Madison County Opinion...

DECEMBER 29, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
December 29, 2004

Another round of battles over Southern culture
The start of a new year brings another round of battles over Southern Culture. There is a difference this time. The Southern Heritage groups are fighting back with some success.
To start, a newly-elected Georgia legislator, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has pre-filed a “Fair Flag Vote” bill. The bill calls for a new state flag vote between the Purdue flag and the ’56 flag. It requires that the two flags be pictured on the ballot. The bill was drawn up in 2004 but not one legislator was willing to sponsor it. Many said they would co-sponsor, but not one had the nerve to take the lead.
Now that nearly a dozen anti-flag members of the Georgia legislature were defeated, including the Democratic leadership that actively blocked the ’56 flag from the prior vote. Now, with new leadership in the legislature, and more support for Southern heritage, the Flaggers have high hopes of finally getting to vote on the ’56 flag.
Two Georgia mayors are under attack for violating Georgia’s memorial protection laws. The mayor of Augusta removed a Confederate flag from a historical flag display on the River Walk. The Mayor of Savannah removed a portrait of Robert E. Lee from city hall. Both are being threatened with lawsuits based on Georgia Code 50-3-1 (b)(1)&(2).
In Kentucky, a high school graduate has filed a lawsuit asking damages from the school system because she was refused admittance to her senior prom.
She was wearing a red gown that she had designed and made especially for the dance. The gown was a full length off shoulder with two blue stripes containing white stars. School officials met her at the front door and refused to allow her to even leave the car.
Finally, a victory for Southern Culture. Mayor Elizabeth A. Minor and City Council President Charles T. Gaynor of Manchester Virginia have accepted the written apology from the mayor of Manchester England, offering closure to a dispute that began late last year. A member of the English city’s government had made a statement equating the presence of the Confederate Battle Flag on the Virginia City’s seal to the German swastika. He was immediately inundated with e-mail from around America, and parts of Europe.
Manchester Virginia’s seal contains four flags that were important to the city’s history. They include the British Union Jack, the U.S. Flag, the Confederate Battle Flag and the Flag of Virginia.
“Here in Winchester, we were absolutely appalled by the message of Councilor Love’s sentiments,” Mayor Cecily Sutton said in a Tuesday telephone interview from the English city, about 70 miles south of London.
“I can only emphasize our good opinion of your citizens, and apologize on behalf of the many here for the unrepresentative remarks of one individual,” Sutton wrote in a Dec. 10 letter. “As this is the traditional season of goodwill, I hope that the people of Winchester, Virginia, will do us the honour of accepting this apology and allowing us to move forward together into a happy new year.”
Southern partisans are marshalling their forces, keeping their powder dry and standing up to the South haters. Just because you don’t see it in the big media news, don’t be fooled into thinking they have given up. After all these years of rolling with the punches, Southern partisans are ready to fight back. It will be an interesting year.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/gillispie/

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
December 29, 2004

A Moment with Margie

The good, the bad and the ugly
This time of year we here at the Journal are taking our usual look back over some of the stories and individuals that made the news in our little corner of the world during the last 12 months.
A few years ago Mr. Herman Buffington, owner and publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, told those of us gathered at a Christmas party to think about how each of us is helping to write the history of our respective counties. I've thought about that often since then in the course of doing my job.
I've come to believe that, when we do that job right, that's pretty much what we are doing — recording the events that happen in our community, both good and bad, for posterity.
Sometimes a story shows the ugliness of a situation that many would rather forget. When that happens, often as not, someone is going to be mad that the story is told, warts and all, and it's us they're usually mad at. And though I often hear comments about how reporters "love to sell those papers," by hyping up the bad stuff, I less often hear how we've told "the good stuff."
And there is a lot of good stuff for us to tell.
It's happening all over through the courage and generosity of this county's volunteers and citizens, through the determination and drive of those with disabilities or hardships and through the underlying faith most of us have that it's important to give something back to the world we live in, no matter our circumstances.
I've enjoyed covering some of "the good stuff" (better known as feature stories) over this past year. As usual, I've met some good folks and gotten to know some I'd already met a lot better. It's an honor to have met each of you and I look forward to covering more "good stuff." It's my favorite part of the job.
Another thing I think about as I look back over past issues is how readers' responses to events and stories in the newspaper (particularly the controversial ones) today may not necessarily be the way future generations will respond to those same stories when they have the perspective of time to distance themselves from the emotion of the day.
And that brings me to another thing I've come to realize more and more, and that's that we're all creatures of emotion.
No matter how clinical some of us try to be in our decision-making processes, our actions are always formed in some fashion by our emotions.
And that's not always a bad thing. After all, if we didn't have emotion, we would cease to be human. If we didn't feel, we'd cease to really experience life. Supposedly we're the only creatures on this earth that can "put ourselves in someone else's shoes," in other words, experience empathy.
Maybe we all ought to try that a little more often.
Sometimes when I'm at a meeting and there's bad feelings all around, I feel disheartened with human nature in general. But I know that each of us shouldn't be judged by our worst moments, and that sometimes all of us act in ways in which we are ashamed, even if our pride, or our stubbornness, won't let us admit it.
I try to remember that, but sometimes my own human nature gets in the way.
I guess it's a good thing God looks in at the soft underbelly of all of us, that He pries beneath the hard shells and thick skin we've built up on the outside.
So here's my New Year's wish for us all: that we continue to work through our differences and difficulties, that we keep the ugliness to a minimum, that we try to see the other's point of view when possible and most of all that we all remember that we're becoming a part of the history of this county, and even of this world, in one way or another.
We here at The Journal will do our best to keep on recording that history, for better or for worse.
Happy New Year.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal. Her e-mail address is madisonjournal@alltel.net

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