March 2007 Archives

MY KIND OF GUY, MY KIND OF FUNERAL

Christmas Hilton Head Miscellaneous 073redsmall.jpgweb.jpg

This is Red and me sharing a laugh. As evidence of my esteem, I actually let him wear my "Willie hat," which once briefly adorned the pate of Mr. Nelson himself.


I seldom leave a funeral in better spirits than when I arrived, but after we had gathered recently to pay our respects and reflect on the long and extremely well-lived life of my cousin Red Atkinson, I felt inspired as well as extremely proud, both of my blood kinship with Red and his wonderful family and of my spiritual kinship with the people of Hart County, Georgia Unlike some funerals, where the words said over the departed render him all but unrecognizable to anyone who actually knew him, the heartfelt tributes from Red’s friends and kin described perfectly the man I knew and admired, a man whose Christianity was not worn on his sleeve, but anchored securely in his loving and generous heart. A shining example of the “Greatest Generation” who would have been just as content to hide his light under a bushel, Red served as a “swimmer” on a Word War II destroyer. Going overboard to rescue the shipwrecked casualties of war from drowning, he became a hero, not because of the lives he took, but because of those he saved. Red never put anything ahead of his family, and he made no bones about being a steadfast Democrat. When he served the people of Hart County on the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners, his views were not always popular with everyone, but they were always a reflection of his sincere conviction.
When I left the ceremony, I could only think that all of us should try to live our lives in a way that might make us worthy of such a sendoff. However, the service itself was not the only thing that inspired me that day. One of the longest funeral processions I have ever seen in Hart County made its way from the funeral home straight through town and all the way up the Reed Creek Highway before turning toward Sharon Presbyterian Church for Red’s committal service. Proceeding for at least eight miles along one of the county’s busiest roads, we encountered not a single vehicle in motion. Some were pulled onto the shoulder, but many were simply sitting in the road, as if to indicate there was no possibility that anyone behind them would even think of moving until the entire procession had passed. Such a show of respect was well-deserved in Red’s case, but in all likelihood, few, if any, of those who stopped had any idea whose passing was being observed.
What was truly wonderful about this demonstration, I realized, was that the same courtesy would have been extended if the decedent had been the worst reprobate in Hart County. I can’t swear that this was one of the Jim Crow South’s rare colorblind traditions, but it was among all the people I knew. What happened along the procession route last month was a simple display of good manners, one of the vestiges of southern life at its best that, sadly enough, has apparently been “outgrown” in some busier parts of the South. If I am proud to be able claim a fine man like Red as my kin, I am also proud to know that I come from a place where people have not strayed so far from their “raising” that they don’t have time to show respect for the dignity and worth of a human life.

YOU TELL 'EM, "JL," I'M SO MAD I CAN'T

“JL” (no periods) Strickland, hails from down in “the Valley,” an area on The Alabama –Georgia line once known for its heavy concentration of textile mills. JL describes himself as an:
“Unemployed geezer, frustrated writer, forced into early retirement when the cotton mill where I worked closed and went to China. “
JL is a prolific commentator who would doubtless slap anyone who called him a “pundit.” My friend Hardy Jackson thinks JL represents “the voice of the people. Or at least a whole lot of them.” I’d like to think so, but, I know one thing, he not only speaks for me, but a lot better than I could do it myself.

To the Editor:

A recent writer to this page suggested that critics of the Iraq War were
"unbalanced." I beg to differ -- it was unbalanced people who got us into this
stupid conflict. And anyone who continues to support this moronic blunder could
themselves benefit from therapy.There's no danger of this war's instigators going "nuts."
They've been nuts from the get-go. And don't bother saying that opposing the war is not
supporting the troops. How is it supporting the troops by leaving them in that meat grinder?
Whatever our strategy is now, there will be no good conclusion to this war. Even if you
drive off a really high cliff, sooner or later, there will be a nasty end to your trip. Before
our goofy frat-boy president started calling for it, did you ever hear anybody say they
wanted to spend our lives, limbs and treasure bringing democracy to Iraq? Did it ever
cross your mind, or anyone's you know? I didn't think so. Iraq is not worth one pinprick
of American blood. There has been a civilization in that area for thousands of years.
People thereabouts have had ample time to choose democracy for themselves, if they
were so inclined. After all, their ancestors were contemporaries with the Greeks who
created the concept of democracy.Iraqis have been involved in a religious blood feud
between Shiites and Sunnis for 1600 years. They relish slaughtering each other, and
have gotten quite good at it. They even get bonus points for blowing up the other side's
women and children. Talk about unbalanced. While it is not unheard of for our various
home-grown denominations to cast vile, nasty slurs at each other, American faithful don't
practice murderous hatred to this degree. One local church group who appears on Cable
Channel 3 says that 28,000 Chattahootians are going to hell because we are not kneeling
at their particular altar. This is drastic, but at least they are not killing us early so we'll get
to hell ahead of schedule. For whatever reason, Junior Bush took our righteous outrage
over 9/11 and bent it to his foolish will, so the Army ended up in Iraq, instead of finishing
the job in Afghanistan. He let the Taliban off the hook and allowed Osama bin Laden to
escape unharmed into Pakistan, which ironically, is now home to the weaving jobs that
left Fairfax Mill. (I'll give the Pakistanis a work tip: they'll never run production on a stand
of looms if they stop five times a day to pray. They'll have to pray and eat on the run like
we old Martexans did.) Every day that Osama lives adds another bloody log on the roaring
bonfire of Bush's failure. It's a pity that Bush and bin Laden couldn't meet somewhere and
have a televised smirk-off on the Fox Network. (Besides, I don't believe for a second the
government doesn't know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Once, I owed the IRS
eleven bucks and they didn't have a lick of trouble finding me.) At this point how could
anyone believe Bush's new strategy will make any difference? He's been wrong about
everything else: wrong about WMD's, wrong about our reception by the Iraqi people, wrong
about the length of the war, the cost, the casualties and the reaction of Iraq's neighbors.
The Congress-- Republicans and Democrats - have let us down, and even worse, let the
troops down by throwing them in the middle of a centuries old throat-cutting rivalry. Happily,
the delusional wing of the Republican Party seems to be shrinking. Hopefully, their number
will soon be so small they'll fit on the short bus where they belong. Maybe then, Congress
can stop arguing about such nonsense as the size of Speaker Pelosi's airplane and get down
to the nation's more pressing business. The Democrats have been in charge for months now
and they haven't even changed the snacks in the congressional vending machines.There's no
question who's really running the show in Washington. The vice-president led us into this war,
with Dubya riding him piggyback like a dim-witted little brother. It is high time Congress told them
both "playtime's over." Surely, there's a mind somewhere who can create an effective plan to
combat Islamic terrorism, for this is a threat that will probably be with us a long, long time. I seriously
doubt that person's name is Bush or Cheney. If these two tricksters don't deserve impeachment,
no one ever will.

JL Strickland, Linthead Emeritus,

Huguley Bohemian Quarter

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