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 OPINION PAGE - DEC. 15, 1999 - DANIELSVILLE, GA

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
December 15, 1999

From the Editor's Desk
Gift-giving blunders
My first "gift" was to my mom. It included toilet paper, toothpicks and water. I'd take all of the toilet paper off of a roll, ball it together, soak it, then jab toothpicks in it.
"I made this for you," I said, putting the dripping mass of waste in her hands
She laughed the first time I made one of these "gifts" for her. Perhaps my invention reminded her of some of the less impressive modern art she had seen. It was a strange piece of work indeed.
But a second "sculpture" made her mad. I was simply wasteful, using up toilet paper and making a mess.
Since then, I have improved only slightly in my gift selections. And at times I watch someone open my present to them, feeling like that 5-year-old offering a messy ball of spiked goo.
Simply put, I fit the stereotype - the man who is utterly lost in the mall, the fellow who freaks out when he has to shop.
I sometimes give presents that seem like a good idea when I buy them, but later I see how ridiculous they are.
One year I gave my mom a thermometer/barometer with a magnet on the back to go on the refrigerator - cause we all know Mom is always wondering how cool the outside of the refrigerator really is and "what is the barometric pressure in the kitchen?"
Last year, I hit the mall a couple of days before Christmas and by the time I was back in the parking lot, I had purchased, among other things, a Swiss Army compass and a thermometer key chain. Who wouldn't want these things? Aren't all of us at times lost in the woods wondering "Hey, what's the temperature in my pocket?"
Buying Christmas gifts takes thought. And unfortunately, my only thought when shopping is getting home. Sadly, at a time when I should be thinking of others, I have a hard time taking my focus off myself.
It's not that I'm totally selfish. I'm an impulsive buyer. And I like to spend money on the people I care about, giving them unexpected gifts.
But being in a mall makes me feel like I've taken a solid punch to the head. I feel dazed and I don't know which way to turn. And yes, perhaps I'm a Scrooge, but Christmas music over store speakers drives me nuts, making me recall the Christmas breaks I spent working in a grocery deli. There was the same song, "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney's Wings, that played repeatedly. I wanted McCartney to stand there and make pizzas with me, to understand that I was not having a wonderful Christmas time because of him.
The simple solution to my problem is getting started early, giving myself enough time to search for the right gift. Some people are gift-giving pros. They think ahead, making mental notes all year long on what their loved ones want and need. Around Thanksgiving, they hit the stores, but I stay away.
And I did again this year - I have yet to purchase any gifts.
Basically, I'm a sad sort. And if there was a group I could join, I'd gladly take the podium to tell about my gift-giving blunders. "Hello, I'm Zach and if you got a thermometer, I'll buy it."
Someday I'll shape up. But be glad I'm not Santa Claus. There'd probably be a lot of fussing kids.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
December 15, 1999

Frankly Speaking

Time to stop pandering to professional victims
When Dr. Balint Vazsonyi, Director of the Center for the American Founding, told a C-Span audience that he believed that an "even playing field" has been achieved in America and anyone willing to make an effort could achieve, he was immediately attacked by angry blacks who insist that all blacks are still being victimized by racism.
In fact, American blacks are being victimized by their success at being professional victims.
There are huge advantages to being perceived as a victim. You can claim restitution. You can play on the sympathies of left wing activist. You can excuse your own failures by blaming them on whoever you say is your oppressor. You can demand jobs, contracts and college admissions under "affirmative action" programs.
By being a victim of society, you don't have to ever be responsible for your own welfare. If you are in need of a better home, just call on the government to correct past injustices by supplying you with a house. If your pantry is not as full as you would like, contact the food stamp people and insist that you be given benefits. If they refuse, shame them by calling them "racist."
If you are a victim of racism and your son is arrested for hiding marijuana in his pants at the airport, immediately accuse the officers of being a bunch of racists who are targeting blacks for searches. Ifyour daughter has three children by three different fathers by her fifteenth birthday, say that it is the atmosphere of racism that caused her to be "seeking affection."
If you decide you want a career as a lawyer, accountant, salesman, journalist or other professional, and you don't want to do the hard work necessary to become highly qualified in that profession, just learn the least possible and demand a high-paying job under the "affirmative action" programs. Why work hard when you can force society to give you what you want?
The door to opportunity in America is open to anyone willing to make an effort. The only barrier anyone has to obtaining a good job is their ability to perform the duties of that job. Those people who go to school, work hard to complete their classes, devote the time and effort to master a marketable skill, then present themselves to the marketplace with a good attitude and display of ability will find excellent jobs in abundance.
Dr. Vazsonyi, a native of Hungary who fled the abuses of communism, said there are individual cases of racial discrimination in America, but we have an abundance of legal resources to correct those cases. He argued that belonging to a particular group, whether it be a special race, sex, religion or other, no longer results in automatic discrimination. He is correct.
Today, most of the people who make demands on society to correct some discrimination or another are actually professional victims. They don't want racism to go away. Without it, they would have no easy way to earn their own fortunes. They would lose their hold on the mass media. They would have to re-educate themselves to perform actual work that is needed in the economy and get real jobs!
Can you see Rev. Jessie Jackson as a sales manager for Sears, or Rev. Al Sharpton selling used cars? How well would Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell do as the manager of an apartment complex? Actually, each of them are probably qualified for the job I suggested. But in jobs like those, they would lose their national glory as defenders of America's mythicalracial victims, and that is what they fear most.
Now don't get me wrong. These people are actually victims of our culture. But they are victims of their own choosing, and will continueto be victims as long as it remains profitable. We allow them to be victims as long as we agree to their demands.
If society will treat these professional victims with a little "tough love," stop paying their ever growing blackmail demands and make them work for a living like the rest of us, the list of victimized Americanswill decline dramatically.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.

Letter
The Madison County Journal
December 15, 1999

Felony charge too stiff a penalty for animal cruelty
Dear Editor:
When I read of a case of animal cruelty, I am deeply saddened and wish that such abuses would not occur. I abhor the blatant misuse of animals, and it is apparent from the recent swell of political activity that many others feel the same way. The political activity I refer to is the lobbying to have our state government make cruelty to animals a felony.
It is easy to sympathize with those who are trying to institute a law making such actions a felony. But then one must step back and reflect on the question, "what is animal cruelty and how would the law affect those charged?"
What is animal cruelty or what kind of acts might be reported to police? An example might be: a pet is starved to death; a person who drowns animals, someone who buys dogs to kill, someone who shoots their neighbor's pet, to list a few. Are these types of people who could be called felons?
Recently, a young person caught an anole from outside and kept it in a jar in the bedroom. The pet anole lacked the bugs it normally consumes to survive and died. The discovery of the anole by the young person's parents was too late to save its life.
The second example is of someone that lives in another state. The town he lives in is being overrun with skunks and the city has given him traps to capture the skunks in the city. The caught skunks are drowned to prevent the person from being sprayed. You might say that the skunks should be let free, but if you take them to other areas and let them free you are doing the skunk population a disservice because this can spread disease throughout the state's skunk community.
The neighbor who buys and kills dogs is from a culture that eats dog like we eat chicken or beef.
The neighbor's dog shot on a ranch by a rancher who has been losing livestock to dogs coming from urban sprawl neighborhoods. Or a young person out in his backyard with a BB gun saw the dog run through his property and promptly popped the dog in its rear to hurry him out of the property. After all, it was his job to clean up the dog dung left by his neighbor's dog on his lawn, and he is a little miffed at having to do that unpleasant task.
You might think that these examples are ridiculous, and would never come up for trial. But life is more ridiculous than this. I remember some years ago reading about a fellow from New York who caught a rat as big as a cat. He called the animal shelter to come and get the rat. While he was waiting, the rat started to escape and while trying to keep the rat in captivity, the man bludgeoned the rat to death. When the people from the animal shelter arrived and saw the dead animal, they pressed charges against him. The charge - animal cruelty.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, an off-duty police officer was jogging in a park that had a leash law. While he was jogging an unleashed dog came after him. After trying to dissuade the dog from attacking, the office pulled his gun and shot the dog. The dog's owner showed up moments later and saw her pet was dead and filed charges against the officer.
Let me repeat, I disdain what I perceive as animal abuse, and feel for the animal when they suffer because of wanton neglect or just plain stupidity on the part of the owner. But, I also believe that charging a person with a felony is not the way to address the problem. Once a person has a felony conviction it follows him/her for the rest of their life. A felony conviction can terminate employment, and by law inhibit a person from selected careers. A felony conviction destroys lives without a viable mechanism to ever purge the offender's police record. A felony conviction for acts against humanity is more easily justified, but not for such a subjective act as cruelty to animals. I think humanity may best be served by leaving the crime as a misdemeanor and give the judge very broad sentencing power so that the incompetent can be sternly warned and the violent can be punished by fines or other means and helped via mandatory counseling.
For those of you who do not think cruelty to animals is not subjective, let me ask you why the proposed law specifically excluded research, hunting and animal sacrifice for religious purposes if the definition of cruelty to animals is so black and white?
So if this law passes, watch for those felons that let their animals ride in the back of an open pickup truck, owners that run into the store leaving their pet in the car, persons dropping off unwanted animals in the countryside, the owner who has too many pets in one pen, the person who hits an animal while driving and runs off, the owner whose pen is too small and the owner who kicked his dog.
Sincerely,
Dennis Phillips
Nicholson


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