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Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald - September 22, 1999

No earrings, please!
The power of pop culture is amazing. Those with young children really understand that every time they pass a McDonald's restaurant or turn on the Disney Channel. Our children may not perform very well in school, but they darn well remember every character of every Disney movie and can tell you the latest toys being offered under the golden arches.
I was reminded of this pervasive cultural influence last week following the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. One of the early morning talk shows did an interview with Andre Agassi and showed film of him playing tennis as a young boy. Since our six-year-old attempts to play a little tennis, we quickly pointed out to him that if he worked hard at the game, he could someday "be like the boy on television and grow up to be a tennis champion."
A few days later, I saw my first born walking around the yard with something hanging off his head. The closer I got, the odder he looked. With a piece of tape, he had attached some kind of string to his earlobe.
"What the heck have you got on your ear?" I asked.
"Oh, nothing," he said innocently.
"Is that an earring?" I demanded.
"Uh huh," he answered.
I tried to ask the next question as calmly as my blood pressure would allow.
"Why in the world do you have a pretend earring on your ear?"
"It's what the tennis champion wears," he answered matter-of-factly.
The light bulb went on - Andre Agassi - television - tennis champion - earring.
Oh, be still my heart.
How or why a six year old would notice Agassi's earring and not his tennis ability is beyond me. At most, the television interview was 60 seconds, not long enough for anyone to absorb much of an impression, or so I thought.
But there, in all his innocent glory, stood my child, a future carrier of the family name, with tape on his ear in a make-believe earring.
Now, before any of you earring-wearing males begin writing me about being bias, let me say this: I am bias - men don't wear earrings.
It isn't hip.
It isn't hot.
It isn't cute.
It's just silly.
I say that as a child of the 1960s when gender-bending excess was all the rage. My hair was a little long, but no one confused me with a member of the opposite sex (that was before females began wearing their hair shorter than males). I wore bell-bottoms and some tie-dye. In the 1970s, I even had a couple leisure suits with matching polyester shirts.
In short, I, too, have made a fool of myself with fashion.
But there is one thing I never did - wear an earring. Or lipstick. Or color my hair. Or, for that matter, pay attention to jewelry.
For the most part, I consider fashion-conscious to be the domain of females. It's what they learn as young girls playing with Barbie dolls. Young girls are taught, from a very tender age, to be aware of how they look, dress and act. Getting an earring is a rite of passage for many young girls.
Young boys, on the other hand, wear cowboy boots and pretend to round up the bad guys. They don't care how their hair looks. They don't care what clothes they wear. Young boys are not supposed to be aware of looks and fashion.
Can you imagine Roy Rogers with an earring? Or John Wayne with perfect hair?
So there's a new rule at the Buffington household - no earrings, except for mom.
That ought to keep my blood pressure down for a while, at least until they come home one day in the future wanting a tattoo to be like macho Harley riders.
How will I explain away that request?

Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Jackson Herald
September 22, 1999

Kindergarten class- 'life is what you make of it'
Dear Editor:
I am writing in response to Mrs. Wood's letter last week concerning the transfer of her child, a Jefferson Elementary School kindergarten student, to a new classroom and teacher. My child is also one of the eighteen students in this new classroom. I am very impressed with J.E.S. and how the emergence of this class was handled. The students were lottery picked. I don't see any other way this could have been handled.
Mrs. Wood mentioned she was not happy with the lack of parental imput in this procedure. I do not think it is realistic to think you would find eighteen sets of parents volunteering their child for this.
I learned from the J.E.S. principal that the reason for the delay of this class was in finding a teacher acceptable to her standards and I thank her for this. My daughter's new teacher, Mrs. Conner, seems to be a very patient, loving woman
Mrs. Woods ended her article wondering what other parents would do when faced with their child's hurt and tearful face that wants mom "to make it all better." This question can relate to many situations in a childs life.
Every parent has their own views on how to handle situations that arise. I don't see my job as a parent as to always try to change the outside factors that are upsetting my child. My job is to teach my child that life is not always fair. My job is to teach my child how to best handle and view their upsetting moments. Life is what you make of it.
Tamara White

The Jackson Herald
September 22, 1999

Lottery a local economic drain
Of all the Jackson County statistics presented to chamber of commerce members last week by Dr. Doug Bachtel, the one that perhaps shocked the most was the amount of money being spent each year on the Georgia lottery - $7.1 million in 1997.
To put that in perspective, that's more than was spent that year in all of Jackson County's drug stores; it's more than all the income earned off local cattle operations in 1997; and it's almost as much as was spent in the county on home furnishings and appliances in 1997.
As Dr. Bachtel pointed out, that $7.1 million works out to $304 for everyone between the ages of 18-65. Knowing that a lot of people don't play the lottery, or play it only occasionally, the numbers suggest that some people are shelling out a lot of money on the chance of hitting it big. And all too often, it is those who can least afford to throw their money away who play the lottery the most. We've all seen people in local stores spending money on lottery tickets while letting their children get by on junk food.
If the state were to say that it planned to levy a tax on all poor people to pay for middle class programs, there'd be a riot. But that's exactly what's happening - the poor and undereducated, those who statistically play the lottery the most, are paying to send middle class boys and girls to college and to fund other education programs. Even then, of that $7.1 million only $1.9 million went back to help local schools or to send local children to college.
In many ways, the lottery is a tax on those who pay very little other taxes because of their low income levels. That those people are contributing back to society via the lottery is perhaps somewhat good.
But in the long run, the lottery is simply a drain on Jackson County, pulling money out of hands that should be spending those dollars for more productive items, or investing them for the future.
The middle class likes having its children educated for free, but we fear that somewhere down the road, there will be a high price to pay for that.

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