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Staff Editorials

Happy Holidays to everyone

I wanted to use the phrase Happy Holidays recently. It would have fit perfectly on a newsletter I was helping a local non-profit Christian ministry with.

It would have also perfectly conveyed the intended message, which was for people to have an enjoyable holiday; nothing ulterior or political implied in the choice of phrase.

You see the newsletter was going in the mail in late November and with Happy Holidays it would have been fine as a slightly late Thanksgiving letter. It would have also worked as an early Christmas greeting and they could use any left over for the first few weeks of 2015 as belated New Year’s greetings.

Merry Christmas would not have worked as I hate being wished Merry Christmas before mid-December and I certainly don’t want to read anything that starts Merry Christmas after December 25th.

I like the phrase Happy Holidays and had used it for years for its vagueness, but not the vagueness that some of you are getting riled up about. I am not trying to be pan-religious and appease everyone from Wiccans to atheists with that phrase. I was trying to find a phrase that in publishing is “evergreen” – not because it appeals to druids but because it will be timely for a long period.

I ended up not using Happy Holidays or anything except December 2014. I feared the religious intolerance the phrase Happy Holidays might have provoked.

It’s a shame that companies somewhere (though none that I am personally familiar with) make employees say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas to be politically correct.

And it’s just as much of a shame that defenders of Merry Christmas have made such a big deal about it that someone doing a Christian ministry’s newsletter feels compelled to avoid a seemingly innocuous phrase out of fear that Holy Rollers will get their dander up – as though Happy Holidays is a code word for new age beliefs or political correct pandering.

It’s utterly ridiculous that with all the tension in the world already that we put so much stock in to which phrase to use, as though whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays is a litmus test for whether you are a good Christian or not. Heck, I should have used Season’s Greetings and then let the people who are proud they throw the first stones determine if Season’s Greetings meets their approval.

  The heightened sensitivity to holiday correctness and the merry backlash it provoked has been rightfully mocked by any number of comedians and comedy shows with puns like “assault on Christmas” or “the Christmas attack zone,” or “terrorists say Happy Holidays, we say Merry Christmas.”

Good for the punsters. Anyone who is so self-righteous or judgmental that they try to divine another’s morality and Christian bearing based on a holiday greeting deserves to be mocked.

This year I would suggest you put the Christ back in Christmas. After all the holiday did start as a religious celebration of Jesus’ birth and Christian tradition.

But if you don’t believe that way, that’ s your business. I still hope you enjoy the holiday, even if you only celebrate with Santa Claus, shopping and mammon and watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 

Most of all I don’t care which phrase you greet me with – as long as you are relatively nice when you do it.


Have confidence that recycling works

By DanPool
    When the county switched to single stream recycling in November, conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to suggest it was a trick. Since all the paper, plastic and cardboard are now put in the same container, the county must really be throwing it away -- so the argument went.
    Utter hogwash. The county recycling is now sent through two massive national companies:  Waste Management hauls it to a facility RockTenn operates in Cobb County.
    In about 10 minutes, I had seen enough on the internet to feel pretty confident that single stream recycling is for real – though the search turned up where single-stream was also questioned in other areas.
    As our own public works director mused it’s hard to see why companies want it mixed but they do.
    I understand people’s concern. If you are doing your part to separate your trash, lug nasty bins to either the Camp Road or Cove Road transfer sites, you want to know your old orange juice bottles and cereal boxes really are being remade later as new products.
    I will not attempt to understand the whole recycling process, but I can assure you the county is doing its part and those large companies really earn money by handling recycled goods – quite a bit of money in fact.
    In the national economic model recycling makes a lot of sense. Again taking to the internet, you can run down studies, from standard government recycling advocates, radical environmentalists and business groups that all conclude recycling is a more effective way to operate than trashing everything and starting from raw materials every time.
    Unfortunately, turning waste back into new products such as plastic lumber, packaging, and occasionally cool by-products (fleece jackets from plastic bottles) does not create a huge advantage financially.    
    The process to do things like convert old office paper into packaging is not without its own costs – though recycled paper is one of the more successful parts of the industry. Glass, plastic and cardboard recycling are all a bigger challenge to make work in a business sense.
    The challenges of making recycling viable financially are apparent at the local level. The Pickens public works director Greg Collis explained that they were switching to single stream as the company that had been servicing the county’s recycling center was ceasing operation here. Collis also said that over the years, they have had trouble getting rid of plastics at times and cardboard at other times.        Recycled materials are one step above trash, but not by much. Further evidence of this is the two large bins of old Progress papers going back months that no one seems to want. The company that emptied those was the same as the county used. And no one is rushing to get the newsprint. (If anyone wants a load of old papers, feel free to help yourself, though retrieving them from a dumpster is not easy.) Working with Green Team recycling, the Progress bins for the past year generated $42 -- total.
 A much bigger advantage of recycling is every load of cardboard you drop off at Camp Road is a load that isn’t going to a landfill.
    While there is some value in recycled cardboard, there is only cost with garbage. The county still spends money to monitor methane from the former Jones Mountain landfill. You can hear the pumps running when you drive by  and know that the county will be paying for those pumps to run for decades.
    A further note, one of the greatest motivations to recycle in government and in industry comes from public demand. Locally, Collis said even though recycling has never paid off, it is something they recognize the people here want.
    At a national level, technology companies like Dell and Cisco have both announced changes in their packaging as they feel customers expect them to cut the excess packaging and use compostable packaging materials.
    If you already recycle, please continue to do so, confident that your old magazines and beer bottles are getting where they need to go.
    And if you don’t recycle, now is a great time to start, especially as single stream has made it even more convenient.

Kill Hitler or change our own mistakes?

    What would we do if we could travel through time? According to a recent Chicago Public Radio broadcast, many of us would go back in time and kill Hitler. But even more of us want to travel back in time and address our own mistakes. 
    The Pew Research Center recently found that one out of 10 Americans said they wanted future technologies to develop some way to travel through time. That’s around 30 million Americans -- showing this fantasy technology is desired by more than the Star Trek fans. The ability to time travel ranked high on a list of technologies people wanted to see invented, even tying finding cures for diseases.
    When the producers from a public radio show took to the streets to find out exactly why people wanted to time travel they found some pretty interesting stuff.
    Most people want to travel to the past rather than the future. We know what we are getting with the past; the future, not so much. Imagine we teleport ourselves to the future and find ourselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse (think The Walking Dead) or, even worse, we’re the only person on the planet and the we find ourselves looking at the only remaining structure - a monument to President Kardashian.
    Going back in time, however, we have the ability to change things, perhaps even in grand ways.
    Lots and lots of people said they would kill Hitler. Specifically they said they would “put a bullet in Hitler’s head when he was still a student” or “kill Hitler when he was a baby” or even “kill Hitler’s mother.”
    But a resounding number of people surveyed said they wanted to travel to the past to erase their own mistakes rather than change history on a large scale.    
    Some said they would have not asked their ex-wife out for the first time or they would have provided some advice to their younger selves in the form of “5 things you need to know that will help you with the rest of your life.” People would tell their younger selves winning lottery numbers or to buy Apple stock in 1980.
    Some felt with the wisdom of later age they could offer words of advice to their younger self, such as to study harder in school or pick a different career path.
    Some people just wanted to go back and re-live a certain time in their life they enjoyed - as in the great cinematic achievement Hot Tub Time Machine.
    Going back in time to fix something personal in our own lives sounds enticing but would erasing our mistakes help us find peace for our current selves?
    Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps our older counterparts know something some of us have yet to realize - even if we fix one thing in our younger lives, something else would probably go haywire to replace it.
       The Pew study found that the majority of people over age 65 had no desire to travel through time. Maybe the older and wiser set realize that changing an event here or there that we regret could have repercussions as it echoes through history.
    Or maybe they have already seen enough -- been there and done that with the past and nothing new ever comes along that is truly grand so what’s the point of seeing the future.
    We would be hard pressed to find a person walking around today that wouldn’t change something they’ve done, but maybe it would ruin things a bit too. Experiences that we might not call experiences - that we call mistakes - can make us sad and regretful but if we go back and change everything we’ve done that we consider mistakes, then we don’t learn from them. And isn’t that part of the grand scheme of life?   
    Mistakes. There’s just no getting around them.
    And we already time travel every single day in the present dimension with no machine. Maybe that’s how we fix the past - by fixing the present.

What we are thankful for

    Each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans gather for a day of feasting, family and football. Today’s Thanksgiving celebrations, while likely unrecognizable to attendees of the original 1621 harvest meal, have stood the test of time and continue to be a day for us to gather around the table and celebrate the things that bring us together - health, love, friendship.
    As we enjoy Thanksgiving 2014 with our loved ones, let’s give thanks for hope for the future and the blessings from our past.
    Here at the Progress we are thankful....

    To citizens of the year like this year’s Jeff Downing who remind us that community service is a noble part of life.

    To Tara Seagraves, a Willow Creek neighborhood mother, who took it upon herself to video cars illegally passing stopped school buses and bring it to the attention of the sheriff. Her efforts may have saved a child’s life.

    To a winning PHS football team. Because it fosters a sense of comradery among students and the community. And it’s just plain fun when our team wins.

    To the sheriff for putting the H.E.A.T on DUIs. The dark blue Dodge Chargers that patrol our roads keep us all a little safer.

    To the county’s fire service protection improvements that dropped our ISO ratings in three of the five districts - which means a drop in insurance premiums.

    To the county’s more than 320 teachers who go to school every day to educate our children and strive for a positive learning environment, despite the constant federal and state push for more and more paperwork.
    To the road department guys who come out in the harshest conditions to do what they can with Mother Nature’s droppings.

    To Tater Patch and North Georgia Acting Company for providing our community with exciting live entertainment throughout the year.

    To Carole Maddux and the countless Good Samaritan Center volunteers who have served approximately 9,000 people who are at poverty level and have no insurance for their healthcare. Thanks to the doctors, dentists, clerks, and pharmacists that all volunteer to make sure nobody goes without medical care in Pickens County.

    To CARES for feeding the needy all year round, not just during the holidays.

    To all the businesses who provide local citizens with good, sustainable jobs.

To the city of Jasper police officers and county sheriff’s deputies who, although Pickens County is a very peaceful place for the most part, put their lives on the line every day just by showing up for work.

    To the Jasper Farmers Market, which  provides us with fresh produce from local farmers. And thanks for booth rental fees that are so low farmers can keep their prices low, too.

     To the employees at the Camp Road recycling center who have always greeted our smelly garbage with a big grin. Their good attitudes are infectious.

    To our loyal subscribers who support us and allow us do our jobs every week - bringing you the news of this community. 

Coat drive donations making a difference

    If anyone wants your shirt give them your coat also, Jesus advises in the New Testament.
    The Rev. Joe Betts doesn’t ask that much for the second annual Holy Spirit Ranch/Pickens Progress winter coat drive, which runs through November 21st.
    All he asks on behalf of the poor are for those coats (heavy, winter materials) that you never wear. Those coats in your closet taking up space that are too tight, out-of-style or you just don’t like.
    Last year, some of our Progress readers gave new winter coats apparently purchased just for the coat drive, which brought Betts’ wife to tears over people showing that kindness.
    But Rev. Betts is only asking for what you don’t use that might keep someone else warm this winter.
    For years, Betts, who works out of the Holy Spirit     Ranch office in the Grandview area, has ministered to the poor and homeless in public parks in the metro area. More than just delivering weekly messages, Betts and his wife, plus the volunteers with Holy Spirit, have worked to help find shelter, food, jobs and a chance to improve the lives of people who end up homeless. They have counseled and been friends to people living on the streets.
    Keeping warm when you stay outside most all day is a challenge. And if you are ever in the city during winter, you know the cold that comes from the asphalt and concrete and steel  goes right through what you are wearing. Imagine, not having anywhere to get out of that?
    Particular to the homeless is having whatever coat you own stolen or lost, or thrown away if you leave it in the wrong place or with the wrong people.
    This winter is shaping up to be cold. This weekend is predicted to be freezing and it’s not even Thanksgiving.
    Thanks to the generosity of Progress readers, a lot of people will be a lot better able to withstand the freezing weather –especially considering they live in substandard housing or on the streets in the metro area. Two loads of coats and blankets from this drive have already been picked up by the Holy Spirit people.
    Pastor Betts said the first load of donated coats came at a good time as he had people lining up at his Sunday services in Piedmont Park wanting the garments, plus blankets.
    So far, the “As Long As It’s Warm” coat drive has produced 56 heavy coats; 23 jackets/hoodies; plus a good number of blankets, scarves, hats and gloves. We could use more before the coat drive ends November 21st.
    Betts said they have checked locally and haven’t found a big need for coats here, but first priority remains Pickens County residents. Betts said he believes from groups like the Thrift Store and area churches most local people are covered. If anyone knows of a local need call Holy Spirit Ranch at 770-826-0203.
    The coats not used in Atlanta are delivered by the Holy Spirit Ranch during mission trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where they are trying to plant a church.
    It is unbelievable how much difference the coats people here never wear can make to people in both Atlanta and South Dakota, who will most assuredly put them to immediate use. Check your closets for this drive, it really does help. For more information look for a full-page ad elsewhere in this issue.