Banks County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 10, 2003


Column

By: Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
September 10, 2003

Slap happy
Say good-bye to summer and good riddance for all I care. For the record, I’m not a summer person. Being cooked bacon crisp during the Dog Days is bad enough. But getting blistered is nothing compared to having to do the Slap Dance in public on a hot August night.
When summer arrives and the bugs begin to buzz, you can always count on the spiders to return in full force. And with them they bring their sticky little webs spun in strategic locations for unsuspecting humanoids.
And that’s where the Slap Dancing comes in. Every night, when I go outside in the dark to take out the garbage, I can always count on walking right smack into a giant sticky spider web. And the worse part is that I always get it square in the face.
A funky spider web in the face is guaranteed to produce that hysterical, bouncing up and down motion that goes along with slap dancing. Imagining an angry spider the size of a golf ball on my neck looking for the nearest pulsing blood vessel, I immediately start spinning in circles slapping myself about the face, head, and shoulders in a rhythm otherwise known as the Arachnophobia Two Step.
And since you can never be sure that you’ve gotten the spider or the web out of your hair and off your clothes, you have to keep slapping your head all the way back to the house. But in the end, cavorting about in such a spastic fashion accomplishes little more than stumbling into yet another web and another angry spider.
Usually, in the midst of my frantic spinning and swatting, my children will gather in the doorway to check out the commotion. My oldest daughter will immediately rush back inside and hide in her room for fear that one of her friends will pass by and see me slapping my head and thus ruin her life for evermore.
My middle daughter, on the other hand, will just stand and laugh at me without being self conscious about her Dad being the village idiot. And then, my youngest daughter, who can entertain herself for hours on end with a rock and a blade of grass, will think it’s a game and will start slapping herself and dancing around in circles with me.
My wife caps off the entertainment for the night by bursting through the door in a trot. Knowing exactly what’s going on, and sort of trying to help, she will have a rolled up a newspaper in her hand and will start whacking me about the head and shoulders. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the gesture, but I sometimes get the feeling that I’ve just become a substitute for the family dog who’s done something stupid on the carpet.
But the really stupid part of the whole routine is the fact that the same stupid spider builds its same stupid web in the same stupid place every night. And I’m just stupid enough to walk right through it every night.
I’m the most entertaining act on the whole block. Every night, the neighbors set up lawn chairs to watch me Slap Dance. They even judge me and keep score. It’s just another way for Mother Nature to humiliate me during summer. But I’m determined to fight back.
Starting next summer, I’m charging admission.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.

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Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
September 10, 2003

Security weighs heavily on liberty
“Most people want security in this world, not liberty.” -H.L. Mencken
Forty-five days after the Twin Towers fell, President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law. The act enhanced the executive branch’s powers to conduct surveillance, search for money-laundering, share intelligence with criminal prosecutors and charge suspected terrorists with crimes. The act also allows investigators to hide their actions legally. It’s all classified. They can investigate you, call up your library records, your bank records, your credit reports, and you’ll never know. What’s more, they can search your house 72 hours before they apply for a warrant from a court you’ve never heard of and then delay telling you you’re being investigated for months; it’s called ‘sneak and peek.’ In effect, you’re guilty until proven innocent. The Justice Department has 281,421,906 American suspects. (Think Will Smith in “Enemy of the State” only this time the entire government is the bad guy and you don’t have anyone to root for but the lawyer who’s going to be wiped out because there’s no one to ultimately rescue him.)
Perhaps you think you would never do anything to come under suspicion or that they can go ahead and look, you’re innocent of wrongdoing. Somewhere an American citizen’s rights are being violated and each time that happens we lose and terrorists gain.
The people using the Patriot Act’s powers aren’t talking about how or why so when groups like the American Civil Liberties Union complain that people’s rights are being violated, they cannot cite specific instances. And anyone who has tried to challenge the act as unconstitutional has failed, perhaps because of a lack of evidence.
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft claims the act is necessary to fulfill his anti-terror responsibilities, however he won’t talk in detail about how federal investigators use the liberties granted to them. But he will go on a nation-wide tour to bolster support for it without really discussing it.
Legislative committees charged with overseeing the Justice Department have been denied any statistics summarizing the Patriot Act’s use. So our system of checks and balances has been vetoed by one act. And the potential for abuse is boundless.
Robert L. Barr Jr., a conservative Republican former House member who works for the American Conservative Union, argues that expanded surveillance powers and a broadened definition of who may be labeled a terrorist can be used against right-wing groups and the government’s refusal to disclose information is unacceptable.
“To make this blanket claim of national security that disclosure of the general information regarding the number of times government powers have been exercised and in what manner ... is absolutely nonsense,” he said.
Fear is a heady weapon. It’s paralyzing and destructive and to live free of fear would be priceless.
But can we?
America is the sole superpower left in this world. We have half the world propped up on our national deficit. Power and wealth breed anger and anger breeds violence. We are not safe.
A few centuries ago, great men met in secret and decided liberty meant more then security. They knew that rebelling against the most powerful nation in the world would mean death to all if caught, but liberty was their northern star calling them home. The American people agreed and a war was fought. In the end, the greatest nation was defeated by patriots.
Since then we’ve extolled the virtues of liberty in song, in verse and in moving pictures, we’ve killed and we’ve died.
It would be better to live in fear as sterling examples of God’s great liberty, than to live with what small measure of security the Patriot Act may provide.
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” -Benjamin Franklin
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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