Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 22, 2004

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 22, 2004

Wish List: Peace, Understanding, Better Pictures
It probably escaped your notice, but in my Dec. 1 column on gift ideas for public servants, I omitted ideas for yours truly. Whether this was due to the surly tone of the column or the fact that I am not a public servant I cannot say, but there are still a couple of days before Christmas. If you have room on the VISA card or left over cash and are so inclined, here’s what I’d like for Christmas:
•good photos or ideas for good photos: I have the cameras and reasonable technical skills, but I could use better ideas than two-car fatal wrecks and store grand openings. If you know of something that would make a good feature photograph, drop me a line.
•better behavior from area residents: I assume that all of you who read this are law-abiding citizens who do not beat your spouses, shoplift at Quality Foods or require the police to referee your domestic disputes. If you can convince the rest of the people to behave similarly, that would be a great gift, and it would be likewise appreciated by local law enforcement agencies who have better things to do than to interview participants in a brawl precipitated over what happened to the stash of Lortab.
•safe passage for all of our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’ll take more than a couple of days to find this, but I sure would like to see less grim news from Iraq. And if anyone has any good idea for getting all the troops home, send them directly to George W. Bush. We could all share in that present.
•a new, major industry locating in Commerce. I know that gift is always on my list for Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr., but that’s a story I’d like to write as well and the jobs would help a lot of people, while the tax revenue would benefit our school system. A non-polluting industry, of course. If you get me one, I promise to share it with the mayor.
•peace on earth and good will toward mankind. It never hurts to ask, I suppose.
•an agreement from Capital One stating that it will cease its constant mailing to me of credit card invitations. That will be harder to find than peace on earth and good will toward mankind.
•ideas for news stories: Is something going on we’ve missed or under-reported? Do you know of a story that ought to be told, but which hasn’t been? Is there somebody doing something terrific that should be featured? Wrap that idea up and put it under my tree.
•greater understanding of the Bible, local governments’ financial information, the Republican Party, federal reimbursements for Medicare, the disappearance of fiscal conservatism, the Commerce zoning ordinance, the appeal of tattoos and/or the implications of standardized school tests.
•a calendar year without a fatal traffic accident involving a young local driver.
•an announcement from the board of commissioners that the county animal control program is being terminated because residents have become responsible for the care of their dogs and cats.
It’s an ambitious list, but any of these gifts would be greatly appreciated.

It’s Not Just The Birth, But The Example Too
This week’s observation of Christmas will involve most Americans as government and commerce come to a halt to celebrate one of Christianity’s great moments. It is worth remembering, however, that without the death and resurrection of Christ there would be no reason to celebrate his birth.
The message of Christianity is that God loved mankind enough to send his son Jesus as, literally, a sacrifice to atone for mankind’s sins. Thus, the celebration of the birth of Christ. But a look at the life of Christ through the four gospels offers a glimpse of the nature of God that too often gets overlooked.
At a time when Christianity seems to be defined by arguments over government intrusion into religion, debate over same-sex marriages, posting the Ten Commandments in public places and the divide over abortion, Christmas ought to remind us that Jesus’ message was about us loving one another. It was a message brought to life by the way Jesus lived, healing, teaching and forgiving. His harshest criticisms were not meted out to “sinners” like the woman caught in adultery, the woman living in sin that he met at the well in Samaria, or the tax collectors who exploited their countrymen on behalf of the Roman government. He found more fault with a religious establishment that promoted rules over love, valued power and prestige over the needs of the people and marginalized as “sinners” those who could not meet the rigid standards of the law than he found with those declared to be sinners. And while he advised “sinners” to “sin no more,” his action made it clear that they were objects of God’s love.
Christmas reminds us of God’s love. It inspires us to be more generous to the needy and more accepting of one another, if only for a few days. It ought also to remind us that the baby Jesus whose birth is celebrated grew into a man whose life demonstrated the nature of God’s love and who set an example Christians should follow. Christmas celebrates a very important day in Christian history, but Jesus’ ministry demonstrated how God wants mankind to live and to relate to one another.

The Commerce News
December 22, 2004

Bush Should Listen To Critics, Fire Rumsfeld
It took the question of a grunt to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but a chorus of voices – including conservative Republicans – is calling for a regime change in the Department of Defense. The reason is simple; Rumsfeld’s leadership has created a mess in Iraq that is only now being recognized.
It was the secretary of defense who sold President Bush on “military lite,” insisting that a smaller, more technologically capable force could take and hold Iraq. It is Rumsfeld who after turning down recommendations to involve more troops, repeatedly insisted he provided all the troops his generals requested. The Pentagon plan for occupying Iraq called for approximately 400,000 troops; the secretary of defense opted for 140,000.
The result was that the aftermath of the war is more difficult than the war itself. Rumsfeld thought Americans would be treated like GIs liberating Paris in World War II. Instead, they are attacked every day, all over the country, and Rumsfeld’s forces were neither prepared nor equipped for the new phase of the war.
Sadly, President Bush thinks Rumsfeld is “doing a wonderful job,” which bodes ill for America’s presence in Iraq for the next four years. We can expect more of the same: insufficient troops, inadequate equipment, inflated expectations, denial of reality and more American casualties. We can expect continued extended deployments and enlistments.
Rumsfeld should be replaced with someone willing to listen to his generals and to provide our brave soldiers with the equipment and manpower to accomplish the mission they are asked to undertake.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
December 22, 2004

The first gift of Christmas was a child
There are several hundred smiling faces in this week’s newspaper, faces which mute the cynics and renew the faithless.
Each Christmas, this newspaper compiles hundreds of photos of area children in a special section. It is a Christmas card to our readers signed by the hundreds in whose hands rest all of our dreams.
Where but in the eyes of a child can you see both the past — little Tommy has granddad’s eyes, sister Suzie has her mother’s hair — and the future — Blake wants to be a fireman, Jane a doctor.
Tomorrow is a memory of today by the children, youngsters whose innocence is our joy, whose faces light up our homes and whose wonder keeps tradition alive.
Many cultures believe that it is the old who keep traditions, who pass down the wisdom of years and the touchstones of life. But it is the young who are the torchbearers. Without a new generation to teach, traditions mean very little.
It is that faith in the future and our collective desire to pass the cultural torch which makes Christmas a special season. It is a season of faith, not only of religion, but also in our humanity. Even with the kitsch and commercialism being blared around us, the fundamental desire for “peace on earth, good will to men” rings through. Our social conventions may sometimes be shallow, but somehow generation after generation will touch the core of the Christmas spirit and be renewed.
For some, it is a season of mixed emotions. Amid all the gaiety, there are the memories of friends and family who are gone. The music, the smell of a Christmas tree and the annual nesting of families bring back the bittersweet thoughts.
For others, it will be the last Christmas together. There are those who face the inevitable end and even having lived a good and long life is little consolation to the families who will miss them.
But in the faces of their offspring, of the great-grandchildren who laugh and play around them, is the faith that pulls life forward. Without the laughter of children, there would be an emptiness in their wake.
And so, the torch is passed and the traditions continue, someday to be in the hands of those who now play around the Christmas tree and peek up the chimney.
The past and the future come together at Christmas — the memories of our own childhoods mixed with the new memories now being formed by our children. They will someday look back at this special time and smile just as we do at our own childhood memories.
And someday our children’s children will tug at the Christmas tree ornaments and be amazed by the shimmering Christmas lights along city streets.
They will sing in church plays and perform in school concerts.
They will sit on Santa’s knee and promise to be good so they can get that new bike.
They will look at the nativity set and rearrange the pieces, always making a special place for the Baby Jesus.
They will want to watch the tape of Rudolph until they know every line by heart.
They will ask 1,000 questions about the sleigh and reindeer.
They will leave milk and cookies because Santa’s sure to be hungry.
They will check the stockings every day, just in case.
They will eat too much candy and be happy about it.
They will hope.
They will dream.
And they, too, will someday know that the first gift of Christmas was a child.

Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. This is a reprint of his favorite Christmas column from several years ago.

The Jackson Herald
Decembeer 22, 2004

One solitary life
An Annual Christmas Message From The Jackson Herald

The imagery of the Christ Child being born in a stable beneath a bright star surrounded by both learned Wise Men and humble shepherds is one of the most powerful pictures in human history. Humble by birth, He became a shepherd of men, a king of kings and the light of humankind.
Yet, for all His impact on this world, little is known about the man we call Jesus. Relative to others of his era, his known words are few. And virtually nothing is known of His childhood after the birth in Bethlehem.
Many of Jesus’ parables revolve around the common things He observed, and it isn’t too much to imagine that those well-known stories may have come from the things he saw as a child, say scholars who wish to study the area.
Perhaps it is by design that we know so little about His childhood. But what we know of His later life was destined to change the world.
One unknown writer said it best:
He was born in an obscure village.
He worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30.
He then became an itinerant preacher.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn’t go to college.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only 33 when the public turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.
He was laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

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