More Jackson County Opinions...

AUGUST 7, 2002

By: Kerri Graffius
The Jackson Herald
August 7, 2002

Back-to-school memories
When I was a kid, trying to fall asleep the night before the first day of school was like trying to stay close-eyed on Christmas Eve. There were always too many exciting and unforeseen things waiting the next day.
Strangely enough, I couldn’t sleep last Wednesday night. Despite finishing college more than a year ago, I still found myself wide-awake that night. The reason? The next day was the first day of school for Jackson County students and I (like several other MainStreet News reporters) was set to wake early that morning to capture elementary students heading back to the classrooms.
My assignment was to cover the two elementary schools in West Jackson. If you’ve seen the photos in this issue, or from previous years, you’ve probably noticed that few things change from year to year.
First, there are always a few crying children. School apparently turns into a scary thing, especially since mom and dad are no longer around during the day (something I’m sure many parents are grateful for summer ending).
But for every crying child, there are usually a few crying parents. Luckily, I wasn’t the only person wandering the school hallways on Wednesday with a camera. Several parents sat in on their child’s first day of kindergarten or snapped a shot of their child symbolically walking through the schools’ front doors. Some, I could tell, deliberately remained in their cars to hide their emotions from their children. And, no, parents, I didn’t take any photos of you.
Another thing I distinctly remember about the first day of school were the heavy backpacks.
Yep, we had to load everything into our backpacks for that first day: pencils, crayons, coloring box, large erasers, tissue boxes, etc. Each item had our name previously written on it; after all, our parents had just spent a wad of money for school supplies (and losing them would mean being grounded).
It’s amazing our backs didn’t snap from carrying all of that weight on the first day of school. When we returned home that afternoon, however, the supplies were usually replaced with books for our first homework assignments.
Homework following the first day of class? Gasp! But, that’s the norm today.
(By the way, just out of curiosity, can someone please explain to me why practically every school in the county prohibits Trapper Keepers and rolling backpacks?)
The first day of school also means learning too many new names.
Last week, I watched one kindergarten class as the teacher and paraprofessional hung gingerbread name tags on each student’s neck. Many of the children in the school had adhesive name tags saying something like, “My name is Cindy Smith. I’m in Mrs. Baker’s first grade class.”
Funny, I can actually remember my name tag on the first day of school: “Kerri Graffius. Mrs. Williams, kindergarten. Bus 104.” I can also remember posing for a first day of school photo with that name tag.
For the older kids, however, we always played “The Name Game.” You know, each student in the class says his or her name, then, the next student adds his name to the list along with each student’s name before him. By the time the last student stands up to say his name, he has to repeat the other 24 students’ names. Man, I hated that “game.”
The first day of school was also an exciting time because it meant you would meet your new teachers.
By the time you hit junior high school, your class schedule was usually given before school started. My friends and I would figure out who was in what class with whom, we would map out our walk between classes, we arranged where our lockers would be (together, of course) and we would share bits of gossip about each teacher. There was always a little get-together among friends for the sharing of the schedules.
Alas, we cannot forget the most important means of preparation for the school year—the clothes shopping.
Picking out the outfit to wear on the first day of school was such an ordeal. Once again, I turned to my friends for advice on what to wear that day.
Now, you would think the first day of school was like any other school day, but after a three-month summer vacation, you wanted people to see you in a new light—and the clothing style was the best way to make a quick, new impression. For some years, I even designated which clothes I would wear for the rest of the first week back to school. Looking back on many of those first day of school photos, however, I realize was still such a dork.
But, like Christmas, the first of day of school also brought out the best in my family. Mom and Dad were always proud to see us advance to another grade; the grandparents usually became nostalgic and my sister and I actually helped out each other. One of the most treasured photos in out family is of my sister and myself holding hands—on the first day of school.
Kerri Graffius is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Send us a letter
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
August 7, 2002

Narrow view of a wide problem
It is a crying shame how little we know about the awful threat that is loose in our land.
A lot of us, including some bigwigs in government, need to rethink our understanding of terror. And while we are at it, we should brush up on terrorism and try to get a more clear view of just who the terrorists are. I am afraid that the events of 9/11 have clouded the picture and obscured the whole truth.
OK, class, let’s get started.
Terror: “1. Great fear.” (A child’s terror of the dark.) “2. A cause of great fear.” (Pirates were once the terror of the sea.) “3. A person or thing that causes much trouble and unpleasantness.” (She must be a holy terror to live with.) You may substitute he for she.
Terrorism: “1. A terrorizing; the use of terror.” “2. A condition of fear and submission produced by frightening people.” “3. A method of opposing a government internally through the use of terror.”
Terrorist: “A person who uses or favors terrorism.”
Terroristic: “Using or favoring methods that inspire terror.”
Terrorization: “A terrorizing or being terrorized; rule by terror.”
Terrorize: “To fill with terror; to rule or subdue by causing terror; browbeat, intimidate.”
Terror-stricken: “Terrified.”
Terrorless: “Free from terror.”
I like that last one, but it may be a utopia we’ll never see — down here.
Utopia: “An ideal place where perfect justice and social harmony exist.”
But enough of definitions! I’m not sure any of the above increases our knowledge or awareness of the threat that confronts us. They may only cause us to take a very narrow view of a very wide problem.
For eleven months now we have zeroed in on 9/11. You don’t have to fly an airplane into the World Trade Center to inflict terror. Terrorism is criminal, and we need to treat terrorists — all of them — like the criminals they are.
But all terrorism does not target nations or governments. True, terrorism can impact the world, as the dastardly deed of 9/11 did. It can also impact communities. Check out the communities where four little girls have been abducted and murdered within the last year. One can only imagine the impact these acts of terrorism have on the little girls’ families.
Perpetrators of these crimes (acts of terrorism) are less than human beings. They are the scum of the earth, and should be treated as severely as the scum of the earth who killed thousands in New York and Washington. We make a mistake when we grade one act of terrorism a ten and another a two.
When someone robs a convenience store and shoots the attendant in cold blood, he is more than an armed robber. He is a bona fide terrorist and has committed an unadulterated act of terrorism.
But child abusers, kidnappers and murderers are not the only terrorists. There are others. What about home invaders, rapists, pedophiles, car-jackers, DUIs, aggressive drivers, spouse abusers, gangs, hate groups, and white and black racists? Do they not qualify? Do they not fit one of the definitions of the terror: “a person or thing that causes much trouble and unpleasantness?”
One of the worst things we can do is act as if an act of terrorism never happened. White-collar crime (terrorism) is also evil.
A CEO who fraudulently takes the money and runs while his employees lose their jobs and their retirement benefits is a terrorist. He causes much trouble and unpleasantness, and should be treated to as much trouble and unpleasantness as he causes. Stripping him of all the assets he is hoarding for his retirement, and then letting him spend his retirement in jail, would be a start.
But wait a minute! What about you? More importantly, what about me?
I began this epistle by saying “a lot of us. . . need to rethink our understanding of terror.”
Have I ever terrorized anyone: my wife, my children, my grandchildren? God forbid!
The people who worked with and for me — did I treat them fairly, honestly, justly?
Have I ever tried to rule or subdue by causing terror? Have I ever browbeat or intimidated anyone? Have I ever caused anyone to become terror-stricken (terrified)?
What am I doing to create a terrorless society (a place where perfect justice and harmony exist) where I live, work, worship and play?
Am I taking a very narrow view of a very wide problem? Is the problem so wide that it includes me? Could it be that I, you - all of us - are capable of any sin, including terrorism? If not terrorism, violence? Like love and hate, the two are not very far apart.
We must fight this evil wherever it exists — even in ourselves.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty — and of freedom from terror.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
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