Letters to the Editor

This is Viewpoints for Friday, July 17, 2015

Looking for better angels

A past Macon mayor recently called for the current Macon-Bibb County mayor -- both Vietnam vets -- to “remove the Confederate statues located” in our town. Well, I need to ask both the current and former mayors a few questions.

To get to my home here in Bibb County, I must either take a road named “Rebel Lane” or “Confederate Parkway.” In response to C. Jack Ellis’s diatribe on many things wrong with the current South due to the “Confederacy,” I most ask, are they coming after my local street signs, too?

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In it, he declared that all slaves living in the Confederacy were henceforth free. The order did not apply to the slaves living in the border states. The chief motivation for the Union from the beginning was self-preservation. Is Ellis’ censure going to be against all things Lincoln, too? And, for that matter, in the New Jersey town where I grew up, there is a Union soldier statue. Since he was organized in combat arms but not a belligerent to the border states and the slavery there, is this statue going to be vilified and pulled down in the same manner as our rebel soldier statue on Macon’s square?

The fleur-de-lis is a symbol that is deeply ingrained in Louisiana’s history. Seen in architecture, the state flag and on the helmets of the Saints football team. It’s everywhere. But it was once used to mark slaves. “Code noir, those words are French and mean black code,” said some slave historian I once read. The black code was a set of regulations, adopted in Louisiana in the 1700s from other French colonies around the world, meant to govern the territorial slave population. And, it is said those rules included branding slaves with the fleur-de-lis as punishment for running away. As is happening with the proposed banishment of the Washington Redskins name, is the Saints’ symbol next?

Where does this insanity stop? Do we now demand: “Mr. Mayor, tear down this statue?” This retired military member (25 years to be exact) says leave the Johnny Reb and Yankee Blue-Belly statue right where they are now. We should not be fomenting such desecration of war memorials. There are ilk throughout our country whom, I think, would love another civil war, just so they can get some kind of “share the wealth” that I am always hearing. Perhaps the past mayor of Macon should be living by this thought, be in the employment of looking for good, honest ways of doing things for betterment of Middle Georgia, not pulling down a rebel soldier’s statue and doing what with? Just think what a spaceship we could build.

-- Bobby Komlo


Letter of the law

Buckner Melton Jr. wrote an column that lamented judges who rule based on justice rather than following the letter of the law. It was published in Wednesday’s Telegraph. Concerning the law he says “Love it or hate it, we all know what it says (unless the lawmakers have done a lousy job of writing, but that’s a problem for another day).” First, no we don’t know what it says. As a matter of fact for more than 30 years we haven’t even known how many federal criminal laws are on the books, much less what they say. With that absurdity I didn’t even bother looking up the Georgia code. Second, hand waving away badly written laws as a matter “for another day” sure is an easy way to ignore both problems of scope and quality in this era of “we have to pass it to see what’s in it.”

Then he states “And if enough people really hate the law, then they could always re-write it.” I don’t even know where to start with this gem. How about Georgia is in the top 10 in the nation for incarceration rates and we should revisit minimum sentencing laws? Or, talking about hated laws, the obviously and spectacularly failed drug war? Or the drastic rise of civil asset forfeiture use in Georgia (top 10 in the nation again; go Georgia)? Anyone who does even cursory research on these three topics knows the justice system is used to perpetrate injustice so often it is mind boggling. And practically speaking it is impossible to change these laws because nobody cares.

There’s nothing sexy about a man getting his house confiscated without being charged with a crime and spending 10 years trying to get it back because, hey, there’s the Confederate flag or Obamacare to talk about. Aside from all this public policy discussion, I wonder if Melton was chagrined there was another article in Wednesday’s paper about justice versus the letter of the law. It concerned a man who will spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime, which recent DNA evidence strongly suggests, he didn’t commit. Why? Because he can’t get a new trial. “(The judge) said that the DNA match, along with (the defendant’s) denial of guilt and his alibi witness, might produce a different verdict: not guilty. But the judge found that (the defendant) had not cleared all the procedural hurdles necessary to obtain a new trial.” The letter of the law wins. Even better, this is one more gross injustice that will keep us in the top 10. Go Georgia.

-- Matt Dykes


The difference

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that when Democrats are elected they do things for the people and Republicans do things to the people.

-- William D. Carter