Madison County Opinion...

MAY 5, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
May 5, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Abolish the 17th amendment? Well, yes
Retiring Senator Zell Miller is still stirring up trouble on the Senate floor. Now he wants to abolish the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Passed in 1913, the 17th amendment took away the power of state legislatures to appoint U.S. senators and required their direct election.
Abolishing the 17th amendment would return the nomination of members of the U.S. Senate to the state governments.
Miller argued that eliminating direct elections for senators would remove them from the pressure of fund-raising and the influence of special interest groups who provide most of the money.
I agree that the change ought to be made, but for a different reason. Giving the states the power to name U. S. senators would move us back closer to the governing principles established by our founding fathers.
The original idea was to build a governing system that was as close to the “people” as possible. The idea was to keep government limited to what is necessary, and to keep that limited government in the hands of the people being governed. Under this system, the power to govern, or sovereignty, was placed in the local and state governments, with we the people deciding how much power each would have.
The federal government’s power was to be derived from the states, and be used to assure political and economic peace between the states. Its other duties included the common defense from outside aggressors, as well as to take care of foreign policy and provide for a uniform currency and a post office.
The Constitution established the presidency, two branches of congress and a federal court system to manage the federal government. The U. S. Senate was to be controlled by state governors with the approval of their legislators.
Each state was given two senators. The president was selected by an electoral college. Members were to be selected according to rules established by each state with the total number of electors in each state determined by population. Only the U.S. House of Representatives would be chosen by direct election. It was called “The People’s House.”
From the beginning, certain Northern political forces started trying to take political power away from states and concentrate it in the federal government. Most Southerners opposed this raid on the “states rights” and did everything they could to keep the right to govern at the local and state level.
When the nation split apart in 1861, leading to the War Between the States, the primary dispute was over state versus federal power. Ever since the South lost, the Federalists have steadily chipped away at the authority of the people and the states to govern themselves and build an all-powerful federal government.
When the 17th amendment was passed in 1913, it took away the power of the states to exercise control over the U. S. Senate. Now there is a move to eliminate the Electoral College, which would remove another of the few remaining state constraints over federal power.
At the end of the American Revolution, Alexander Hamilton led a campaign to eliminate state governments and concentrate all political power in the federal government. In his world, states would have become nothing more than administrative divisions of the federal government, with no powers except those assigned to them by U. S. Congress. Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln embraced this concept and made the drive for an all-powerful federal government the center of their political careers. Today, their followers are close to achieving that goal.
If we are to reverse the drive for an all-powerful federal government, and rescue the principle of government by the people, we need to start taking power back from the federal level and return it to state and local governments. Making the U. S. Senate once again answerable to the states would be a good place to start.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
May 5, 2004

A Moment With Margie

Breathe deeply
This weekend we celebrate motherhood. I have written often about my own mother, who died when I was 21, and I’ve written about a number of other women who I’ve been fortunate enough to know and who’ve meant the world to me.
A woman doesn’t have to have given birth to you to “mother you.” So tell all the mother figures in your life how much you love them, not just this week, but every other chance you get.
The person I want to talk about here was one of those mother figures to me. I loved her, and I believe that she loved me. It’s that simple.
Last Sunday, May 2, marked the seventh anniversary of her death, but in many ways I still feel her near me.
I met Carlene Peavy shortly after I came to work at The Journal in 1992. I had just gotten my youngest in kindergarten and was trying to find a “niche” for myself. And The Journal, a little upstart paper at the time, intrigued me.
Carlene was recovering from breast cancer surgery when I first came to work, but when she came back to work it didn’t take me long to know I had found a friend. First of all, she took in every stray that came her way (maybe that’s why she took to me) and she had a way of seeing the humorous side of things, believing it’s better to laugh than to cry, when possible.
And there was another thing. The woman was loyal; when she loved you, she loved you and God help the person who might try to hurt those she loved.
The memory of her makes me smile. I think she’d like that.
When the breast cancer returned to haunt her in 1996, she didn’t tell any of us at work right away. She was stoic that way. But unknown to anyone she was keeping a diary. Her stepdad allowed me to read it recently and it gave me a new insight into who Carlene really was, and the kind of person we all lost when we lost her.
It begins on Dec. 3, 1996, after a visit to her oncologist: “I’m told I have an aggressive form of breast cancer. He (doctor) wants to send me to the (hospital) for a CAT scan, mugga (?) scan and bone scan. Talked about chemo, radiation, maybe mastectomy. Very upset, I feel hopeless...very depressed, more than I’ve been in a long time. I feel I have no hope.”
The thought of more rounds of chemo, radiation and the like filled her with dread.
She’d been through all that before.
Then she wrote something that startled me. She had considered ending her own life that day.
She wrote that the idea surprised her, too.
How many of us, if we’re honest, have felt that way when faced with hopelessness.
But the next page, written on the next day, shows the Carlene I remember —she went Christmas shopping with her mother (“trying to act like normal”) and then talked with another doctor about alternative therapy. Her last entry for the day says, “Feel much better, this I can control. I’m in charge here.” I can see how her face must have looked when she wrote that, the way her hand held the pen firmly. She had some hope again.
From there, as she chronicled her decisions about treatment, her diet, medications and the often stressful days of working to get the paper out each week, she ended most of her entries with “Breathe deeply!”
And as I continued to read her accounts of what turned out to be last days of her life, I was struck most by the little things she mentioned, like spending time with her family, long “brisk” walks with her dogs, taking her cat “Flemmie” to the vet and hearing that he was “gorgeous,” and how she describes the days: “beautiful, 72 degrees,” “lovely day, sunny.” The way she describes her meals like a rare trip to Burger King — the word “whopper” is underlined and she wrote in the margin “Boy, was that GOOD.”
She was “breathing deeply,” enjoying her life as best she could, moment by moment.
Those little statements let me know that she was noticing what so many of us don’t each day — a beautiful, sunny day, a gorgeous sunset, a balmy breeze, sitting on top of a nearby hill with her beloved dogs (the “boys”), and a fast food hamburger.
As I continue to turn the pages I find that everything, especially the very act of breathing deeply, becomes more difficult for her as the cancer progresses and spreads to her lungs.
But near the end there is one last message for me — pressed between the pages is a four leaf clover.
That’s Carlene, always looking for the good luck charm.
And giving me a last message of hope and inspiration.
Thanks Carlene, I needed that.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal. Her e-mail address is
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