Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

May 18, 2013

If you can read this, thank the Founders

Now and then, people ask me if I am a conservative or a liberal.

I tell them, “Yes,” and that usually confuses them. Then I add that whether I am a conservative or a liberal depends upon the issue.

When it comes to things like civil rights, I am decidedly a liberal. That’s because I grew up during the one of the most active periods of what was, is now, and will continue to be, the Civil Rights Movement — as it applies not only to minorities, but also to genders or anyone else, for that matter.

My opinion of the wasteful spending and massive deficits that are run up by our federal government and some state governments could best be termed conservative. And so on.

I am a Republican, largely due to accident of birth. It runs in the family. Grandfather James E. Goldsworthy was a Republican and decidedly a conservative. The late Rep. Harley O. Staggers Sr., one of his best friends, was a Democrat and decidedly a liberal.

I am told that their debates in my grandfather’s barbershop were magnificent.

The Staggers family and my family have been friends since early in the 20th century when Harley and my Uncle Lohr Jackson played on the Keyser High football team.

Harley and his wife, Mary, had four daughters: Peggy, Mary Kaye, Susie and Ellen; and two sons: Harley Jr. and Danny — all of whom are now my friends.

Their kindnesses to my family are uncountable. When I was a little kid, Congressman Harley Sr. took my parents and me on a tour of places most folks never see in Washington.

We ate in the Senate cafeteria and visited the Capitol Building (where I sat in Vice President Nixon’s office chair), the White House and other government offices.

Harley Jr. also was a Congressman until he was gerrymandered out of office.

As a Roman Catholic, he is opposed to abortion. However, he told me, the House Right to Life Caucus would not allow him to be a member because — they said — he was too liberal otherwise.

That made no more sense to me than it did to him, although to be honest, neither of us was surprised by it.

Being around folks like the Staggers family has served me well in both my life and my profession, which is that of a newspaperman.

I cannot afford to have opinions that are strong enough to affect my judgment when it comes to things I will write about as an editor, a columnist or a reporter.

Like their father and my grandfather, the Staggers clan and I don’t agree on everything. But there are many more subjects on which we do agree and, unlike way too many other folks today (especially our politicians), we are willing to listen to what the other has to say.

Even if what we hear doesn’t change our minds, it enables us to have a new perspective. For this reason, other people’s opinions can be just as important as my own — maybe even more important.

One responsibility of my profession as a reporter was to present an accurate and unbiased version of the facts, absent of my own opinions, with enough information to allow the reader to form his or her own opinion. As a columnist or editorial writer, I am allowed to have an opinion — so long as it is within reason and agrees with the position management has taken, and I offer facts in support of it.

I have always taken my profession seriously. It is, in fact, the ONLY profession that is protected in the Bill of Rights.

The Founding Fathers took that step, even though they did not think highly of the press and manipulated it every chance they got. (Not much has changed, has it?)

Three quotes from Thomas Jefferson:

• “Nothing can now believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

• “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

• “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

(Mark Twain put it this way: “If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.”)

The Founders realized that the only defense the American people have against their own government is the free press. (Witness what happens in other countries, where there is no freedom of the press.)

Our government has tried often to muzzle it, starting with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 which, among other things, prohibited public opposition to the government.

Numerous newspaper editors were arrested and some were imprisoned, including Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont, who wrote that President John Adams had an “unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation and self avarice.”

During the Civil War, some Northern newspapers were subject to prosecution and other forms of retribution — sometimes of a violent nature — because they were sympathetic to the Confederacy or critical of President Lincoln’s administration.

None of our freedoms is absolute. Slander is not protected free speech, libel is not protected free press, and the people may assemble peacefully — but not to form lynch mobs.

With that in mind, what we as Americans call “rights” are actually limits placed on the ability of government to interfere with our ability to do as we please.

Now, it has been revealed that some agents of the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for special attention (I would object equally to their targeting of liberal groups) and the Justice Department has secretly seized and examined Associated Press telephone records.

None of our freedoms is absolute. Slander is not protected free speech, libel is not protected free press, and so on. However, what we as Americans call “rights” are actually limits placed on the ability of government to interfere with our ability to do as we please.

Now, it has been revealed that some agents of the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for special attention (I would object equally to their targeting of liberal groups) and the Justice Department has secretly seized and examined Associated Press telephone records.

Where this will lead is yet to be seen. And, depending upon whom you ask, more of our freedoms may be at risk. But that’s not new.

Someday it could be your rights ... or mine ... instead of someone else’s that are affected. And what’s being manipulated, or hidden from us, that we need to know? It is a thoroughly American trait to be suspicious of our government’s intentions ... and we have reason to be that way.

Were it not for a free press, we never would hear about such things until it was too late for us to do anything about them.

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

  • He made a big splash by asking this question

    “I don’t know who you were talking to last night,” said Capt. Gary, “but you were talking and moaning in your sleep. Never heard you do that before.” Neither has anyone else, I said. Besides, I had told him not to be surprised if we had visitors. I wasn’t at the top of my game for a couple of days, and he said some of our friends asked him if I was all right. It’s not the first time for this, so now I’ll know to watch out for it. It can affect you and is not something to play around with — as our friend Cathy found out.

    May 18, 2014

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