Banks County Opinions...

AUGUST 25, 2004


Column

By:Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
August 25, 2004

The heat of the day
One day last week, I spied my calendar as it was flipping past at the speed of light. In the process, I noticed that we were well into summer. And that can mean only one thing — time for my annual “Why I Hate Summer” column.
As a disclaimer, I would like to state that I have no vendetta against the season. I’m not out to destroy summer, I’m just ready for it to go away for another nine months or so.
My displeasure with summer is, I think, the result of the summers of my youth. Open and trusting, I gobbled up summer with enthusiasm, high hopes and reckless abandon. In spite of same, summer always turned on me in the end.
As a kid, I suffered from the lack of any long term memory. In other words, I always failed to recall the preceding summer when the sun had barbecued my entire pale body to a nice crispy red. Thus, right from the start, summer was out to get me.
After a period of prolonged recuperation, the blue sky days of June morphed into the oppressively opaque days of August. That transition into high humidity always resulted in the twin demons of kinky hair funk and insufferable leg itch.
In all fairness, the hair funk is not entirely the fault of summer and high humidity, but must be attributed at lease in part to genetics. It’s the first time I realized the horror of not being able to pick your parents’ hair.
On the other hand, there is no real explanation for the itch except to say that it results in uncontrollable fits of scratching that leaves long inflamed scratch marks up and down my lower extremities. In the end, the summer always transformed me into a flaming red, wild haired, gyrating voodoo doll. And that’s why I always celebrate the passing of the season.
Timing the annual column is always a challenge. Write it too soon and you pay for your haste as September ramps up the suffering. Write it too late and no one cares enough to celebrate with you.
This year, though, I think I have it just about right. Just to be sure, though, I visited my 92-year-old grandmother in Madison County. She’s got a whole lot more summer under her belt than I do, and I defer to her judgment.
In fact, I spent many childhood summer vacations with her and my grandfather learning the essence of summer even as I hated the consequences. Of those, the vegetable garden and the threat of heatstroke formed the basis of my father’s admonition to his seven year old son as he dropped me off for an extended stay, “Don’t let your grandmother get out in her garden in the ‘heat of the day.’”
I took the responsibility seriously, and on one especially hot summer day while my Grandma Hester toiled in the garden, I took a break from sitting in front of the fan long enough to fulfill my duty. Leaving the house and stepping to the edge of the garden, I called out to the bent over figure pulling weeds, “Grandma, is it the ‘heat of the day’?”
She paused her chore long enough to look at me a little puzzled and tell me, “Yes, I suppose so, why?”
“Because Daddy told me to tell you not to work in your garden in the ‘heat of the day.’”
She must have smiled to herself as she told me “OK, I’ll come inside in a minute.” But by then I had already returned to my position guarding the fan inside the house.
When I saw her last week, she was inside resting on the couch with a small fan buzzing nearby. “Is it the heat of the day,” I asked again. She laughed and told me it was and we talked of gardens past and shared a bite of cake.
Even as I celebrate it’s passing, I have to admit that sometimes summer still has its moments.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.

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Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
August 25, 2004

Large scale genocide going unnoticed; UN unable to act
In Sudan, the largest country in Africa, more than a thousand natives are dying a day because of ethnic cleansing sanctioned by the ruling regime.
The atrocity is happening in Dafur, an area thought to be rich in oil, inhabited by African natives. The Sudanese government is controlled by fundamentalist Muslims of lighter skin and is known to have supported al-Qaeda. Their attack on the people of Dafur is simple and unprovoked.
Sudanese government helicopters bomb the villages and then militia of Arab tribesmen on horseback called the Janjaweed move in, killing men and boys and raping the women for days. The Janjaweed have killed more than 50,000 in these attacks. Those not killed are moved into refugee camps where there is no food and relief aid from other sources is prohibited by the Sudanese government. In these camps, people die slowly from starvation and disease at a rate of more than 1,000 a day.
The United Nations has called the atrocity: “the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster,” and has pushed for action for months from its council. The council is deadlocked and the United Nations lacks the punch it needs to make any real threats.
This is a very real Holocaust of the 21st century yet I did not hear of it on the 24-hour news channels like CNN or FoxNews or on the local Atlanta news channels. I scanned my Yahoo News brief and they spotlighted an editorial appearing in the Washington Post on Monday. After searching for more information, I found nothing on msnbc.com, nothing on foxnews.com and only one story on cnn.com dated a month ago.
Thousands are dying a day, a government is getting away with wiping out an entire population and the news coverage is spotlighting the campaign trail. National news is important and so is election coverage, but the United Nations has been begging its Security Council members, among them the US, Britain, France, China and Russia, to act since at least March and I have heard nothing about it.
The good news is that the U.S. pushed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution giving the Sudanese government until Aug. 30 to disarm the Janjaweed, stop hampering aid agencies and start credibly protecting the victims or else they will explore economic sanctions. The bad news is it will do no good. The resolution lacks any real punch.
Meanwhile, France and China have $1 billion a year at stake in Sudanese oil and Russia doesn’t want to stop selling Sudan fighter planes. And the country’s leaders are equipping the Janjaweed with police uniforms so it can pretend to comply. When did the United Nations become more about protecting and promoting your own country’s monetary interests and less about equal rights and treatment of all people?
The ideals of the United Nations are too great to be brought to this sorry end. Thousands dying every day and the Security Council is deadlocked because “to each his own,” when action should be taken “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to promote social progress and better standards of life” because “for these ends we unite our strength to maintain international peace and security” (The Charter of the United Nations).
I believe this instance of inaction in the face of this modern day holocaust proves the United Nations is ineffective when member nations bring their own interests to the table. Many in the international community and at home disparage the United States and George W. Bush for taking action and invading Iraq without a sanction from the UN. They believe the UN should have control in global affairs and no one nation should be allowed to “go-it-alone.”
There is a time for diplomacy and there is a time for action. And the only thing the UN seems to be good for is giving rebel governments time to better arm their troops. The struggling African Union is sending 300 peacekeepers to Sudan to try to halt the crisis. Support for this Union may be the best thing the United States and other like-minded nations can do to halt what promises to be one of the greatest examples of the United Nations’ powerlessness.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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