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 OPINION PAGE - NOVEMBER 24, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
November 24, 1999

Gun-Related Deaths Hit 30-Year Lows
Given the publicity from the Columbine High School shootings and other high profile crimes, few Americans would have predicted that the rate of gun-related deaths has fallen, but that is exactly what has happened.
Certainly, that is something we can be thankful for in this season. The Clinton White House and the Republican Congress will be particularly thankful because both will scramble to take credit for the fact that between 1993 and 1997 gun deaths dropped 21 percent to the lowest level in more than 30 years.
The study was undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it covered all gunshot wounds reported at emergency rooms, whether they were intentional, accidental or even self-inflicted.
The reasons given by "experts" are varied. They include tougher legislation, preventative efforts of public health officials, even a strong economy that helped reduce overall crime and suicide attempts. Gun advocates cite the statistics as proof gun controls are not needed, while gun control proponents say the drop is not enough.
Now if we could just reduce the frequency of gun-related incidents being reported on the evening news.


Most Have Plenty To Be Thankful For
Even those of us who are prone to complain must admit this Thursday that there is much for which we must be thankful. Sure, we can look around at the personal tragedies and failures, at crime in the streets, problems in education, biases in the media, shortcomings in government and conclude that there is infinite room for improvement. Still, on Thanksgiving let us be grateful for those things that are good.
When a handful of Pilgrims gathered to celebrate their survival in a harsh land, they were thankful to God just to be alive. They were isolated, thousands of miles from their countrymen in a land populated by a primitive culture with whom communication was extremely difficult. Their food resources were limited. They had no backup provisions for health care, no plan for retirement, no protection should the natives prove unfriendly. They faced a grim, tough future, and came from a harsh, tragic immediate past in which many of their number had perished. But they were thankful.
There are people today in similar straits. They face the possibility of starvation following massive floods in India or Bangladesh. They struggle to recover from earthquakes in Turkey or with famine in Africa, and all over the world are large pockets of grinding poverty the likes of which Americans can never understand, not to mention individual tragedies from which people struggle to recover.
As a nation, we face no clear and immediate threat from enemies, from forces of nature, epidemic or famine. Our government is secure, and compared to the rest of the world, quite effective. Educational and medical services are available to everyone and few are starving. America remains the land of opportunity. Its unparalleled freedoms still attract immigrants from all over the globe, and its wealth is unsurpassed. The economy remains strong. Above all, the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution still exist. No one tells us what we have to read, say or think or how we must worship, and we are free to live where we wish.
Thursday, families here will join the rest of the nation in observing Thanksgiving, a day of celebration of our many blessings. Before you sit down to a feast Thursday, think of those first Pilgrims, remember how fortunate we are compared to others in the world, and give thanks to God for your blessings.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
November 24, 1999

No End To
Reasons To
Be Thankful
The idea of taking a special day out to give thanks is wonderful. We all have so much for which to be thankful that we could, if we really tried, spend a whole day tabulating them, and still not cover everything.
For the past several years, I've thought more frequently about the things for which I should give thanks. On the occasion of Thanksgiving, here are a few.
Most obvious: for a God who loves mankind so much and is so available. For my wife and children, my parents, the kind of family that raised me, the fact that I am American, the town environment in which I grew up, for answered prayers The usual stuff. The most important.
For the fact that God protected me from myself during the years when I was too foolish to know I needed protection, for the fact that I didn't get everything I wanted during those years. For my job, my co-workers, my friends and my relatives (well, most of them).
For the taste and smell of coffee early in the morning, and for a glass of wine in the evening. For fish that bite, and especially for the people who let me fish in their lakes and ponds. For sunrise on the water in mid-summer, and sunset at the same places in the fall, where as darkness grows, the ducks and geese fly in. For the kingfishers, beavers and great blue herons whose presence add something to the hours on the lake.
For our proofreaders, who save me from my most embarrassing goofs, and for readers who forgive those that get by. For computers when they work, and for people who can make them work when they crash. For Spellcheck. For my free Internet service. For Mike Buffington's patience as he dragged me kicking and screaming into computer composition. For good stories, good photos and good news. For the people who understand that bad news is news too.
I am thankful for the diversity of nature, for flowers that bloom in the shade, for plants deer don't eat and for my blueberry bushes. For bees that pollinate my garden and yours, for the antics of squirrels, for the majesty of hawks and other raptors. For the change of seasons, for deep blue skies and the fall leaves. For earthworms that make compost and for horse manure that helps them enrich my soil.
For the people who make our community work, the teachers, church personnel, emergency personnel, civic leaders, and for volunteers. For honest, competent public officials, for concerned and knowledgeable citizens, for the good business people, particularly those whose retail establishments survive against all odds in Commerce. For those with vision and those who can be counted on to work. For the special few who always seem upbeat. For those who have humor.
For the History Channel, Braves baseball, and athletes that can perform well without feeling that they must do an endzone dance. For a strong economy, for my dog's eternal affection, for pasta. I am thankful for people who enjoy working in nursing homes, for pastors, missionaries and those who work with the down and out. For honest, compassionate people. For music, bourbon, medium-rare steaks, for giggling children, rainy nights and people willing to stand up for what they believe in.
Shoot, I was just getting started.


Letter
The Commerce News
November 24, 1999
Reader Laments Lack Of Help For Woman From Community
Editor:
It really happened in Commerce and Banks County Nov. 17.
An elderly, lost female was somehow "kicked" out of the home where she was staying in Banks County. The Banks County Sheriff's Department picked her up, "dumped" her off at Presto's BP station in Commerce early afternoon, telling her they could not help her any which way, nor could they help her get to Atlanta.
One of the employees at Presto's called the police of Commerce, asking for their help. They did not have the heart or time to fool with the situation. The churches were called next; alas the same answer, no help there. After many hours sitting there, no money, no warm coat, the interested Presto's employee took her over to North Georgia Plaza Truck Stop, to see if she could find someone going to Atlanta.
Finally, another concerned citizen from Commerce contacted Banks County once again. They, at last, did their good deed, many hours later, found her a place to stay for the night, hopefully a hot meal, and were going to try to locate her relatives.
We have really reduced our caring attitude in this area to a big city complacent mentality, haven't we folks? Why should we even ponder, once, about our troubles in this country on moral issues? Could there be a hint here as to why our children have gone astray? It really hits home when the public servants and the churches are just too busy, or non-caring enough, to help one elderly lady - one extra little step of human kindness.

Marion Wade


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