Madison County Opinion...

JULY 28, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
July 28, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Sad to see the degradation of the family
In one way, my birth came at a great time. I am a witness to vast changes in America and the world. On the other hand, my birth came at a terrible time. I have had to deal with far too much degradation in American culture brought about by the changes.
The most damaging change is our attitude toward parenting. When I was a child 60 years ago, the single most important job of any family was the care and education of the children. Every family taught their children how to live in their world. Nearly every child spent the majority of their time with their family, learning family values, family skills and the family’s faith.
In those days, one parent worked to support the family. The other maintained the home and provided child care. Both parents took time to guide and instruct the children “in the way that they should go.”
Today, the average home is empty for the major portion of the day. Both parents are working and the children are stashed in a day care center. At the end of the day, the family makes its way back home only to sink into the latest TV game shows, ball games or videos. Family members grab snacks out of the refrigerator as they arrive. The family seldom assembles as a group to compare notes, encourage each other to overcome problems, to praise their successes or to reinforce their efforts at personal improvement.
Why is it this way? Families today are driven by money. They have to have that income to pay taxes and buy the latest gadgets the TV pitch men insist they need to have a complete life.
In the typical working family of today, one parent still works to support the family. The other works to pay the taxes. Federal, state and local taxes, along with sales tax, gas tax, property tax and a host of other fees and assessments takes nearly half of the family’s income.
Meanwhile, TV is telling them that they must have the latest gadgets. You are nothing unless you have an SUV with power windows and a sliding roof. The family that does not have the latest DVD player is socially deprived. Home-cooked meals made from basic foods are out. Expensive heat and serve meals from the freezer is the way to go.
For many families, teaching children values consist of turning them over to the coaches of youth sports programs then screaming at the coach if the kid gets less playing time that some other child. Far too often, the children don’t even receive this much guidance. They are left to their own devices to seek out fun and companionship wherever they can find it.
Few people teach children to respect other people, even their own parents, or their property. How often do you see a child at the super market make a bee line to the toy isle and proceed to snatch toys off the shelf and spread them around the store? How often do you see these same kids scream, cry and even threaten their parents if they are not given some small toy?
There are many things I do not like about today’s America. The way many of our children are being raised is at the top of my list.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at

By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 28, 2004

An the Meantime

Why the BOC vote was right
Those addressing the five-man board of commissioners Monday to talk of a planned shopping center in a rural part of the county knew the issue was bigger than a simple rezoning request.
People sensed the county's future was on the line.
So local men and women stepped up to the podium with a sincere desire to be heard. They offered impassioned pleas, numerous statistics, maps, building sketches, an old photo of past Madison Countians, talk of change and the need for new revenue sources in the county, talk of the love for the land and the need to maintain the farming way of life.
It was an emotional evening and two speakers even got choked up and teary eyed as they appealed to the board.
Meanwhile, the commissioners sat quietly as thunder rumbled and the lights flickered during the presentations. The seats in the meeting room were filled, with people standing against the walls, or sitting on the floor, or huddled outside of the meeting room trying to hear the important business inside.
And when that hour hand finally crawled past 11, the BOC was met with a daunting task that truly defines public service — casting a watershed vote on a monumental growth issue in front of a sharply divided crowd.
The commissioners narrowly tilted toward the farming community. And the battle that was won for the farmers is tempered with the knowledge that a broader agricultural/development conflict will remain in this county for years to come.
Of course, someone who bothers to pick up a dusty, bound volume of this newspaper in 50 years will look at our growth issues of today and note how we argued, probably commenting on how we really didn't grasp what would come.
But we know that for now this remains an agricultural county with residential and commercial exceptions. It is certainly a possibility that this identity will flip-flop, with agriculture being the exception in years to come.
In fact, it's a rather common assumption that this will happen here, because we view the impending population increase in light of what happens around us, where growth has meant a surrender of rural charm and the farming way of life.
But that is a defeatist attitude.
Yes, it could happen, but it doesn't necessarily have to happen that way, not if we have an adequate plan.
Of course, plans can be flawed and usually are. But I'd rather step on a field with a helmet with at least some idea of where I should run, instead of leaving it up to chance. The plan may or may not work, but the odds of success certainly improve, don't they?
Proponents of the shopping center tried to appeal to the commissioners' notion of "common sense," saying the county's land use plan is a guide, not a strict boundary for growth and that the commissioners should approve development where it makes the most sense.
But isn't it common sense to have citizens — representing both rural and development interests — get together to determine where growth should go? Isn't it common sense to honor the zones they determine appropriate for major development?
Otherwise, aren't we threatening our county's number one business interest, farming, in favor of other forms of enterprise? Aren't we putting our county's most important asset, its rural character, up for easy picking? Wouldn't we be wasting our time drawing a plan at all if we act as if it can be dismissed whenever it's convenient?
Those pushing for the shopping center are right in saying there is a cost in not allowing business to go wherever it wants to go. There certainly is a cost. And this county will pay and does pay in some way for whatever it denies, whether it's through lack of an additional revenue source or lack of convenience. Many of those addressing county revenue needs are thinking of the big picture and thinking of how they can better the county. This is good.
But it's wrong to act as if there's nothing we can do to ensure the endurance of a way of life and a love of the land that stretches over generations.
This is worth preserving, despite all of the obvious obstacles.
We have a plan to do this.
If we abandon it, we've paid the greater price.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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