Get Adobe Flash player

Staff Editorials

The boy on the beach

    Aylan Kurdi began his day on September 2nd dressed in a red shirt, blue shorts and shoes. The three-year-old was travelling with his father, mother and five-year-old brother on a dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece, fleeing from civil war in his home country of Syria. His tragic day ended with him drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey.
    Since that day the toddler, whose mother and brother also died when the boat they were in capsized, has become the symbol of the plight of refugees.                     While not alone in his quest for a peaceful life (there are more than 16 million people in need of assistance inside and outside of Syria according to Mercy Corps), it was the drowned little boy  that  inspired a lot of  soul-searching among Westerners about how to deal with such a large influx of refugees into European borders.
    The photo of the toddler washed up, face down on a beach has wrenched the hearts of everyone who has seen it. The photographer who took the shot said “the best thing to do was to make this tragedy heard. At that moment, when I saw the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, I was petrified. The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard. When I realized there was nothing to do to bring that boy back to life I thought I had to take his show the tragedy.”
    As Americans, this tragedy seems so far away. We see these images of people fleeing from their civil-war ridden homelands on news shows and online and think how terrible the situation is. Then we turn our attention to other, less tragic news while thinking to ourselves this is something Europeans must deal with.
    But the picture of the boy changed that. It was shared widely on Twitter and Facebook and drew comparisons to the 1993 photo of a vulture near a starving child in Sudan.
    The sad fact is people are dying. Children. Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Wars are destroying families and lives. The people fleeing from war-ravaged Syria has been called “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” Half of Syria’s population has been displaced since protests began in March 2011 and there are now more than 4 million Syrians in refugee camps, fleeing from the mass-murdering regime of Bashar al-Assad and the violence of ISIS.
    While it would be ideal to solve the problems inside Syria quickly, practical experience shows Middle East triumphs rarely happen.
    So, as a global leader, America - a nation of immigrants ourselves - should stand with the Europeans and allow more than the 1,500 Syrian refugees we’ve already allowed in our country to resettle here. If an already crowded Germany (who announced Monday they can take in 500,000 refugees a year for the next several years) can make room, surely we can too.
    It can be overwhelming as individuals to consider the larger, global ramifications of intervention from a military or humanitarian perspective, often feeling we don’t know enough to offer useful comment on policy decisions. But the inscription on the Statue of Liberty should provide direction:
    “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
    Opposition to allowing more refugees inside our borders primarily stems from worries about terrorists slipping through. And our Homeland Security officials have already said that any potential refugees from Syria would receive “the most rigorous screening.”
    We couldn’t agree more. Yes, be thorough in the vetting process to keep out potential terrorists and don’t allow the refugee process to become a backdoor for jihadists.
    The State Department’s director of Refugee Admission for the Bureau of Population said: “It’s not a matter of should we do it, it’s really a matter of how we do it. One of the fundamental principles of our country is that we care about others. We will help others.”
    We don’t advocate that America should always “do something” about international situations, but with this tragedy we can humanely take in some of those dislocated by cruelty.  Absorbing immigrants and refugees is always disruptive - for the nations taking them in and the refugees themselves.
    We need to help in a meaningful way. We need to be a part of the solution that makes sure Aylan Kurdi’s father is the last parent who has to see his entire family eradicated from this earth.

When yellow jackets swarm, Run!

By Angela Reinhardt
Staff writer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    While my seven-year-old daughter, her horseback riding instructor and an assistant rode a wooded trail during last week’s lesson, my father-in-law and I propped on a fence and waited for the group to come back.
    After about 20 minutes I saw my daughter Scarlett, on foot, top the grassy horizon just beyond the edge of the woods and I noticed she didn’t have on a shirt. Initially I assumed she got dirty on the trail, but as she came closer I could see she had on her “strong face,” the one she makes when she tries to hold back tears. Her shirt was in her right hand.
    Out of breath from rushing back to the barn, also on foot with horses in tow, the instructor and assistant told me they were attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets. She said as quickly as she noticed Scarlett’s horse stir, “they were all over us.” 
    “I just told everyone to run and get out of there!” she said.
    All three riders were stung multiple times, but my daughter – who was riding the horse that stepped on the nest - weathered the brunt of the blows. Scarlett had fallen off her horse and, from what I could tell, was stung at least 15 times. She had welts on her face, on her abdomen, on her legs and on the back of her neck, as well as a large scrape along her side where she fell off.
    I scooped her up and ran to a golf cart parked nearby to assess the situation. I knew how severe reactions to wasps and bee stings can be and I was scared - but my father-in-law (who is highly allergic) and the instructor (whose father is highly allergic) eased my mind. After several minutes of observation we could see she wasn’t swelling or having difficulty breathing. They told me at this point she would have displayed serious symptoms if she had  a sensitivity, so I opted to doctor her at home.
    When Scarlett and I got in the car and drove off she completely broke down. She was scared to death. In between manic crying and sobs she told me it was the worst day of her life and she wished she never would have gone to that dumb lesson, and “Do I have any stingers still in me? And how do I get them out? Am I going to get swollen? It hurts so bad, mommy.”
    On the way home I picked up ibuprofen and Benadryl and dosed her up. I wet long pants and a shirt in cool water and put them on her, which she liked and which seemed to sooth the skin. I put her on the couch, gave her some cookies and turned on the television to take her mind off the pain.    
    Over the course of two hours she gradually calmed from her manic state and I walked onto the patio to get some air. Ten minutes later she walked out after me.
     “Mommy, I think I feel better!”
    I told her what a strong girl she was, and that she would have a cool story to tell her friends the next day. With her face still splotchy and red from all the crying, she held up her arms like a body builder, muscles flexed, and made a “grrrrrrrr” sound. Assisted by several hours of wailing and the Benadryl she eventually passed out and slept through the night.
    Ironically, the very next day a family friend brought a paint gelding to the farm where we live so we could ride. While I was at work my mother-in-law texted a picture of Scarlett on horseback.
       “Can’t keep a good girl down,” the message said. “Back in the saddle.”
         After some online research I discovered that late summer/early fall is when yellow jackets are most aggressive. It’s during this time of year that populations peak and food supply is limited. They’re testy and hungry and crowded and attack more often.
    The situation with my daughter could have definitely been worse, but until the populations die down in late fall be sure to take precautions, especially if you have an allergy. 
    There are plenty of online resources for yellow jacket precautions, and information can be found at the UGA Extension Office located inside the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce building. 
    And, just like the experts say, if you find yourself on the wrong end of a yellow jacket stinger do what my daughter’s instructor told her to do - “Run!”

Kudos for 515 crackdown

    They didn’t have to, but heads of Georgia State Patrol Post 28, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Jasper Police Department pulled together to address skyrocketing crashes along the Highway 515 corridor – and they deserve to be applauded for their effort.
     For the entire month of July these agencies doubled down patrols on 515 with a strong focus on speeding and distracted driving, and all three reported the crackdown a success.
    Not only did the number of crashes on 515 decrease proportionally to crashes worked in the entire county, officers and deputies issued about double the usual number of citations during the month and there was not a single fatality.
    Their increased presence raised awareness in the community about the need for extra caution on the four lane, especially at the most dangerous areas -   the intersections of Highway 53, Highway 108 and Camp Road.
    The sheriff’s office even reported that they learned how great the public concern is over speeding, aggressive and distracted driving in the area. The sheriff office also found an ongoing need to use unmarked vehicles to identify distracted drivers.
    If you were one of the more than 375 people ticketed on Highway 515 last month, consider yourself lucky - better a lesson than a crash.
    And while the one month crackdown has ended, drivers beware. As the sheriff’s office figured out during July, citizens want aggressive enforcement on the four-lane and we suspect our local agencies will honor these wishes.
    Just because the crackdown has ended, it doesn’t mean you can go back to flying 75 miles an hour through an intersection.
     It gives us a great deal of comfort knowing our law agencies aren’t static. They are willing to respond to the changing needs of a community to keep the public safe.
    Police scanners are standard equipment in newsrooms and we don’t like listening to call after call responding to a wreck on 515 (we don’t like hearing about wrecks anywhere, but the numbers on 515 are noticeably more). We want to see that number continue to decrease and we know that our law enforcement agencies want that as well.
    As members of the public who use 515 almost everyday, lets all heed the advice of our law officials – slow down, put down that cell phone and pay attention at intersections on Highway 515, because even though we know they are looking out for us, we need to look out for ourselves, too.
    Safe driving from the Progress.

The ebb and flow of fundraising events in Pickens County

By Dan Pool
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Saturday night’s chamber of commerce Auto-Raffle at Rocco’s was unusual and not just because I happened to win one of the cash prizes.
    It is an anomaly in this county for an event to run into trouble because it proved to be too popular, too well attended.
    The chamber of commerce has held an annual auto-raffle for years. It used to be called  “the truck giveaway” because the grand prize was always a truck.
    It had been at the chamber building every year before and was well-enough attended; good crowds but nothing that swamped the hosts like Saturday. After moving it to Rocco’s this year, it seemed everyone wanted to attend.
    Right now two different groups of people reading this are gnashing their teeth.
    Those who had many-hour waits for food and nowhere to sit due to the unexpected doubling of attendance are fuming again. The organizers of most every other event held in Pickens County are also mumbling words we can’t print.
    Overcrowded? Not enough food? Not enough space? Too many people trying to get in? It’s as rare as winter parkas at the July 4th  to hear these complaints about a local event.
    The reverse is the norm: Event organizers left befuddled and broke because more people didn’t show up.
    The bluegrass festival this spring was the most recent victim of a fickle public. Organizers from veteran groups put in a lot of time and effort and money only to see very few local bodies show up. Music festivals have particularly borne the indifference of the area population. Concert events appear to do well in other locales but for some unknown (at least to us) reason, don’t catch more than scintilla of public interest here.
    And it’s not just a festival setting, consider that the sprawling empty space beside the courthouse was briefly the Sidebar, where owners poured in a fortune to establish it as a blues club. Didn’t work. The chamber has in several years tried to host some kind of concert in connection with the Marble Festival. Didn’t work a decade ago with country music and didn’t work more recently with bluegrass.
    Visual arts have found an equally tough row to hoe attracting support. Most tellingly, Sharptop Arts Association shut down after several appeals for support went unheeded. And this followed the demise of ArtFest which never gained a foothold despite showing a lot of potential in the second and final year. The Marble Festival has also dropped the fine arts portion of the weekend as it  produced mainly shrugs from festival goers.
    Outside the arts, the recent public safety day in Nelson  drew mostly presenters, not visitors.     The roster of events that don’t get off the ground could go on and on. And our aim in presenting the failures is to be sure other groups out there are aware how tough the environment can be. Too many times we have heard stories like one from  a principal a few years back who told us they were literally going to have to hold a fundraiser to cover losses from an earlier fundraising disaster.
    We hope someone proves us wrong by putting on a successful music or art festival here. We’d like to see it. We’d support it. But we feel it’s our duty to let various fundraising chairmen know the difficulty in getting a new event up and running.
    The chamber event Saturday and JeepFest, not to mention the Dairy Queen reopening, all demonstrate people here will come out but only if the event catches their interest. Anyone who thinks they can hire a couple of good bands and pack a field had probably better do some refiguring.
    Secondly, we’d encourage the public to be a little more willing to make time for events. Part of going to the bluegrass festival earlier this year was because you liked the music, but part (the biggest part) should have been to support the local veterans raising money for their needs.
    Next time you see a group putting a lot of work into a festival, concert or other fundraiser, show them a little support. It’s what a community is all about.

Just how rushed are we?

    Going home from work the other day, I had one of those occasional four-way stop encounters. I got there at approximately the same time as another car. We both stopped, started again then we both stopped quickly a second time, indecisiveness on both parts over who got there first.
    The other driver roared off with quite a bit of flailing arms and obvious exhortations on the futility of life voiced inside his car – though no real obscene gestures.
    I am not above some flailing arms myself when a road situation dictates, though my temper tends to rise mainly when someone is threatening my life with idiotic driving – such as passing anywhere on Cove Road.
    What struck me at the four-way stop was the incredible display of anger resulted from a little miscommunication, costing neither of us more than a few seconds of our day.
    Some people lose their tempers over minor things and the other person may have been having a bad day already. But to put it in perspective, the furor resulted over the loss of less than 10 seconds out of a 24-hour day all because the cosmic forces of the universe put two drivers at a four-way stop at the same exact time – no maliciousness, nor premeditated act, nor anyone out to get anyone.
    And the effects of this coincidence are as ephemeral as you can get. No harm and very little time wasted. The seconds lost to both us combined would only equal:
    • the time it takes to do a good tooth brushing rather than a rush job.
    • slightly longer than it takes Facebook to load on a smart phone.
    • Much less time than it takes to eat three French fries.
    Incidents of road rage and other rages are certainly nothing new and definitely not unique and this wasn’t even a bad case – recall the shooting at RaceTrac last month.   
    Are we really in this much of a rush? A Pew Research Poll found that for a quarter of Americans the answer is yes. Twenty-three percent of all adults in this country indicated  they “always” feel rushed in a recent survey.
    For the always rushed crowd, my suggestion is to eat nothing but protein bars until you get caught up, saving an untold amount of time cooking and washing dishes and if you buy the bars in bulk, you won’t be tempted to berate a high school student for holding you up while they get your burger.
    You might also consider some alternative activities to help you slow down. Any baseball fan will gladly while away the minutes waiting on the pitcher. Is that wasted time or an opportunity to relax? And hunters and fisherman know that on most days, there is little action, but outdoorsmen still find their hobby enjoyable.
    Back to the four-way: in the U.S. at an all-way stops, right of way is determined by who got there first. Simple, but as we all know, sometimes cars pull up at the same time. Then, any astute driver knows right of way goes to the car on the right.
    But, heck, that takes a little too much figuring. I like South Africa’s system better, when cars arrive at the same time, drivers are expected to make eye contact and use hand gestures (preferably nice ones) to determine who goes first, which a lot of people already do here. Arrive at the same time, you or the other guy waves to indicate who should go. Seems not only more efficient but more friendly as well.