Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 18, 2002



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 18, 2002

There’s Too Much Encouragement For The Angry
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a letter to the editor recently from a man who lauded the assassination of President Lincoln and wished he'd been there to witness it and to make Lincoln feel more pain.
Thus as we contemplate the celebration of the arrival of the Prince of Peace, even mainstream news organizations like The AJC feel a need to spread hate-filled messages. Read "The Vent." Read the "fans'" reaction to Tom Glavine leaving the Braves to go to the Mets or that of those who can't stand the idea that most of the world respects Jimmy Carter. Small-minded people are being encouraged to share their small-mindedness.
This is the secret of talk radio: get people mad. To what greater good, one might ask?
"It makes people think," is the mantra of those who make a living seducing angry people into venting their spleens in public.
Sure it does. Just like receiving the finger in heavy traffic makes you think. People don't think rationally when they're angry. They think emotionally and normal, prudent inhibitions dissolve.
Neal Boortz, a popular WSB talk show host, is the Atlanta equivalent of Rush Limbaugh. He is not popular because he is kind or wise, but because he succeeds in getting angry people to call him and vent. Talk show hosts verbally burn crosses every day to build enough anger that people will pick up the phone.
It used to be that major newspapers could be counted on to offer thoughtful commentary sent in by readers, and most of them found a balance between varying factions in any debate. Today, it appears that keeping the balance also requires giving ignorant and coarse people an opportunity to spew their venom.
Anger seldom leads to inspired discussion. More often, it simply brings on more anger, but hostility attracts better numbers than turning the other cheek; people still cluster around a fist fight.
During this week, most people in this area will celebrate the arrival of Christmas. The musical programs and church messages all speak of "peace on earth" and "good will toward men," messages that Jesus preached throughout his ministry. It might be argued that "Love thy neighbor" is his most important commandment. These messages were not meant to be observed only during the days leading up to Christmas and then be set aside for the next 51 weeks. They are guidestones for the Christian's life and just good policy.
The encouragement of anger in America is no different, except for degree, from what we see from public institutions in Iran, Saudi Arabia or the West Bank of Israel, except the target is not the homeless, a bureaucrat or a “liberal,” but the entire United States. We rise in indignation at official hate-mongering, but tune in daily for its domestic kindred. People demand “tolerance” of different races and creeds but see nothing contradictory in promoting rage under the guise of entertainment or commentary.
If America could have one Christmas gift this year, what better than for people who sing “Joy to the World” Dec. 24-25 to encourage and promote compassion not anger, for the next 52 weeks?


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
December 18, 2002

Whole ‘Lott’ of issues weigh nation down
The controversy over Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s recent comments is another example of how this nation’s political discourse has degenerated. Posturing and politics has become a substitute for substance.
That is not a defense of Trent Lott. What the senator said was stupid and because of that, his effectiveness in the Senate has been lost. He’s gone, or will be gone, as the Majority Leader.
But we are troubled not just by his fall, but also by much of the rhetoric coming from his most vocal critics. To promote their own political agendas, many have grabbed Lott’s misplaced words as evidence that the entire Republican Party is racist. Indeed, the controversy has now been extended to the nation as a whole as commentators bellow about “racism’s continued power.”
Whoa, guys. Take a deep breath. The last time we looked, no governor was blocking school house doors, nor were police turning dogs loose on Civil Rights marchers.
There was a time, of course, when that did happen in this nation. Indeed, much worse incidents took place as well.
But to portray 2002 as just a slicker version of 1954 is to ignore the truth. Times have changed, attitudes have changed and our social and political cultures have changed. Bigotry and racism have not died, but they are hardly the social or political force they once were in this country.
What has not changed, however, is the desire by some to filter every issue through a prism of race as though we were still debating issues from half a century ago.
But race does not underscore every issue today. Nor does Trent Lott speak for every Republican, or every Southerner, or every white male, or every American.
Those who portray the world with such a broad brush are guilty of the same sentiments which they so loudly decry.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
December 18, 2002

I listened to the land, and it said...
Oh, help me! Get me off the floor! Hand me a hankie to wipe away these tears of laughter!
Sorry ‘bout that. Couldn’t contain myself. Just had to have a good laugh at our county leadership and their hired hands.
Monday night, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners heard a report from its architects about putting a proposed new courthouse on land along Darnell Road.
So what did the county get for its thousands of dollars in architectural advice?
“If you listen to the land, it will tell you where the building should go,” said one of the county’s high-paid architects.
Listen to the land? My goodness, did the county hire architects, or an Indian medicine man?
So the county spends $3 million to buy the land and untold thousands to study the site and get a design, only to be told to “listen to the land?”
OK, I did. I listened to that 160 acres along Darnell Road. I put my ear to the ground, did a little chant and danced around some rocks. Here’s what the land told me:

“Don’t build a courthouse here. I’m not the right place for such a noble building.
“Look at me. I’m miles away from the true county seat. I’m remote. You can’t get to me, or see me because I’m hidden, like the wind. There are no roads to provide access to me.
“Am I where you want to spend $30 million on a new courthouse and other county offices? Why would you want to make those public building inaccessible to a majority of your county’s citizens?
“Look at me. Look around me. If you build a courthouse here, what will you see? You will see the space that was once the county landfill. On the other hill you will see the wire of the correctional institute.
“I am not where you need to build your most impressive buildings. I am not the profile this county needs.
“No, find some other place, some place on a hill that people will see and that citizens can find; a place that will make them proud.
“I am not the place for Jackson County’s courthouse. Leave me alone and let me return to my slumber.”

That is what the land told me. I swear it.
It spoke to me and I made notes. It was an on-the-record conversation and so I report it here for all to see.
Yes, the land spoke and we should honor its request.
But I wonder, will our county leaders listen to the land anymore than they have listened to the county’s people?
***

A long-time fixture of Jefferson politics will close this weekend. Bruce’s Fine Foods, once the epicenter of city and county politics, will cease to exist Sunday. In February, the building will be reopened by new owners as a Mexican restaurant.
There was a time when many of the decisions in county and city politics were made in Bruce’s. Former Jefferson Mayor Byrd Bruce, owner of the restaurant, often managed city government from there. In the mornings, city and county officials would gather for coffee and hash out political differences, or argue, or laugh at their own folly.
But those gatherings were not for the faint of heart. A cadre of unelected and outspoken men also gathered at Bruce’s and would give hell to any public official who happened to raise their ire. Most of the time, it was just a needling joke. Bruce himself was the object of many sharp barbs, but always took them in stride, seldom offering a retort as sharp as he was given.
But there were those who couldn’t take the heat of Bruce’s political kitchen and would never return after having faced the wrath of the morning “coffee club.”
The world has changed a lot in recent times and the days of such small town political discourse is disappearing. The decision-making is now more diffused and some would argue, removed.
The sale of Bruce’s is the end of an era. Local politics will never be the same.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorial
The Commerce News
December 18, 2002

Message Of Christmas Remains Clear To All
Most of America will celebrate Christmas next Wednesday. While people of other faiths may not observe this holiday Christians and most people who practice no religion will celebrate the birth of Christ.
It’s a paradox. In a nation based in part on the principle of no official religion, “official” mention of Christmas is becoming scarce. The Christmas holidays are now “winter break” in most school systems. School Christmas plays do not mention the birth of Christ. Official prayer was banned (wisely) in schools and religious symbols are being purged from public facilities across the land. The government, supposedly, tries to remain neutral on the issue of religion.
But Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, and many who claim no religion pay tribute to it with decorations, the exchange of gifts, family gatherings, a tree and, of course, Santa and the other secular trappings that, for many, have hijacked Christmas. Not even the commercialization of this important Christian observation can conceal the fact that it is the celebration of the birth of the God-child upon whom a worldwide religion is based.
It is at Christmas that Christianity shows its most gentle side. The story is of the birth of a baby savior-to-be and of God’s love of mankind. It is a story of God’s love, of the love of the child’s parents, and of the faithful’s love for the infant and the absolute joy in heaven and on earth at the momentous event. The child grows into a man who, in addition to being able to heal the sick and raise the dead, teaches that we are all neighbors and should love one another.
That message rings true for Christians and non-Christians, and neither can observe Christmas without recognizing that central truth.


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