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Staff Editorials

Keep the “War on Christmas,” we’ll take joy and happiness


    Two weeks ago, 36 members of the U.S. House signed a resolution to make a public stand against the “War on Christmas.” The resolution, which is not a law only an official statement of opinion, reads as follows:

With calls to arm everyone consider, for every John Wayne, there is also a Barney Fife






While the exact numbers are in dispute, there have been no shortage of high profile public shootings this year. The fact that shootings have occurred at schools, holiday parties and a church has rattled Americans. If we are not safe at these places then where are we safe?


Following the latest shooting in Sand Bernardino, social media was filled with calls for Americans to arm themselves as an answer. Some went so far as to urge all Americans as their duty to carry firearms, implying those who aren’t packing are somehow less than true patriots.


While you’d better believe we rather have a gun handy than not if an Islamic terrorist is coming our way, this urge to arm everyone overlooks one very basic fact that gun proponents often ignore – just because we have a right to carry guns, it doesn’t mean we’re all equally capable. The lunatics, hot-heads, drug-abusers, hardcore alcoholics, the overly-nervous and just plain dumb are among the people whom we’d rather not see carrying weapons in crowded spots.


We may all envision ourselves as John Wayne riding a horse and shooting lever action rifles in each hand, picking off bad guys.


But for every John Wayne, there are probably many more Barney Fifes. Recall the comedic side-kick, played by Don Knotts, on the Andy Griffith show. Fans of the show may have noted that the fictional Mayberry Sheriff was an early implementer of gun control; he only allowed Barney to carry one bullet and he had to put it in his pocket.  Most of the time when the jumpy deputy got it out comedy ensued.


Now imagine all the Barneys out there in crowded Walmarts, sports stadiums or bars and armed with a handgun holding nine rounds. Nothing comedic is likely to really happen.


The military and police train extensively and continue to train all the time on shooting protocols. Hunters are required to pass a safety test that includes firearm handling, while the general gun owner has no training requirement at all in Georgia.


The belief that an average citizen, who may not have shot a gun more than a couple of times with no supervision, would be able to confront a nut intent on killing everyone before being sent to meet Allah is not a high percentage bet.


Even for the target shooters, there is no practice for shooting in a public square when a crowd is panicked with some hiding, some jumping out windows and some plain freaking out and somebody somewhere is shooting, but you also have to make sure you are not gunning down another armed citizen or first responder rather than the lunatic/terrorist.


Finally for anyone entertaining thoughts that reacting in this situation might be similar to playing Call of Duty on your Xbox, recall that none of these real situations ended with the crowd subduing the gunmen. Though lives could have been saved if two or three people had overpowered a shooter or someone jumped him from behind, it hasn’t happened. In several instances, like the Charleston church shooting, the perpetrator looked a like a geeky teen who wouldn’t be that hard to take down. And certainly the Columbine High School shooters from many years ago were no physical threats.


The only case where it appears that physical force came into play was when two American servicemen (trained to handle themselves in combat) stopped an incident on a train in Europe.


Even at a concert for a “death metal” band, which would seem to attract a lot of aggressive young men, the gunmen were able to shoot and re-load without being tackled.


We may all want to see ourselves as the hero who shoots the bad guy, but encouraging untrained civilians to carry guns everywhere is a recipe for disaster. The calls are reminiscent of Deputy Fife’s begging Sheriff Andy to let him get his bullet out of his pocket.



Random holiday ramblings

    • It seems that after the lights were re-arranged on the downtown trees, and perchance people got more in the Christmas mood, opinions on the new streetscape have greatly improved. Judging by online comments, the arborvitae trees and a handful of hollies now lining our Main Street have been judged to look a little better than the initial reaction indicated – at least at night.
    What has been good to see is that even if the trees still are not meeting some expectations, the hard work of the city crews has been recognized. Good job to those who have gotten the trees and lights ready for the holiday season.
    If you are still unsure, come see for yourself at the annual Christmas celebration this Saturday evening.
    • Speaking of coming to town, it’s time for us to urge you to support our local businesses and Progress advertisers. As we point out every year, the people stocking shelves, and running the cash registers are the same ones who live next door, attend your church and whom you mingle with at parents’ night at the schools. Let’s see that our Christmas spending stays here, rather than filtering back to some giant online corporation that surely isn’t going to write a check when you are asking for donations for your kids’ sport uniforms.
    • Speaking of sports uniforms, the reaction to the University of Georgia’s separation with Bulldog coach Mark Richt has been interesting. Many of the Dawg faithful were mightily disappointed with another good but not good enough year, yet when the coach stepped down, apparently with some encouragement, you’d have thought the Bulldog Nation was shocked to hear there were problems.
    Much of the wailing and moaning over his departure was how could they do it to such an upstanding Christian role-model? And it’s true that Richt, by all accounts, is someone you want influencing young people. But, in this situation, he wasn’t at a community center program and, Georgia fans aren’t going to be satisfied until we compete with our neighboring SEC schools, especially one to the immediate west. Year after year, other SEC schools are in the hunt for a national championship, while the Dawgs are resigned to some consolation bowl.
    No hard feelings against Richt, but some times you have to shake things up.
    • And speaking of football, it stinks to high heaven of hypocrisy for any state that has a legal lottery to target fantasy football sites, like FanDuel and DraftKings, over any moral objection to gambling.
    Georgia and any other state that tolerates, endorses and abides convenience store gambling has surrendered the high ground to criticize other types of gambling. No one should offer any criticism of online gambling if they are connected to a state government that sells scratch off tickets to those who can least afford them and to many who lack the financial understanding to realize spending hard-earned money on instant “games” is not considered good resource allocation. Studies show that convenience stores in the poorest areas see the most lottery/scratch off ticket business.
    If they want to stop online gambling, states need to shut down their lotteries at the same time.
    •And finally, speaking of crime. We encourage you to take a realistic view of dangers in the holiday season. You should be relieved to know that the chance of someone mugging you or an armed residential robbery in Pickens County are mighty slim. But, at the same time, there are always homes burglarized during the holidays, typically during daylight hours when no one is home.
    One of the best ways to protect yourself and your neighbors is y being observant and making a 911 call if something, like a car parked somewhere odd, seems suspicious. Law enforcement officials regularly stress they had rather people call and it turn out to be nothing than to see someone’s Christmas gifts cleaned out because no one reported that strange person at their neighbor’s door.   

People never wave any more

By Dan Pool
    I notice driving around that people never wave any more on the roads. At least not with the gusto that people used to.
    Just a decade ago down south people waved at cars, particularly if you came across them in a yard, walking, mowing grass or generally out-of-doors. You could count on anyone outside throwing up a friendly hand gesture if a car went by them in a yard on any off-the-beaten-path route.
    The same was true of backroads driving: if you meet anyone on a dirt roads in Pickens County you definitely waved and might even stop and talk -- custom demanded it.
    When I was a student at UGA back in the 1980s, I amazed one of my fraternity brothers from New Jersey by exchanging waves with an elderly man on a porch when we drove by on an Athens street. The “exchange student” from Jersey first asked if I knew that guy and then why I had waved. I told him that I’d never seen him before in my life but it’s just what we did in the rural South. Apparently they didn’t do that in northern metro areas.
    I also recall one former candidate for sole commissioner who I refused to even consider voting for as he would never wave when you met him on the road. He wasn’t from here and probably had no idea that if you are running for office, you better lift a hand when you pass people of the county you seek to govern.
    Maybe Pickens has grown too big for us to wave all the time and with so many cars on the road it would tire your elbow out. (Of course, everyone might just be too busy texting and may not have a free hand to lift.)
    Besides the sheer number of waves a cruise down formerly rural routes like Jerusalem Church Road would require today, I also believe that we don’t greet each other on the road because we don’t feel like we know anyone we are meeting.
    When the wave was commonplace, it would not have been true to say that everybody literally knew everybody on our roads. But chances were that a decade ago even if you didn’t know the person’s name, you probably had some connection to them – mutual friends, friend of relatives, relative of friends. One way or the other, you were most likely connected to anyone you met on the roads or saw in the yards you passed.
    Now the county has reached a size that people figure they probably don’t know anyone they are meeting and don’t recognize the person mowing grass. It’s a new age of imagined anonymity.
    But there are still those who wave. Some people in certain cars, Jeeps for example, continue the tradition. People with vintage cars are also apt to throw up a hand in congenial hello. You’re cruising the streets on your way to work or are on to yet another errand and you see another car of the same make and model - the driver waves to you and you return the wave. Everyone’s day just got a little better because of it. It’s the small things in life. And a tradition that should continue.
      But let’s keep in mind we are still small town America - with our time-honored code of community, of safety and civic pride. Friendliness still matters. And a wave is just one way of expressing it. 

Why we love Thanksgiving

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        Hill City Elementary students grab an apple before sitting down for Thanksgiving lunch at their school last week. Parents and grandparents were invited to dine with their favorite pilgrims and turkeys at elementary schools across the county on November 19.

     Thanksgiving has always been a little different, and we’d go so far as to argue that it’s the best major holiday of the year. But how could Thanksgiving - which is basically a no-frills day off, a lot of food and a few football games - top our list?