Old battlefields of racism run deeper than the Deep South

Nearly 30 years ago I stood in the shade of a willow tree overlooking a Civil War battleground in Georgia, contemplating the blood that had been spilled on those now lush, green grasses carpeting the rolling hills of Kennesaw Mountain.

After living in the Deep South for close to 10 years, the last several of which were spent in Atlanta, I felt I had a different perspective from many southerners regarding that period of our nation’s history. Admittedly, having come from Oregon, I felt a certain kinship to The South’s identity as a rebel.

Yet at the same time, I found it hard to walk the thin line between recognizing The South’s undeniable history while overlooking the shadows of racism intertwined with it.  Continue reading

My favorite teacher? The one who flunked me

By Ned Hickson, editor/Siuslaw News

Admittedly, I had a bit of a crush on my College Prep English teacher, Mrs. Fillers, who was young, inventive and extremely encouraging to the only freshman in her class of 25 juniors and seniors.

The first semester was a breeze as she allowed us to explore creative writing with few boundaries. Each week, along with our reading assignments, we were given a new list of 20 vocabulary words — usually with a theme — that we were required to use in a story. Most of my classmates crammed as many of those words into a single sentence as they could (The decrepit, cantankerous, ill-tempered man raised his wrinkled, weathered, sallow fist in a show of furious and frustrated rage over losing his car keys…”)

I, on the other hand, fleshed out 15 to 20 pages of handwritten storyline, usually with the last five to six pages devoid of vocabulary words.

I got good grades but, as you can probably imagine, was rarely asked to read my stories in class due to the time constraints of a 45-minute period.

Continue reading

The cultural dangers of social media without consequence

In the late 1950s, iconic newsman Edward R. Murrow recognized a paradox developing as the advent of television was transforming news reporting from the purely word-driven medium of radio into a much more powerful visual medium available in homes across America.

Murrow understood that news journalism would never be the same. He also recognized the responsibility that accompanies that kind of power.

In 1958, during a Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation dinner where he was the keynote speaker, Murrow spoke of the new television medium and the potential effects it could have on journalism and our society as a whole.  Continue reading

Autism awareness can lower a few raised eyebrows

I knew very little about the autism spectrum back in 2006, when I met the young boy who would become my son. My wife and I had been dating for several months when we decided it was time to introduce each other to our children. She explained that he had Asperger’s Syndrome and likely wouldn’t make eye contact — and to not take it personally if he avoided any physical contact like a firm handshake.

“And whatever you do, don’t tousle his hair,” she instructed with a squeeze of my hand. “He really doesn’t like that.”

Autism is a neurological developmental disability with symptoms generally appearing before age 3, impacting the development of the brain in areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function.  Continue reading

Biggest problem with ‘sanctuary’ is its lack of clarity

March 29, 2017

As a kid playing hide and seek, the concept of “sanctuary” was easy to understand; make it back to a designated spot before being seen and you were safe. Your biggest fear was another neighborhood kid giving up your hiding spot.

Or in my case, our family dog getting out and tracking me down thanks to the Jolly Ranchers I kept in my pocket.

The concept of “sanctuary” has been around for thousands of years and can be traced as far back as the Old Testament, when the Book of Numbers commanded a selection of “six Cities of Refuge” where perpetrators of unintentional harm could claim asylum.

This continued in 392 A.D., when Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius set up sanctuaries under church control — a proclamation that lasted until 1621 A.D., when the general right of sanctuary for churches in England was abolished.

Now, more than 300 years later, it’s a term that has resurfaced within our national dialogue as communities across the nation debate its meaning within the constructs of local, state and federal government as it relates to protecting the rights of those living illegally within the U.S.  Continue reading

Congress is still asking the wrong healthcare question

                                                             Saturday, March 11, 2017

By Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News

While watching coverage of the debate over healthcare in our nation’s capitol, I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of knowing that the same people haggling over what health coverage Americans should have access to are the same people who have complete coverage paid for by taxpayer dollars.

It’s no wonder that the real question that members of Congress should be asking has yet to be raised: Why is healthcare so expensive to begin with?

At $3 trillion a year, the cost of healthcare in the U.S. is nearly twice as much as any other developed country. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, if that $3 trillion healthcare sector was its own country, it would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.  Continue reading

Opposition for opposition’s sake is a no-win balancing act

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imageAs most parents will tell you, every child goes through a stage where they seem to suffer from oppositional disorder, fervently opposing even the slightest difference of opinion as if the future of the world depended on it.

Although I can’t confirm it, I’m pretty sure humanity will survive no matter who sang “Shameless” first.

(Billy Joel, by the way.)

Whether it’s the “terrible twos” or teens (or both, Lord help you) it’s part of a necessary step toward independence and establishing personal perspective on the road to maturity.

However, opposition itself isn’t a sign of maturity.

Opposition for sake the of opposition only limits our opportunities, our perspectives and the kind of understanding that helps us grow as
individuals.

Maturity happens with the recognition of this fundamental truth.  Continue reading

Caught On Tape! Why I’ll never be a pole dancer…

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As the rains continue here on the Oregon coast and the political storm blows across the nation, I was reminded of a simpler time, three years ago, back when the only mud slinging came from my own lack of dexterity and an ill-advised attempt to try my hand at pole dancing.

In the rain.

It was a day that had all three elements of a “Perfect Storm:”

Extremely strong winds
Heavy rain
My weak acrobatic skills.

Keep in mind that this is always a dangerous combination. Especially when my family suggests I do something funny, like pretend the wind is lifting me off the ground. Under normal circumstance — such as sitting on the couch, completely dry and nowhere near a pole — this would not have been a problem. But as we made our way through the school parking lot fighting the wind and rain, the third element of this Perfect Storm scenario developed.

“Honey, you should do that pole thing where you lift your legs up like it’s windy,” my wife suggested. “I’ll get a picture!”
“But it really IS windy,” I replied.”
“Exactly! It’ll look even funnier!”
Naturally, my response was what you’d expect from a 47-year-old man with limited health coverage.

“OKAY!”

After taking the above photo, we all had a good laugh. Then my loving wife suggested we take it up a notch. “Hey, let’s do a video of it!” Continue reading

Homogenizing history dangerously dilutes lessons of the past

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Each year, our nation sets aside days in remembrance of events we deem important to remember as Americans.

As a society.

As people.

We do this to ensure we will always remember the individuals, moments and historic events that helped shape our nation and the world around us — whether it be to celebrate when we got things right or to learn from the lessons of getting it wrong. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, July Fourth — taking time to remember these days and other days like them assures that we never forget who we are and, more importantly, how we got here.

To deliver a speech on Memorial Day without mentioning the ultimate sacrifice paid by our veterans would be the first step in diluting the memory of the terrible cost of war and those who paid the price.  Continue reading

The biggest thing about democracy is that it starts small

imageBefore putting the final touches on today’s edition of Siuslaw News, we did something we haven’t done in eight years. At the bottom of our Opinion page is a small section with the heading “Where to Write.” In it are the addresses of our representatives at the county, state and federal levels.

At the top of this list is our nation’s President, which has now been updated to reflect today’s inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

The peaceful transition of government has now officially been achieved for the 45th time since George Washington took the first — and very same — Oath of Office some 227 years ago. At the time, Washington remarked it wasn’t his inauguration that was important but the second inauguration that would be the most significant. He recognized one of the first and most important tests of Democracy would be the peaceful transition of power — something that had never been achieved in human history in such a way or on as grand a scale.

Eight years later, when Washington handed over the presidency to the newly-elected John Adams in 1797, it was more than a notion; it was a reality. But more importantly, it was an example of how a nation of people could participate in a process of discussion, debate and even disagreement but still emerge unified as Americans thanks to a shared belief in our nation’s Constitution and what it represents.  Continue reading