Get Adobe Flash player

Staff Editorials

You can rewrite history but we do not

The subject of a several-year-old news story has called us twice requesting we alter our online account. The story about him was positive and accurate but there is a personal item in it that has changed according to the recent call. He made a polite request that we delete or replace a portion of the story as the presence of the personal information, which this subject supplied himself, now creates conflict whenever it pops up on an internet search.

We declined to make any change. On the surface it may seem harmless to alter a trivial portion of a news story that few people have any interest in at this point. There is nothing the outside world/a future employer/a voter would find in that story to affect the subject’s career, political chances, or reputation. 

For us it’s the principle involved. To help this fellow out would literally change history. Even though the individual in question will never make a footnote in the annals of Pickens County, changing an accurate recording of an event is anathema to anyone who takes truth and facts seriously.

We published the story and it was accurate. It was a complete snapshot of a minor event and we aren’t changing it to suit someone’s fancy.

If we had done this guy a favor, it would open the door to future requests and erodes a newspaper’s responsibility to record the daily events, good and bad and minor.

For argument’s sake, you could take it up a small notch - suppose a politician wanted a column he once wrote endorsing some program/person removed online as the political winds had since changed. He might argue that he had written it but didn’t feel that way any longer so we should delete it -- and give him leeway to claim he had never felt that way.

Or to go another step, some 40-year-old asking us to remove an arrest story from when he was 18 as it keeps popping up on searches (young people be careful because this does happen).

To take this argument to the extreme, consider that in the oft-cited book 1984 - the main character works at the Ministry of Truth. What he does there is change books, records and newspapers to make sure history accurately reflects the current Big Brother ideology. Just like this caller to the Progress, it is much more convenient when the past can be edited to accommodate the present.

We would also like to point out that the man calling the Progress didn’t ask us to change our print editions, bound in book form, here and at the library and at the UGA archives and in many cases stored in trunks or clipped in scrapbooks or hanging on refrigerators. Nor did he ask us to recall all the issues we sold the week he made the paper. No one would even consider making those requests because they are so unrealistic. What’s printed on old-fashioned paper and mailed to several thousand people every week is as good as set in stone. 

There is no altering published print editions, regardless of the power or position of the person offended, embarrassed or angry. There is no going back a few years later and claiming something didn’t happen when you know darn well archives still have that news story about it.

Websites can be changed and online archives deleted. On social media, how do you know if the post you find is an unedited retelling?

Maybe newspapers are old-fashioned, but like a lot of things and people who are old-fashioned, we are also reliable, stable, and not subject to whims.

Yes, you can take my coat

By Angela Reinhardt

Staff writer

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Last week I had a lunch meeting with a colleague who was sitting in the booth when I arrived. As I approached the table, he stood up and asked if he could help me with my coat. I declined, but only because it was freezing and I was stuffed into two jackets, which would have made the gesture more awkward than he’d anticipated. After we’d discussed an upcoming project and lunch was over, he again offered to help with my coat and opened both the restaurant door and my car door. 

When I drove off it occurred to me that the art of being a gentleman is dying. It’s being smothered by an unfortunate bedfellow of gender equality that likens chivalry with slimy or “benevolent” sexism, and the over-casualization of society and relationships in general. 

This colleague is from an older generation than my own and, outside of my husband who regularly opens doors for me when we’re in public and carries heavy bags, I rarely see men around my age (36)  extend such gestures. 

I consider myself a progressive and independent woman. I believe in equal rights, equal pay, and sexual respect; I cuss; I could hardly be considered a “romantic;” and don’t shy away from heavy lifting or getting dirty – but genuine (the genuine part is important) acts of chivalry make me feel respected and special and I don’t want to live in a world where they don’t exist. My son is 12 and it would make me proud to see him treat females with such respect and dignity when he gets older. 

But what’s a man to do when women might not want you to take their coat? 

Every morning on the way to school my daughter and I listen to the Jeff and Jenn Show. One of their segments is called “Ghost Hunting” – a listener calls the station to get help finding out why a person disappeared from their life. In this episode, a man told the hosts he was confused when a lady stopped returning his calls after they went on what he thought was a great first date. The hosts call the lady, who tells them she was offended when he pulled out her chair - she was a successful business woman and didn’t need help from a man. This woman is not alone. According to one survey, 11 out of 12 women say if a man offered her his seat she wouldn’t accept it.

For this woman, having a man pull out her chair is a sign of feminine weakness. At the same time, the man struggles to understand his place in an increasingly feminist world where gender roles have shifted so much. When a man opens your door or lets you order first, it doesn’t show weakness in my mind.  Having a man put his coat over a puddle is overkill, but women can be empowered and successful and accept these gestures without feeling like they’re being sent back home to cook and take care of kids. 

Matters are complicated with the general devolution of what’s expected and/or demanded in relationships. Guys aren’t for the most part gentlemen, and women don’t expect them to be. Things have become so casual that a lot of men are comfortable sending pics of their genitals after the first or second date. Comedian Aziz Ansari discusses this unfortunate phenomenon in his stand-up special Buried Alive. He surveys the crowd and nearly all the women had received a similar photo. He then comments on how unacceptable this behavior would have been a few decades ago.

“I’d get thrown in jail the next day! Polaroid d*@! bandit strikes again!”

A male columnist from the UK writes, “Yes, we need to make sure that women are truly treated as our equals in society, but let's not use that as an excuse to stop being gentlemen.”  

As a culture we’re trying to work out the kinks when it comes to gender equality, but as a modern woman I still like a gentleman, and I value manners, respect, and courtesy. Like a female Cosmopolitan journalist writes in “Why We Still Want a Gentleman,” manners never go out of style.

 

Famous wall failures in history

The political fight to build a wall across America’s southern border ignores one historical fact:  Walls don’t work. History is filled with examples of failed efforts to secure countries from barbarians, Mongols, Germans and Amorites with stone, rock, concrete and barbed wire. None were successful.

Here is a partial list:

• The Amorite Wall – (From History.com) -- During the 21st century B.C., the ancient Sumerians constructed what is known as the “Amorite Wall” (to keep out the Amorites) which stretched for over a hundred miles between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It failed when it was either over-ran or hostile nomads simply went around it.

• Hadrian’s Wall – Around 122 B.C. Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall to keep barbarians out of Roman controlled Britain. This wall stretched for 73 miles and may have served a purpose for many years, but eventually time and looting it for personal building materials led to its destruction in many areas.

• Great Wall of China – Made of different materials and in different styles it stretches for thousands of miles across China’s north. It was built over several hundreds of years (starting in the 3rd century and still under construction in the 1600s) with portions up to 25 feet tall and complete with watchtowers. Despite hundreds of years of construction, costing an untold number of lives (forced labor), the wall was ineffective as the Mongols bypassed it (some say from un-manned gates) and sacked Beijing in 1550. It was again busted through in 1644 by the Manchus ending the Ming Dynasty.

• The Maginot Line - A series of concrete fortifications built by France following World War I to deter invasion. It was declared a “work of genius” in the 1930s as the French felt they would be safe from all future German aggression. But it was based on their experience with trench warfare, and obviously served as little deterrent when World War II occurred as the Germans had also re-thought their tactics (From Wikipedia).

• The Berlin Wall – Built in 1961, History.com described it as “the Soviet-aligned East German government built a series of concrete partitions separating East and West Berlin. While Communist leaders claimed the barriers were designed to keep out fascists and other enemies of the state, their real function was to prevent East Germans from defecting to the West.” Many were killed trying to scale it, but thousands did succeed. It stood for 28 years before it was demolished to great excitement around the world.

 

There are several clear warnings from history of why walls fail. Even the Great Wall, so massive it can still be seen from the moon, and with China’s massive population and an emperor who could command and punish by lopping off heads, failed as they couldn’t keep it manned.

Other walls failed due to technology. The French felt they were so smart with their defense line to stop WWI-style invasions but found out that walls are static while tactics to go around them are fluid. In building a wall to secure a border, we are simply challenging those who want to come illegally to find another route – by sea, tunnels, falsified documents and tricks at airports. In fact, one common way that illegal workers end up illegal is by coming on visas through normal channels and then not leaving – something a wall wouldn’t deter. And the illegal drugs already arrive by cars on roads, evading detection at recognized checkpoints - something else a wall won’t deter.

At least one wall failed due to politics or became obsolete as people on both sides no longer wanted the Berlin Wall, a political lesson we might want to consider. It is sheer arrogance to believe that our American wall, proposed to cover 1,000 miles of the 2,000 mile border in some discussions, will buck the trend of history.

Regardless of your political views, the saying that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it is a hard fact to argue with. 

Jasper is just Jasper, thank goodness

Jasper is Jasper. It’s not Blue Ridge or Ellijay or Ball Ground. 

It gets tiresome to hear so often how many tourists flock to the other towns, and if Jasper did something differently we could be like them – as it’s incorrectly assumed everyone here wishes it to be.

The usual list of suggestions for local betterment include improving the road leading into downtown, developing progressive leadership, more attractive streetscapes, better signage on the four-lane, installing fancier night lighting, luring a tourist train to operate here or finding magic gnomes to cast spells on the courthouse lawn. If we just did the right combination of those things, then we might also become the type of town with fudge, olive oil and bike shops downtown.

Maybe someone out there has the formula to suddenly make the First Mountain City widely known as a place to visit. However, that seems improbable; Not impossible. We are not closed to new ideas, but if you believe changing the growth patterns along the Highway 515 corridor is as simple as sprucing up street corners, you are sorely underestimating the challenge.

Jasper is one of the finest places to hang your hat, but Jasper doesn’t appear to be a great place to visit -- as in be a tourist. It certainly doesn’t draw the crowds like our neighbors to the north. 

There is no definitive answer as to why tourists, weekend shoppers and even casual dinners are more attracted to areas both to the north and south.

But here are a few things that are different with Jasper.

• We aren’t truly a mountain county. We may have the first mountains you reach driving north from Atlanta, but you really need to move up the road another 30-40 miles to hit solid mountains. Burnt Mountain is nice to look at, but that’s about it for natural attractions. No public lakes, no national forest, no streams, very limited hiking. Without those assets you miss the cabin rental business, the rafters, the hikers, the trout-fisherman. You also miss the efforts that private business throws into marketing when their operation depends on steady visitors.

• We aren’t a metro county either. Cherokee and Forsyth counties may be booming now and when they fill up, whether we want it or not, the wave may reach Pickens. But there is plenty of open space to the south - witness the growth in Ball Ground. Metro-housing expansion may be an unstoppable force for change eventually, but not right now.

Perhaps we aren’t destined to be the type of place where out-of-towners flock on weekends, nor the type of place where 200-home subdivisions and new chain restaurants open weekly. But, just because tourists prefer to head further north doesn’t mean we have done something wrong.

And the fact that we have to drive 20 minutes (either north or south) to reach Chick-fil-a is a fine tradeoff for not sitting in traffic for 20 minutes to get on Highway 515 from Jasper.

In fact, we might do well to remember Jasper is a great place to live for a whole bunch of reasons: A small town where you can walk alone after dark and generally drive without congestion. It’s the type of town where if you stick around long enough you will learn the names of people in the stores, restaurants and out in the community. It’s a friendly town and rarely crowded.

That description in no way sounds like Blue Ridge or the former farming area along Highway 20 in Cherokee County, any longer. 

Rather than chasing a likely unobtainable goal of heavy tourism growth, it would be better to look at what makes Jasper such a great place to live and protect that.

Next time a disgruntled soul rambles on about how we aren’t busting at the seams with new businesses, the best answer might be “thank goodness.”

Toxic, misinformation, justice and nomophobia - words that define us

Sometimes it’s better to just not look in the mirror. Let the ugly truth exist without comment and hope it gets better.

That is the feeling we had reading the Words of The Year, chosen by the largest dictionary publishers for 2018. The words that represent 2018 were picked for their widespread use, sudden ubiquity or because the word wranglers felt they captured the mood of the planet. The choices are pessimistic but not inappropriate.

Oxford Dictionaries selected toxic as their word of the year; Dictionary.com chose misinformation; Merriam Webster went with justice and Cambridge Dictionary got all obscure by picking nomophobia. 

Each of the dictionaries offered reasons for their selection. Here is the gist of their comments:

 

Toxic – As most people know this is a word meaning poisonous. In explaining their selection the Oxford Dictionary folks said toxic is now being used to describe an array of events, emotions and situations. And their explanation noted it “reflect [s] the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.”

Their website (oxforddictionaries.com) saw a 45 percent increase in searches for  toxic over the past year and the metaphorical use of the word has become standard in phrases like toxic relationships or toxic environment.

 

Misinformation – Appropriately for the online dictionary.com, they chose this word for the rampant spread of misinformation and the new challenges it poses. As one speaker on a video about their selection states, “we have gone past the age of information and are now stalled in the age of misinformation.”

Dictionary.com defines misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” 

 

Justice – 74 percent more searches for  justice than in 2017 led Merriam Webster to select this word. They explained that searches spiked following media reports where the word and concept were at the center of debates and was used in conjunctions with “economic justice, racial justice, social justice and criminal justice.”  

Justice also popped up a lot as an abbreviation for the  Department of Justice, including several Tweets by the president, which saw dictionary searches follow.

The dictionary spokesman noted that justice might seem like a common word but familiar words for abstract concepts are among the most looked up words. Merriam Webster defines justice as  - “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”

 

Nomophobia – The British dictionary went 180 degrees opposite Merriam Webster by choosing a very unfamiliar word that describes a very common condition. Nomophobia means - “fear or worry at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it.”

Nomophobia was chosen through a poll conducted by the dictionary. In announcing the top choice, the Cambridge editors stated, “Your choice, nomophobia, tells us that people around the world probably experience this type of anxiety enough that you recognized it needed a name!”

They also explained that the unease of being without a cell phone isn’t technically a phobia as it lacks the extreme fear of a true phobia.

According to their announcement, the word is a “blend” created by combining No Mo[bile] phobia. While it may seem new, their research found nomophobia used in records as early as 2008 and was added to the Cambridge online dictionary earlier this year.

Toxic, justice, misinformation and a  phobia that most of us have regarding our cell - not a cheery reflection of the past year. 

Here’s hoping that 2019 choices will be words like happy, healthy and wisdom.