A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – A quiz, American style
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service requires that all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship take a test that measures their understanding of American history and how our government works.
As a celebration for today’s Fourth of July holiday, below are some of the questions that are on the test. We’ve taken out most — though not all — of the easy ones.
The answers are below. Don’t peek.
Principles of American Democracy
- What is the supreme law of the land?
- What does the Constitution do?
- The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
- What is an amendment?
- What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
- What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
- How many amendments does the Constitution have?
- What did the Declaration of Independence do?
- What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
- What is freedom of religion?
- What is the economic system in the United States?
- What is the “rule of law”?
System of Government
- Name one branch or part of the government.
- What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
- Who is in charge of the executive branch?
- Who makes federal laws?
- What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
- How many U.S. senators are there?
- We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?
- Who is one of your state’s U.S. senators now?
The Birmingham News – 9 responses to radio host Rick Burgess on same-sex marriage
Alabama radio host Rick Burgess took to the airwaves earlier this week to talk about how Christians should react in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. His comments were specifically directed at those who said it was unbiblical to judge others.
“If Jesus said in the great commission ‘Teach them to obey my commands,” how would I teach someone Jesus’s commands if I’m not ever allowed to say something’s wrong?” he asked.
The statements prompted a firestorm of comments from AL.com readers. Here are 9 responses:
Disappointed by people who call themselves Christian
“I’m pretty disappointed by some of the people who are calling themselves Christians. First, our government is a democracy not a theocracy. Next, I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said that those without sin should cast the first stone he did not intend for you to throw stones and say that HE threw them. I’m also pretty sure he would not approve many of the hateful things some so called Christians spew today in his name,” Andrew Gordon via Facebook
Burgess off base
“This guy has it all wrong,” Tom Plasket via Facebook
Same-sex marriage sinful in eyes of God
“Everyone has different views and opinions on same sex marriage. My opinion is that same sex marriage is sinful in the eyes of God. That is my view. I know that it is not sinful in the eyes of man. But I do not look to man for spiritual guidance,” AL.com commenter alhart.
The Decatur Daily – The Declaration of Independence
Excepts from the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. …
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Dothan Eagle – Have a safe and happy Fourth of July
Events of the last couple of weeks have been divisive for many Americans. Few people claim a middle ground on any of three – perhaps four – watershed moments. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a controversial facet of the Affordable Care Act, made legal same-sex marriage and cleared use of an execution drug, and growing backlash to a tragic shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church has prompted the dismantling of symbols of the Confederacy.
It’s notable that this all unfolded just prior to today’s recognition of the founding of our nation, Independence Day, marking the creation of our country’s independence from the motherland
Because of the vision of our founders, we have the freedom to voice our dissatisfaction with our government and its machination. We can peaceably protest and petition for redress. We can practice our religion of choice. We can speak our minds.
Our forebears broke away from the oppressive rule of the British crown and created a new — literally, revolutionary — nation. The Declaration of Independence laid out the grievances of the Continental Congress against King George and laid the foundation for our free nation:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
With those words, the 2.5 million brave pioneers in 13 colonial states became Americans rather than subjects to a crown, their efforts would create a new nation rather than expand the British empire.
More than 300 million Americans will mark that pivotal moment in history, and regardless of how they spend the day, there will almost certainly be discussion – and likely disagreement – about our president, presidential candidates, Supreme Court, Obamacare, capital punishment, illegal immigrants, same-sex marriage, Southern heritage, state’s rights, racism, religion, religious rights, religious oppression and, of course, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We should remember those who solidified those words in our founding document, as well as those who have fought and died through the generations to ensure those concepts are ever-lasting – for every American.
Have a safe and happy Fourth.
The Enterprise Ledger – I have trouble understanding crazy people
I really, really hope President Obama lit up the White House in red, white and blue colors on July 4 after he decided to make a political statement by using rainbow color-lighting to signify the legalization of gay marriage last week. If he did the right thing, kudos to B.O. If he chose to ignore America’s birthday, then he deserves every criticism ever hewn down upon the presidency. For this country’s sake, I really hope he chose to light it in Old Glory’s colors. (This column, you see, is filed on Fridays.)
We have changed our country’s mindset in the last couple of years like no period in my lifetime. I can’t speak for those who endured World Wars I and II and the Revolutionary War and the Civil War hardly classify as modern times, but those events took shaping a country to a level in which NONE of us will ever understand.
When did we make it OK for our country’s Fortune One company, Walmart, to make a birthday cake for ISIS (in Louisiana) but it’s not OK for re-runs of a B-television series, Dukes of Hazzard, to continue to be shown to its millions of fans all because the car in the show has a Confederate battle flag painted on its top?
Perhaps we should just strike anything that offends us from the history books. That will be a sure way to make it appear as if they never existed (insert tons of sarcasm).
When did it become OK to speak your mind if you are in favor of Islamic tolerance, gay marriage or a 32-team college football playoff system, but not OK to speak out against our country’s borders needing to be better guarded in order to keep out rift-raft which entered illegally?
Why do we make Caitlyn Jenner some kind of hero because he/she switched genitalia, but criticize Chris Kyle for performing his military duties to perfection? (Freedom of speech should be used by those with a brain, not the Michael Moores of the world.)
TimesDaily – Pope Francis’ bully pulpit on climate change
Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical “Laudato Si,” aligned himself with the overwhelming scientific consensus on man-made climate change, affirming its reality and calling for immediate action to ease its effects. His remarks underscore the need for world leaders to face up to this grave challenge and for all humans to be more responsible stewards of Earth.
In his strongly worded document, Pope Francis said the rich polluted their way to prosperity at the expense of the poor.
Global warming, he noted, has been primarily driven by carbon emissions in high-income countries, while its consequences — extreme weather events, diminished food supplies and political instability — will be felt most in poor countries. Nations must develop a plan of action to address the problem, he said, and advance a “bold cultural revolution” to change how people interact with nature.
To Pope Francis, these ills are part of a “throwaway culture” that leaves people and the environment behind in the name of technological progress, unbridled consumerism and personal desires.
The pope’s stand won him no friends on the right. Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, among others, urged him to focus on individual moral guidance and leave the political matters to — well, people like them.
Even to the pope’s supporters, his attacks on capitalism may seem excessive.
His observations on technology and social organization sometimes are reminiscent of Cold War-era doomsday prophecy.
But no one should expect Pope Francis, or any other individual, to have all the answers. With this encyclical, he has brought greater attention to the danger global warming poses to humanity and called on people to respect and sustain the planet they share.
The Gadsden Times – Dirt, drag racing no longer dominate July Fourth in Etowah County
Go with me back 40 years, back to when drag strips and dirt tracks held huge events in Etowah County. Many fans, drivers and crewmen had midsummer night dreams of the excitement to take place at Green Valley and Gadsden Raceway plus other tracks in the area. As the Fourth of July neared, the visions became more of a reality as preparations increased.
The drivers and crewmen were burning the midnight oil, fine-tuning their cars; wives and family members would be barbecuing, packing food and all the fixings that would carry the crews, family and friends through the day and into the wee hours of the night.
Typically, Fourth of July celebrations for racing crowds would be at the race track rather than some family gathering at the beach, lake or city park.
The roar of the souped-up engines, spin-outs and maybe a crash or two (if no one was injured) provided the excitement and great appeal of the day.
About this time each year, race promoters went all out, staging special events and offering bigger purses to draw top drivers and larger crowds.
There would be more colorful flags and banners around the track, special features between the races plus a fireworks finalé on July 4.
Some years beauty contests would be held. These events received extra media coverage including pre- and post-event articles and pictures.
Don’t bother looking for such news items in today’s Gadsden Times; there won’t be any.
The checkered flag was waved for the last time at Green Valley in 2013. Gadsden Raceway closed several years before that. Woody Miller, who operated Green Valley during its glory era, sold the track and has passed on, as have many of the former stars. Richard Stephens and his brother James also have died after seeing their half-mile track close in disarray. Green Valley ran for some 50 years; Gadsden less than half that long.
The Huntsville Times – America needs a citizens’ revolution, and time is growing short
The “Spirit of Democracy” and, thereby, civic involvement in the life of the community, is endangered. Through lack of information and an abundance of misinformation, politics, politicians and government are demonized to the point that government has become the enemy, citizens are cynical and do not vote, the most able citizens dare not run for public office and the responsibility of citizens to hold public officials accountable is lost.
Perhaps we need a third American revolution. The first gave us independence from Great Britain. The second, some 10 years later, birthed a new Constitution and nation. A third revolution is needed to develop a new spirt of democracy, reestablish the “Office of Citizen” and make limited government work through accountable and responsible civic participation.
This begins with a changed perspective of democracy, even with its many and obvious flaws. In the true spirit of democracy, politics and politicians are good words. Politics is the life blood of democracy that enables a free people to elect their leaders (politicians) and engage in the life of community. What alternative system would you choose?
But, to make democracy work takes commitment and work. Are we too cynical, apathetic or just too lazy to make democracy work?
In a democratic republic of elected officials the highest office is the “Office of Citizen.” Every other public office is filled through election, appointment or employment. But if citizens (people power) are not actively involved in civic affairs, democracy cannot work.
The problem may not be in the leadership in Montgomery or Washington but, in Pogo’s words, “I have seen the enemy and it is us.”
Like it or not, the Confederate flag had to come down.
For far too long, it was used as a symbol of intimidation by those who refused to accept the changing cultural landscape. Too many generations suffered under its oppression.
It’s the flag that William Tappan Thompson, who designed an early version, said was to be “the white man’s flag” to symbolize “heaven-ordained supremacy.” Yes, it’s the very battle flag that was unearthed from obscurity in the 1960s to fly above Southern state Capitols in protest of integration.
That flag didn’t represent a rebellion in favor of states’ rights. It was a rebellion against human rights.
It became the banner of a heritage born from hate.
When Charleston shooter Dylann Roof stole nine precious lives in the name of that heritage – and that flag – the eyes of the nation were finally opened.
The flag had to come down. It was the right thing to do.
However, in the days that followed, Confederate monuments across the South also were targeted for removal, from my hometown of Portsmouth, Va., to my new home here in Birmingham. City officials are already taking steps to remove the 110-year-old monument to Confederate veterans in Linn Park.
I’m not so sure that it’s the right thing to do.
Without question, flying the Confederate battle flag over our state government buildings was a silent but painful message to many Southern minorities. It said loud and clear that leadership would rather cling to old, divisive traditions than embrace more inclusive ones. It screamed, “This is our way of life, not yours – and you’ll just have to deal with it.”
It represented old hurts and closed minds – sins of fathers passed to sons like Roof.
But monuments are different. They’re a representation of our history, even a history that is deeply flawed. Monuments like those in Linn Park honor those soldiers who fell in battle – some fighting for a cause they believed in, others fighting because they had no other options.
They were on the wrong side of history, but that history should not be forgotten.
It’s a history carved from stone. While I don’t believe that the government should fly the Confederate flag on public grounds, I don’t think we should chisel away its depiction from our monuments or cut it from the stained glass windows of the National Cathedral. Just like cave paintings from centuries gone by, these etchings – no matter how crude – show how far we have progressed.
Ugly scars symbolize healing, after all.
Montgomery Advertiser – Honor amazing achievement of Founders
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin
Tomorrow we celebrate the signing of our Declaration of Independence, the founding document that explains why our forefathers, at great personal risk, broke with Great Britain. The eloquence of its language inspires: “When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another …”
By 1776, the British government, at the time the most powerful in the world, had become “destructive” to certain “unalienable” rights. Rights endowed by the “Creator”; “among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Hence, our most essential rights do not come from government, and certainly not from the people in government. Life, liberty and happiness is given by God. The purpose of our government is to protect these rights, not to reduce, redefine or even allocate for advantage.
There was no turning back when the Founders declared, “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown …” They justified this decision by charging King George and the Parliament with “repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
The specific grievances levied against King George included “quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us,” and forcing “our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country.” For reasons unexplained, of the 20-odd accusations, the following resonated strongly with me:
Opelika-Auburn News – A labor intensive effort that creates a luxurious sweet wine
The first time I heard the term Icewine, originally spelled Eiswein, the first thing that came to my mind was an Icee made from wine. How naïve!
As I learned more about the concept of Icewine and how it is made, the more fascinated I became. As with lots of really hot ideas, the first documented Icewine was created as an accident in an effort by a vintner to salvage his harvest. This happened in Germany during the 1700s. Freezing weather set in before the grapes from that season’s crops could be harvested. Persistent in an effort to save his crop, the winemaker continued harvesting, processing the frozen grapes and fermenting the juice into a sweet wine that would eventually be considered a dessert wine. Later, they began making the Eiswein on purpose, but it was difficult. When the freezing occurs is critical. Too soon, and the grapes aren’t ready. Too late and the grapes are rotted. Predation from birds is a problem — they love the ripe grapes.
As Germans later immigrated to Canada, they brought their knowledge of how to make Icewine with them, eventually making Ontario the world leader in the production of Icewine. But this distinction did not happen overnight. Not until the 1970s was Icewine produced in British Columbia and Ontario, which had the perfect, reliable climate conditions for producing Icewines.
So, just what differentiates Icewine from other dessert wines? The method of collecting the grapes prior to production sets Icewines apart from all other dessert wines. The vines are netted in the autumn to protect the grapes from the birds. Then in November, for the Ontario vineyards, the grapes must be registered and verified along with the grape variety, acreage and tonnage with the Ontario inspectors.
Vineyards are watched carefully during this process whether in Ontario or some other area producing Icewine. Grapes are left on the vines until a sustained temperature of minus eight degrees Celsius is reached with -10 to -12 degrees being optimum. From harvest to pressing requires about a six hour period, usually at night.
Because the grapes are frozen, a much higher pressure processing procedure is required than grapes harvested during the normal season. Most of the mass is water and is left behind as ice in the press, resulting in a much lower yield of only about 15 percent of concentrated juice, a much lower rate of juice production than grapes harvested for table wine during the regular season.
One of the problems with the fermentation of Icewine is its high sugar content. The high sugar content can create a hostile environment, thus stopping the fermentation process too quickly leaving low alcohol levels and high sugar content in the finished product.
The Tuscaloosa News – Gloating leaders do not unify America
America limps toward its 239th birthday polarized and divided. Heart-breaking tragedy mingled last week with soaring political victories for some. But those victories were burning defeats for others.
As the families of victims in Charleston, S.C., extended forgiveness to a murderer, victors in culture war battles gloated and basked in success while the losers sulked and tried to lick the salt from their wounds.
It seems a far cry from the scene in Washington at the end of the Civil War. April 10, 1865, the day after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, President Abraham Lincoln addressed a large crowd that was celebrating in the streets.
Concluding his speech, Lincoln told the crowd, “I have always thought `Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard.” And he ordered the band to play it.
“Dixie” had been the Confederacy’s marching song. These days we couldn’t imagine the marching bands for Alabama or Auburn striking up the opposing team’s fight song to honor their opponents in defeat. Here in Alabama we take football seriously, but it is not a literal fight to the death.
Union troops had heard Dixie played and sung by the men who tried for four years to kill them. It was not a pleasant sound to their ears and Lincoln knew that. But he was more concerned with at least trying to make his former enemies understand that the United States was once more their country.