Banks County Opinions...

OCTOBER 27, 2004


Column

By:Zach Mitcham
The Banks County News
October 27, 2004

The petroleum picture
We fill up. We go where we need to go. We all have so many things to do.
But if you really stop and think about it. That stuff we put in our cars so that we can live our lives how we want to, well, there’s a lot beneath the surface there.
We can choose not to look, believing that we are avoiding “liberal” or “conservative” camps of thinking.
This avoidance is somewhat understandable. You start talking petroleum with any conviction and you’ve taken a step into a political powder keg that’s going to turn off a lot of people.
People are turned off because the tendency in politics is to paint extremes, avoiding the fact that your opponents are, generally, partly right, and the fact that ideologies are, in fact, at least partly wrong when applied practically. You can recognize that in all forms if you really look. We all know that I can poke a hole in your argument and you can poke a hole in mine.
Fact is, when we look at the petroleum picture, both left and right should understand certain conditions emerging on a large scale. If we focus exclusively on the current supply-demand economics of what we pay at the pump every day, we’re not really looking at the supply-demand picture of years to come.
With finite resources, the supply inevitably dwindles. And with technology booming abroad, as well as in the U.S., the demand is going to grow.
You got your head in the sand if you don’t see the looming dilemma. In simple terms, you and I can act pleasant toward each other as long as there’s plenty of pizza on the table, but it changes when there’s one piece left and both of us are totally starving.
This is a global principle too.
Say what you want about the war in Iraq — whether it has anything to do with oil or not (I’m not going to touch that here) — without a significant shift in energy policy, we’re eventually going to be fighting for oil with other developed nations who also want to maintain their way of life.
Talk alternative energy, and many want to bring out a peacenik, “greenie” stamp and note the hypocrisy of driving in a car but protesting about oil.
This can be a legitimate observation. Because anyone who ignores his own dependency on petroleum while preaching its evils sets himself up to be knocked down as a hypocrite. We’re certainly all dependent.
But if that’s where you stop in your thinking, then you’ve missed the fact that our national security is precariously weaved into the oil picture — both in future supply-demand conflicts over diminishing goods, and in current hostilities.
For instance, when we look at certain oil rich nations in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, we must recognize that there are the fabulously rich few with controlling oil interests and there are the many who struggle for basic sustenance in the shadow of greedy excess. That juxtaposition leads to bitter resentment. And that anger is legitimate. Such “have vs. have not” conflicts form a common strain throughout world history.
What’s not legitimate, is the choice of radicals to use terrorism as their political response, believing that their ideology, mostly rooted in Islamic jihad, is somehow morally just. No, it’s a perversion of morality. We can all see that so plainly.
But if we want a true diffusion of that violent force, we need to look beyond fire vs. fire, recognizing that finding another way to power our cars is, in fact, a long-term national security dilemma.
The practical-minded person retorts: “Yeah, well what source are you talking?”
That’s certainly a legitimate comeback.
And yes, that’s the catch, I admit.
But the very real difficulty in finding that answer shouldn’t stifle the recognition of the problem and the need for a solution.
I’d say, first we must recognize that leaders who don’t see the petroleum picture for what it is are doing us all a grave disservice in the long run. We should push those who represent us to make alternative energy a “war on terror” issue, with funding for technology to make alternative energy a reality.
It may not happen, but goodness knows, it’s worth a better effort.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
October 27, 2004

Junk in Cherokee pollutes reservation’s good name
I visited the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina on Sunday. The only part of the trip I enjoyed was visiting a Cherokee Indian village constructed as it would have been 200 years ago. (They called themselves Indians so I am following their lead.) Our walk through was heralded by native birds and scurrying squirrels; with every gust of wind, leaves of every shape and color fell from the sky to blanket the soft mulch path. Definitely a moment when you would like time to stand still.
We met Cherokee Indian craftspeople and watched them create arrowheads and belts and baskets and blowguns and canoes. We walked into their houses and storerooms and medicine hut. Guides explained how their ancestors lived off the land by building game traps and living in permanent homes so that gardens could provide food.
Another guide spoke passionately about how his ancestors preferred peace to war, celebrating each year that peace had prevailed over the tribe. He nearly came to tears as he told about the forced removal of the Cherokees by President Andrew Jackson and then, later, about how he and his brother and friends were punished in the American boarding school for speaking Cherokee.
He said with pride that times have changed in the Cherokee reservations — now the schools on the Cherokee reservation in Cherokee, N.C., are governed by an all Cherokee school board and students are required to learn the Cherokee language and history.
And I was touched. I felt the peace and happiness that must have existed among these proud people before white settlers decided to settle in America, bringing disease and pushing the native populations into smaller and smaller sections of land. I was saddened by what was lost.
After a very restful afternoon at the village, we traveled into the city of Cherokee and did some walking among the shops there. What I found was in very sharp contrast to everything I had seen before. Large stores were everywhere filled to the brim with junk. Cheap artificial looking everything — ceramics, fake bows and arrows, feather headdresses, plastic dolls, tacky yard ornaments, etc., etc.
There were a few items that looked like they might last more than a week, but you really had to search among the dollar store fodder for something worth buying. I did not go in every store so it is possible that there is one that does sell good merchandise, but both sides of a street perhaps a mile long had advertisements such as: “Cheap souvenirs, Stop here!” And I want to know how much garbage can one town sell?
Kids begging their parents to buy a plastic tomahawk or a beaded bracelet that might last for one hour before breaking and ending up in the garbage can. Adults loading up on redneck dictionaries 12 pages long and tacky nameplates all of which will probably be in their next garage sale.
I couldn’t help thinking why can’t Cherokee be more like Helen? Have legitimate tradespeople making crafts in their shops surrounded by things they’ve also made. Perhaps one cheap souvenir shop that sells the junk some people associate with an “Indian” and then sell the genuine article as we witnessed in the village. After visiting the shops, I truly wished I hadn’t because my initial impression of Cherokee was very positive. Once I had walked into four stores, I felt like Cherokee was mostly junk. I would go back to tour the village, but I would skip the shops altogether.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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