10-17-2015 9-05-31 AMIn the summer of 1972, after I gave up a full scholarship to Oberlin College to attend Pacific School of Theology in Seattle, students from our college went to Dallas to attend a Billy Graham evangelistic event that was geared toward young people. It was called Explo ’72, and was held at the height of the Jesus People Movement. Close to 40,000 kids gathered in the hot sun to surrender to Christ, and the team came back with marvelous testimonies which will always be precious to me. But somewhere in that stadium was an unknown young man that you will have the chance to “meet” starting October 16th through the vehicle of the movie, Woodlawn.

The young man’s name was Hank Erwin, and a year after Explo, he ended up functioning as the chaplain of the Woodlawn High School football team in Birmingham. Integration had been mandated, racial tensions ran high, and it was not a time when the concept of “separation of church and state” equaled no religion on campus. Hank, who is played by Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings, told the team that they had the power to change what was going on around them, but it would only happen through surrender to Christ’s love. He challenged them to forgive each other and go a new way, and nearly the entire 40 member team did so.

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Enter African American Tony Nathan, who became Woodlawn’s star running back, and who was eventually recruited by Bear Bryant to play for Alabama. (Coach Bryant is played by Academy Award winner John Voight.) Tony was nicknamed “Touchdown Tony,” and the entire town, black and white, got behind him and went to see him play. He was quiet, humble, and not at all comfortable with the spotlight. But he and his team were the ones that proved that the love of God can heal offenses going back hundreds of years, and it was the testimony of the kids that drove their coach, Tandy Geralds, to accept Christ and be baptized.

The transformation of the team and the coach changed things in Birmingham. Tony Nathan went on to play for the Miami Dolphins and was in two Super Bowls. And the story might have faded permanently into quietness, if it weren’t for two special filmmakers, Jon and Andy Erwin. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because their dad is Hank Erwin, the young man that was at the same Billy Graham event as my friends.

Hank would tell the story of all that happened at Woodlawn to the boys as a bedtime story. He would act out all the parts, go leaping and running through the room while impersonating Tony Nathan, and it was one of their favorites. They knew the time had come to bring this remarkable story to the big screen, and while they were able to get such veteran actors as Astin and Voight to play the parts, the fact that they found 23 year old newcomer Caleb Castille, (who played for Nick Sabin at ‘Bama), to take on the role of Tony, was a true Godsend. Caleb is a strong believer, and get this: Caleb’s dad played with Touchdown Tony for Bear Bryant, too! Caleb grew up knowing all about what happened at Woodlawn.

So, why do I think Woodlawn will win our hearts? Because it’s well made, it’s about God’s love, it’s about football, and it’s about Alabama the Beautiful. To my mind, that’s all we need, and the time is now for the truth to triumph.
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10-2-2015 12-49-13 PMDr. Ben Carson has been one of my heroes for decades. I first became aware of him prior to 1987, before he performed the first legendary and landmark surgery on twins who were joined at the head. I was impressed by his faith, his unshakable belief in the American dream, and the fact that the man had learned to be content knowing that his hands are small, when the sports world says you have to be able to palm a basketball. Ben is content knowing that his “gifted hands” and the grace of God make it possible for him to get in there and do what he does, and he has made history more than once.

He has said and lived the following: “Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams.”

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His story is Hall of Fame kind of stuff, having been raised in Detroit by a single mom who insisted on drawing forth his greatness. She did not take any excuses, nor any prisoners, and the story of the Carsons was wonderfully portrayed in a 2009 film starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Kimberly Elise entitled Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.

When I heard that Ben Carson had decided to run for President, I was thrilled. After all, any guy who can assemble a team of over 25 surgeons and support staff, work for 24 hours straight to separate not one, but several sets of babies joined at the head, and have them thrive, ought to be able to handle the House and Senate of the United States, and maybe even the Supreme Court!
I still remain thrilled that he is in the race, even though I would like it if he were stronger when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, but that is a topic for another day. He is refreshingly not a part of the Washington DC political scene, and so far I don’t think he can be bought. He has solutions that are fiscally sound, and he wants to restore America to Americans, all of them, irrespective of their color.

So, why do some folks believe that he “deserves a special place in hell?” Because he exercised his 1st Amendment right to express himself, and stand up for his religious beliefs, which is what believers of all kinds do. Listen, if you are a Baptist, you are going to think you are right. If you are a Buddhist, you are going to think you are right. If you belong to the Church of Christ, you are going to think you are right. If you are Jewish, you are going to think you are right, and if you are an atheist, you are going to think you are right. That is what makes Americans be Americans, and most of the time, there is at least one good reason for why people think what they think. It is also completely American to voice disagreements over all kinds of things.

The late Dan Williams told a story about his childhood at the Storytelling Festival Amateur Night. He described what it was like to watch men dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ best verbally duking it out for hours on Saturday afternoons on the Courthouse steps in sizzling summer heat. The topic? Whether or not a person can go to heaven without being baptized. This is America, and this is what we do.

So, what has earned Ben “a special place in hell?” He dared suggest that Shariah law doesn’t square with the Constitution, nor does jihad, and that anyone who firmly subscribes to those two intimately related sets of beliefs may have a tough time doing their presidential duty of protecting and defending our Founders’ dream. Sounds like common sense to me, and may God bless Ben for having the courage to say so.
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9-18-2015 2-39-42 PMI make no attempt to downplay my 15-year love affair with the City of Athens. It is something that, God willing is going to do nothing but increase in its acuity, an affliction for which I am in great hope there is no cure. There are times, though, when the wonderfulness of our town just washes over me, and Saturday, September 12th was just one of those days. Beginning at 7 am, there were runners assembled at the Alabama Veterans’ Museum for the Heroes Run. The Heroes Run occurs each year on the Saturday the closest to 9/11, and its motto is, “Honor the fallen by challenging the living.” The purpose of the race’s sponsors, the Travis Manion Foundation, (named in honor of a young man who gave his life for us during his second deployment in Iraq,) is dedicated to support our veterans and their families, especially those who have served in the Desert Wars.

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I was a timer for the race, and my post was at the intersection of Houston and Pryor. As the runners came by, I called out their times and yelled at them to “step it up,” something I did numerous times at the races our department ran for soldiers and civilians while I was in Iraq. There was a 9-year-old, and seasoned runners, including State Senator Bill Holtzclaw. There are no words, by the way, to have one’s job, if only for a moment, to be able to yell at someone in government. I say this tongue in cheek, but to be able to holler out, “C’mon Marine, let’s move, let’s move, let’s move” was one of the highlights of the day.

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9-18-2015 2-40-06 PMThere were teams of runners, and groups of walkers. The cross country team from Elkmont was out in force. Members of the support staff for the City of Athens walked the 5K. However, what brought tears to my eyes every time they went by was the sight of the fire fighters in their “full battle rattle” jogging down the street. I thought of the 300+ FDNY firefighters who gave their lives on 9/11. I thought of the firefighters who came from the States to Iraq to fight fire in a combat zone. Fire fighting is dangerous enough, but add combat and 130-degree weather, and you have, pardon the pun, a “whole different smoke.”

But it was the sign of 74-year-old Ann Nash walking her very first 5K that did me in. She had been training for the event by walking, and although she was the last one to finish, she received a hero’s welcome. I had been considering doing a 5K on some level myself, either walking, running, or both, and now I have no excuse. It’s on for next year!
As if that wasn’t enough, just down the road at Big Spring Park, the Superheroes invaded our town. Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Superman, they were all there to let children who are battling cancer, or have beaten it, know that they were in their corner. Both events are part of national movements and organizations, but the unique flavor that came to the events due to the “specialness” of our town made it a day I will never forget. I just want to remind you, we have heroes and superheroes in our midst, and we are indeed blessed to be Athenians.
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9-7-2015 9-01-00 AMA little over 15 years ago, there was a school of psychological thought born that was called “Positivity Psychology,” and its most famous proponents were part of the teaching staff at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, when I say, “positivity psychology,” I am not talking about anything you’d find in a greeting card aisle, or on a sappy motivational calendar. This stuff was practical, not particularly emotional, and the result of years of research, using real people with real problems. Those studied had found a way to deal with difficulty in a way that is markedly different from most folks, and the good news is, it is a skill that everyone can learn. The bad news is, because you were not designed by your Maker to be a grump, indulging your negative self has been really hard on your grey matter. Learning a new way, or “growing a new brain,” is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do. However, it is also some of the most rewarding.

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My first “slap in the face” back then was encountering a book written by one of the U Penn profs by the name of Dr. Martin Seligman, and his book was entitled Learned Optimism. I went skipping through the test, expecting to pass with flying colors and be designated as a positive person. I had to eat a lot of humble pie when I discovered that I was a secret grump, with a whole lot of victimization in my thinking.

My second slap was learning of the work of Dr. Paul Pearsall, who had done some fascinating work with Holocaust survivors, and found several things. First, the endorphins or “feel good” chemicals in the brain were highly addictive in a good way. By contrast, the chemicals produced by being sour were similar to anesthesia, which is also horribly addictive. Pearsall’s patients had found a way to re-frame what had happened to them, bathed their brain and heart literally in the chemical of forgiveness, and found that in spite of what they had been through, they could live in a basic state of joy. In addition, it was clinically determined that not one was in a state of denial or repressed memory. They had just worked really hard, followed Biblical principles, and were reaping the benefits.

Recently I came across another study, (a long term one), that was conducted simultaneously at the University of California, and on the other coast at the University of Miami, and it corroborated what even mainstream medical folks have known for a long time: people who proactively live in an intentional “attitude of gratitude” are just better off; physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Ancient wisdom from Proverbs says it best: “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” However, the study went on to say that there was something else that had, in a way, been missed by the “positivity people,” and that was “reflexive gratitude.”

9-7-2015 9-01-47 AMMany people are determined to send their gratitude out, either vertically or horizontally. Most of us understand the spiritual power of praise, as well as saying thank you to the people around us. But did you know there is an extra layer of effect when, in the process of expressing gratitude, you tell yourself what the impact has had?

Let me give you an example: You get off the phone with your kids and you had an especially satisfying conversation. You tell yourself, “I needed that, and boy, did he/she make my day! I am so blessed to have him/her in my life.” This intensifies the impact, and it is as simple as doing something we all do secretly anyway, and that is, talk to ourselves! Yes, it is ok to just think it, but saying it out loud is even better, even if nobody is there in the room with you. Either way, you are lobbing “grenades of gratitude,” with the result being an explosion that is good for everyone except the dark side.

Try it, and tell me what you think. And if you catch me being sour, I give you permission to bust me!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

8-23-2015 11-42-54 AMMy husband Steve has now officially been on Facebook for a year, and has sent me all manner of memes and videos. Some are funny, some are zany, some are aggravating, some are touching and some are truly inspiring. This week he sent me one that was so inspiring that I watched it 5 times in a row. It is entitled Boat Lift, and is only 11 minutes long. It is about the biggest boat lift in human history, the one that occurred on September 11, 2001.

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I have several family members who live in New York City, and to say that the day we now refer to as 9/11 changed them forever is a great understatement. My sister heard the first plane go into the tower, and she saw the second one. As such, because I had people who were “boots on the ground” that day, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what happened. I have been in a live audience to hear Rudy Giuliani talk about the challenges he faced that day as a leader. In Iraq, I was around several members of the Fighting 69th National Guard Unit who were activated that day, one whose post was on the corner where my sister lives. However, it was not until last week that I learned about Boat Lift, and I have told everyone in my life about it.

When the Twin Towers were hit, people became aware for the first time in a long time that Manhattan is indeed an island, and they wanted off. They ran down to shore, and some jumped into the water in their panic. And then, the Towers collapsed, and it seemed that the shore was now lined with dust covered zombies. A call went out from the Coast Guard for all boats in the area to please come to the shore in order to rescue these people. The smoke from the tower made it look like a “pea soup fog,” and they headed into what they knew not.

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There was a yacht owner who told his wife he had to go, and she called him “a maniac,” but she understood. Ferry boat captains and crews, tug boat captains and crews, and innumerable private small vessels came and went over the space of 9 hours. Some hung sheets on the rail of their vessels spray painted with destinations such as “Hoboken.” A woman in a wheel chair was lifted, (while still in her chair) over a fence as though she was in a mosh pit, and was carried to safety. At the end of the day, they successfully lifted 500,000 people off the island. By comparison, when Allied soldiers were rescued at Dunkirk, it took 9 days, and the numbers were somewhere near 350,000.

As you see these “old salts” recall that day, several get misty-eyed, and for good reason. For one, it went off without a hitch, and without a pre-established emergency management plan. While I have been in a situation where I had to do mass casualty training, and am thankful for those who design contingency plans, the fact that it was essentially an organic event made it all the more remarkable.

On every level, it was extraordinary, and was America at its finest. While I hope that in my lifetime there is no reprise of September 11, I know the chances are good that we will face similar things once more. However, as we have seen in Alabama when there have deadly twisters, most often it brings out the best in us, as it did that day for the citizens of New York. Boat Lift can be seen online for free, and is narrated by Tom Hanks. It is 11 minutes well spent, in my view, and I hope it encourages all who take the time to view it.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
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8-7-2015 1-38-34 PMI have decided to share my Publisher’s Point spot with Buzz Estes, life long resident of Athens, and it was not an easy decision to make. The reason for my struggle is that as a youth I came to believe that the Con- federate Flag was the obvious and undisputed symbol for racism in America, and I have spent my whole life fighting racism. However, when someone bothers to set forth irrefutable facts that may fly in the face of what is commonly believed, they deserve to be heard, even if it ruffles some feathers. I often say, when it comes to controversy, “Let the story be the story,” and it will balance itself out. May this serve to bring people of all colors together around the truth that most often is not as simple as it seems, and may Truth itself set us free and heal the divide in our land.

8-7-2015 1-38-47 PMOne of the main factors in the extreme dislike, even hatred, of the Confederate Battle Flag is due to one of the most successful propaganda programs in history: that the War for Southern Independence (popularly known as the “Civil War”), was ALL AND ONLY about slavery.

No war was ever all only about one thing. The idea that the Trojan War was only about Helen of Troy is a great romantic myth. The War for Southern Independence was, like most wars, over economics. Very simply, the Southern states were furnishing 75 – 80% of the money for the Federal Government through tariffs and taxes with less than 40% of the population and getting nothing in return. The South had lost its political clout and could not prevent the U.S. government from imposing higher and higher taxes and/or tariffs.

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It was very similar to the cause of the revolutionary war. The Federal Government refused to officially acknowledge the Confederacy, but had unofficially promised that the Federal troops would be removed from Ft. Sumter while secretly dispatching a convoy of men, supplies, and weapons to reinforce it. The “First Shot” fired in Charleston was not the first shot of the war. Federal Forces had fired at Ft. Pickens prior to that, but that was not reported by the newspapers like Ft. Sumter.

The Battle of Ft. Sumter began 12 April, 1861. If the freeing of the slaves was the main issue, why was the Emancipation Proclamation not issued earlier? The North was losing its will to fight as the deaths and casualties mounted, higher and faster than anyone thought possible. In the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) 16 July, 1861, the North’s casualties were 2,950 and the North lost. In the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) 30 August, 1862, the North’s casualties were 13,830, and again the North lost. In the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), 16 September, 1862, the North’s casualties were estimated at 22,000 and most historians called it a tie.

Is it a coincidence that the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued the week after that? Carefully read a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, and it states that it is a WAR measure which was intended to weaken the South’s economy and possibly strengthen the Northern Army. If it were only a great humanitarian gesture, as many want to believe, why did it exclude the northern slave holding states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri? Why did it also exclude 14 parishes in Louisiana? By this time in the war, most of Kentucky and all of Louisiana were under Union control. Why was it not as important for those states to free their slaves?

The point is that the war was NOT to free the slaves, although thankfully that was one of the results of the war. It was done because it let the North claim the moral high ground, and thus take attention away from the plundering and pillaging that accompanied their army everywhere they went. After cities like Atlanta and Charleston were evacuated, officers would escort their wives through some of the vacated homes so they could pick out the furniture that they wanted shipped home. Gen. Butler evicted people from their home in New Orleans because he wanted to use it for his home and headquarters. When he finally left, he packed up much of their furniture and shipped it to his home. According to the 3rd Amendment of the Constitution, this kind of action was entirely illegal.

The hypocritical charade of these “Christian Soldiers fighting to free the slaves” is being continued today, and even expanded upon. It is the major reason for the HATE projected on the Confederate Battle Flag. The Federal Government reinforces this attitude with their placards on National Park Service Civil War Battlefield Visitor’s Centers that state “From Civil War to Civil Rights.”

Yes, there definitely have been racists who have illegally usurped our flag for their use, but that could not be prevented any more than average Americans who were angered at illegal aliens burning, spitting upon, and stomping Old Glory on national T.V. But did you notice that in the BIG 1928 K.K.K. demonstration in Washington they were carrying several hundred Stars and Stripes? No Confederate Battle flags were to be seen. No slave trading ship ever flew the Confederate Battle Flag, but many flew the Stars and Stripes. In 1991, a national racist organization passed a resolution at their National Convention to “get rid” of the Confederate Battle Flag because they decided it “offends” them.

Knowing that, it is much easier to understand how that horrible slaughter in June of the 9 people in Charleston by an obviously deranged man could create such an instant firestorm of protest against any Confederate symbol. Their network of professional agitators was connected, loaded, capped, and ready to fire. All they were waiting for was the command to “FIRE!” This group may have had a reason to protest several years or decades ago, but in my opinion, now all they are really doing is driving a wedge between blacks and whites in this country. Karl Marx would be very proud of them.
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7-17-2015 12-10-24 PMThere are days that I lament the fact that the people of the globe are able to communicate at the speed of light, but this is not one of them. I am old enough to remember hearing about Jews being turned into soap, wallets and lampshades during WWII, and then later, during the Age of Aquarius, I naively thought depravity could be permanently subdued by a fat doobie. Surely “Never Again,” the sign I have seen with my own eyes at the Dachau death camp in Germany would ultimately prevail, right? Nope. We now have what appears to be irrefutable proof that there are Planned Parenthood franchises functioning as mini-Auschwitz holocaust centers from sea to shining sea, and they are apparently feloniously trafficking in fetal body parts.

Solomon so wisely said that there is “nothing new under the sun,” and this week we as a nation were once again reminded that we are sacrificing our children to Molek. That did not work out so well for the nation of Israel, and it won’t for us, either.

If the undercover video produced by the Center for Medical Progress is true, then we have something that looks like a female reincarnation of the infamous Nazi, Dr. Mengele, eating and sipping a glass of red at lunch. This is while she casually mentions that for the first time, the day before, at their particular facility they had received a request for lungs. Human, pre-born baby lungs. The attending physician’s name is Dr. Deborah Nucatola, and to hear her talk about how sometimes she crushes the lower extremities of the fetus, and at other times the head of the fetus, (depending on the “need” for tissue) is like hearing and watching something out of a really bad horror movie.

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Planned Parenthood, of course is attempting to push back with the classic “we’ve been ‘spun’ and taken out of context” argument by saying,

“A well-funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services has promoted a heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research.”

Hold it right there. According to Planned Parenthood founder and flame-on racist, Margaret Sanger, the original “mission” of the organization as she conceived it 100 years ago was to eliminate the black race.

“Colored people are like weeds and are to be exterminated.”

But wait! There’s more! Planned Parenthood operators are standing by to take your order for whatever you need! Hearts, lungs, heck, even baby muscles! Just ignore the following, and your conscience won’t smite you!

“We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

And just to prove that Miss Margaret ultimately became an equal-opportunity murderous eugenicist, ever willing to spread the killing around equitably, we have this:
“Slavs, Latin, and Hebrew immigrants are human weeds…a deadweight of human waste. Blacks, soldiers and Jews are a menace to the race.”

Fully 79% of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in primarily black neighborhoods. I guess my question is, if the current “mission” is “to provide life-saving scientific research,” what are they doing harvesting the body parts of babies who are inherently, according to Ms. Sanger, “a deadweight of human waste?” Shouldn’t there be a hue and cry from the “customer in the marketplace” over the fact that they are paying for inferior merchandise? If Dr. Nucatola is Margaret’s spiritual spawn, she is in a real pickle. Here her foremother wanted us inferior ones weeded out, but Miss Debbie wants us to know that she and the other Mengeles have become “very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that I’m not going to CRUSH that part.”

You might not crush that particular “part,” Dr. N, but you are, according to your original boss, trafficking in “weeds” and “waste,” and on every front, there will be hell to pay. May God have mercy on you as well as the rest of us. We are going to need it.
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Bidding Dan Goodbye

7-3-2015 2-43-48 PM“Bittersweet” is the only word I can think of to describe the passing of former Athens Mayor Dan Williams, who was also currently serving us in the Alabama State House of Representatives. He fought a brutal and brave war against cancer, and on the morning of July 1, 2015, he slipped away. He is suffering no more, and eternity has begun for him. Much has already been said about his public and military service, his life as a family man, his ability to tell a yarn, and to strum a guitar. I have heard tales of campfires that were legendary for their laughter.

There are many in the area who knew him their whole lives, and while I understand the sharp grief of a small town which has lost one of its longstanding public servants, I would like to talk about Dan from the perspective of only having been in Alabama since the year 2000.

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When we first moved here, and websites were still relatively new, as the Mayor he would post the most endearing and comfortable details of life here. He’d talk about the kids and grandkids, BBQ, sitting on the front porch in the summertime, and he made me feel at home, even though at that point I had never met him.

I got to know him mostly from Coffee Calls at the Vets’ Museum, and then he hired me to write some articles for him when he decided to run for the District 5 seat. It was there that I got a deeper glimpse of his heart, and there are two stories about choices that he had made that I will never forget. I would like to share them with you.

One was when he stood up on the House floor in Montgomery, and confronted what I have come to call reverse racism. One of his grandchildren is adopted, and is African American. Representative Alvin Holmes of Montgomery made the inflammatory statement that “99 percent of the whites who are sitting in here now, if their daughter got pregnant by a black man, they are going to make their daughter have an abortion.” Dan stood up and challenged him by saying, “I have a black grandchild running around my house, and I love him just like I love the rest of my grandkids.” I would have loved to have been there for that, and am proud both that he supported his son and daughter-in-law in their decision to adopt the child, and standing up for the truth that all kids are worth loving.

He was no stranger to controversy while serving in the House. He voted for Carly’s Law, the bill that would allow for the medical use of an oil form of marijuana to help reduce seizures experienced by children with a rare form of epilepsy. He was not for the bill at first, but it was spending 20 minutes face to face with a mother whose child suffered from up to 300 seizures per month that changed his mind.

“Ali,” he said, “It shook me up. I can’t imagine going through that with one of my children or grandchildren.” Dan, we are shook up, because life in Athens just won’t be right without you. But, we are people of faith, and we have the deep hope that we will see you again. If there are campfires in heaven, then I have just one request: save me a seat next to you on the log while you strum your guitar.
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6-18-2015 2-25-09 PMWhen I was in theological school in the ‘70s, I remember coming across the warning In 2 Timothy that one of the signs of the last of the Last Days would be that essentially people would be “off the charts” when it came to completely distorted self love, obsession with pleasure, treachery, lack of self control, egomania, hatred for parents, lack of love for God, and the list goes on. Several things of late have made me think about that warning once more.

As we wrestle in the grip of social media, and media of all types, for that matter, we find ourselves surrounded by stuff that is so goofy that even back in the heyday of the rebellion of the ‘60s we would have said, “Man, that’s messed up.”

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We have a new term to illustrate this malady, fairly recently coined, and no doubt a candidate to win the annual “new dictionary word” award. It’s called “self-identification.” It defies reason, logic, common sense, and couldn’t get any traction if we didn’t have the ability to just about take “selfies” on time lapse in our sleep.

Bruce Jenner, arguably one of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time, now wants to be known as Caitlyn, and “shis” picture is everywhere. I do feel sorry for “shim,” I do, because I cannot imagine how empty his soul must be, to tolerate such levels of pain and abuse to have his body mutilated in the process of being “transformed,” and no amount of surgery or airbrushed photos can fix that.

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Rachel Dolezal, who was born blond and with fair skin, could have been a poster child as an “Aryan” in Hitler’s Germany. She radically changed her appearance, “self identified” as a black woman, and finally her parents exposed the fact that their daughter was not who she said she was to those in her world. She resigned from the NAACP, lost her African studies teaching job, and ended up on all the morning shows. When asked by Matt Lauer if she is African-American, she said, “I identify as black.”

Rush Limbaugh decided for the sake of satire to “self-identify” as a “skinny guy.” He has had a well-publicized life long battle with his weight, and to illustrate how self-absorbed we as a culture have become, Rush is taking the position that we should see him as skinny. Thankfully, he is not serious.

6-18-2015 2-25-41 PMSaddam Hussein, according to one of his mistresses, used to stand in front of a mirror in his skivvies, wearing cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and with a cigar clenched in his teeth, would vigorously holler, “Heil Hitler!” I guess my question in that example is, was Saddam “self-identifying” as a cowboy, der Fuhrer, a model for Fruit of the Loom, or all three?
This kind of stuff has always existed, as illustrated especially by the Caesars and the Pharaohs, but times of hardship and war have tended to keep it at bay. You don’t have time for “transanity” when Pearl Harbor is being attacked or the Twin Towers are coming down, or Katrina is turning the French Quarter into “K-ville.”

And while I certainly don’t want to see calamity come to our great nation, I have started to wonder if it’s the only thing that will get our heads screwed back on straight. I would hope that if Caitlyn Jenner is anywhere near a flood or a fire, “shis” decision will be to use “shis” legendary athletic prowess to pull people to safety. We shall see.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

6-6-2015 8-33-35 AMActually, more than a hundred times; 102, to be exact. What am talking about? This June 5th, 2015 edition of Athens Now marks the 102nd time I have “put the paper to bed.” How did I get here? Well, you can blame everyone from God, to my husband Steve, to that rascal, Jerry Barksdale, (whose latest yarn appears on page….), to Wayne and Deborah Huff; but I ain’t complainin’, in fact, I am celebrating!
While I never, ever had any notion of being an author, a writer, and good heavens, a newspaper publisher, I intend, in the body of this op-ed, to convince you that you should “never say never.”
I always liked English, and it came easy for me, but writing was mostly something one did for assignments. I wrote some poetry, privately, and columns for homeschool and ministry newsletters. I also composed a fair number of songs, some of which got published, but writing was a means to an end, and not a mission.

Then, I had the adventure of a lifetime, and spent 2004-2007 in Baghdad. A Juice Plus client of mine, who is a real-live, highly trained professional writer and editor, encouraged me to send home an e-zine from the Great Sandbox, which I did. She also put me in touch with Morgan James Publishing Company out of New York, and miracle of miracles, they published my first attempt at serious writing, A Ballad For Baghdad: An Ex-Hippie Chick Viet Nam War Protestor’s Three Years In Iraq.

I got home from Iraq in April of 2007, and Ballad was published in November of 2008. I took about a year and a half to market the book, and then, it and I kind of stalled out.

In February of 2010, I met Jerry Barksdale at the Alabama Veterans’ Museum, and that was all she wrote. At the time, Athens Now was owned by the people who started it, Wayne and Deborah Huff, and to this day Deborah is one hard working one woman sales force. Jerry mentioned me to the Huffs, who hired me to write for them, beginning that same month.

One year later, they decided to go a different direction, and after prayer, consideration and consternation, we decided to buy the paper. My life has never been the same.

At first I faced every publication cycle, (affectionately known as Pub Week, where one might be tempted to live in one, a pub, that is), with a knot in my stomach, and wondering if I was going to toss my cookies. All nighters were the order of the day. I had no idea what I was doing, and the lingo, the biz, the invoicing, the collecting, the not being able to collect, all of it threatened to swamp me. Like all good life lessons, it was sink or swim, and by God’s grace, I began to swim, (or at least, dog paddle somewhat lamely).

I inherited a dear set of columnists, and found some of my own. My production guy, Jonathan Hamilton, should be sainted for what he has endured with me, and has become a dear friend. Hunter Williams has helped with delivery, Rachel Clark with editing, Teddy Wolcott with the online edition. We laugh hard, every edition, and also sometimes we want to tear our hair out. We always wonder how it is going to come together, but somehow, it does.

Now Athens Now is being read in 5 towns, 3 counties and in over 120 locations. Its hard copy circulation is 4,000, and in an era when newspapers are being seen as dinosaurs, we are not dying out. Due to the miracle of technology, we now also being read in my beloved Iraq and Israel, in China, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. We have over 1,000 Google index pages, domestically we get more than 100,000 hits on the online edition and no one is more surprised than I am.

However, it is you, oh dearest of readers, that have made me forever glad that I said yes to what is at times an extraordinarily high level of discomfort. You have emailed me, come up to me on the street, thanked me for what I am doing, and cheered me on.

Your stories have warmed my heart, and it has been my pleasure to tell them. Thank you forever for making it possible to say with joy and at least a touch of confidence, “If I’ve done this once, I’ve done it a hundred times.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner