill Rogers, Sr. in Swainsboro. Rogers was a Jackson County native, raised in Commerce as the son of a doctor. He married a Jefferson girl, the late Virginia “Vicki” Kesler, back at a time when going “across the river” to date a girl from a rival town must have been something akin to treason.
Somehow, Bill found himself attracted not to just a Jefferson girl, but also to journalism. He had a degree in psychology from Emory University, but then got a masters of art in journalism from the University of Georgia in 1950.
From there, he joined the staff of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times as a reporter and column writer. After a short stint with the Central of Georgia Railway in Savannah, he became managing editor of the True Citizen in Waynesboro, Ga. In 1959, he began purchasing The Swainsboro Forest Blade and from the pages of that paper, gained state and national prominence as one of the country’s outstanding weekly newspaper editors and publishers.
I had the good fortune to know Mr. Rogers as a friend and mentor. There are, indeed, many of us in Georgia newspapering who can point to Rogers’ influence on our careers.
Back in the days when family-owned newspapers were the rule rather than the exception, the Rogers family would gather with other state publishers and editors at Jekyll Island for the annual Georgia Press Association convention. It was at those meetings that Mr. Rogers first entered my world. On Friday night of the convention, during the annual awards banquet, The Blade dominated the weekly newspaper winnings. Indeed, during his tenure with The Blade, the newspaper won over 160 state and national awards. I was in awe of his skills. I’m still in awe today.
In 1969, Mr. Rogers became president of the GPA and a decade later, was president of the National Newspaper Association. To both organizations, he gave back a huge amount to his profession in time and talent.
But he gave back in smaller ways as well. One year while I was in college, I spent a summer at The Blade working for Mr. Rogers on an internship. The lessons I learned there have followed me throughout my career. In making difficult editing decisions, I often ask myself how Bill Rogers would have acted.
I remember one discussion vividly from that summer internship. I had met with the mayor of Swainsboro about a story from a city council meeting. The mayor had proposed some now-forgotten action that was rooted in a subtle effort of racial bias.
I told Mr. Rogers of the meeting and proposal and of the fact that the underlying motive was racial, not public service.
“Doesn’t matter what the motive is,” he replied. “If it’s the right thing to do, it ought to be done anyway.”
I knew he meant it because he was one of the most sensitive editors I’ve ever known about race relations. During the 1960s when public schools were being integrated and South Georgia was exploding in rage and resentment, Bill Rogers was one of the few white leaders to go on record in favor of school integration. The backlash against him and The Blade was harsh. He told me once that people would even cross the street in the small town so as not to have to pass him by.
All of that resentment eventually faded, but I’m sure the turmoil of the era was not forgotten by Mr. Rogers. A few years ago, he wrote a novel about two young boys, one white, one black, growing up together in the rural South. It was a subject, I think, that followed him all his life.
One of Mr. Rogers’ activities was to travel and over the years, he got to travel all over the world. Many of those trips were with groups of other newspaper editors and publishers.
I was on one of those adventures with Bill and Vicki Rogers to South America. Part of the trip was to spend a night at a Smithsonian research station deep in the Amazon forest.
The research station was really just a pole barn with an open fire pit for cooking and hammocks hung for sleeping. Bathing was done at the bottom of a hill in a creek.
Mrs. Rogers, a true Southern Lady, was a little aghast at the primitive nature of our visit. As we were leaving the forest, she turned to me and said, “Mike, when we get back to Georgia, there are just some things we aren’t going to talk about.”
Bill, with his ubiquitous pipe in hand, just chuckled. I’m sure he probably wrote a humorous column about the trip that kindly embarrassed his wife.
Bill Rogers was a man of many journalistic talents, but it was as a columnist that he was at his very best. Bill was possessed with a quick, sharp wit and deep sense of humor. Many of his columns were about life’s funniest moments.
One of his greatest columns, I think, was as the father of the bride. He noted that all wedding announcements focused on the dress, flowers and other aspects of the bride, but FOBs were only mentioned as “an escort down the aisle.”
Bill set the record straight in a column and wrote about his daughter’s wedding with himself as the FOB and the center of attention. It is a classic piece of humor.
But Bill Rogers could also bring tears to a reader’s eyes. His column on why he was a non-drinker makes even the driest eyes mist as he describes the missing fingers on the hand of a little girl who had just been involved in a car wreck with a drunk driver.
There are many of us in Georgia today who write columns and edit newspapers. A lucky few of us were fortunate to know, and be influenced by, the guiding hands of Bill Rogers Sr.
He is gone now, but I hope that part of his legacy of excellence will continue to live on in the work done by those of us who follow in his footprints.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
July 3, 2002

Independence, Freedom
Are Under Attack Again
Given the events of the past year, Independence Day 2002 ought to bring a lot more reflection about, interest in and commitment to the United States of America and the principles under which it is supposed to exist.
Blessed with abundance and empowered by military might, Americans sometimes forget how we got to be the richest and most powerful nation in the world. This nation was started by bold men and women willing (sometimes forced) to relocate to a distant and hostile land, by courageous and innovative people nourished by the freedoms of the new land, by men willing to risk their lives to escape the tyranny of rule by a king.
It was built by poor immigrants from virtually every continent who came here seeking opportunity or who were brought here in chains; by industrious capitalists who saw potential for profit; by the virtuous and the corrupt. Its system of government was based on rule by the people, its constitution written to assure the rights denied in so many other countries but which all people should enjoy. Whatever the flaws in the government or in law, both were created to protect the rights of the people.
It didn't happen instantly. The Constitution had to be amended to prohibit slavery and to give women the right to vote; legislation was to be enacted to protect the civil rights of all Americans. Two hundred twenty-six years after the nation declared its independence, government is still a work in progress.
That great freedom bred opportunity. Opportunity attracted millions from around the world – and still does – and the result is an economic system that, while not perfect, has made America the envy of the rest of the world. The nation survived a second war with Great Britain, a devastating civil war, two world wars and numerous smaller but bloody wars and conflicts entered in the name of protecting America.
On Sept. 11, 2001, a different kind of war came to America, and the shock of the terrorists' attacks still resonates. Today's enemy does not wear a uniform, represents no nation and targets civilians. The new enemy is weak, but cunning, small in number but fanatic in its zeal to harm America.
The freedoms that anchor the United States' strength are under attack. The Bush administration has circumvented the constitutional rights of people suspected of having ties to the terrorists. Our historic freedom of movement may be compromised as terrorists' plots are revealed and possible targets protected. Access to some government facilities could be limited, freedom to travel abroad reduced and immigration greatly restricted. The extent to which our freedoms will erode cannot be predicted because we don't know what our enemy will do and how this country will respond.
More than five decades ago, the United States, responding to an attack on Pearl Harbor, led the allies to defeat the forces of tyranny in World War II. Once again, evil forces seek to destroy our nation and take away our freedom. To persevere, we must duplicate the courage of the 55 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, hold fast to the principles of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution and remember the sacrifices of the hundreds of thousands who have perished fighting for their country. In 226 years we’ve learned that our freedoms and our independence are not absolute nor are they guaranteed. They are continually challenged from within and without. Let our focus of Independence Day 2002 be on rededicating ourselves to preserving both against all adversaries and all forces.

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