Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee…

So, down in Georgia, there’s a river called the Chattahoochee. According to Alan Jackson, it gets hotter than a hoochee coochee and it’s a great place to learn to swim, love, and live.

Alan Jackson - Chattahoochee (Official Music Video)

Back in the 70’s, which is when I assume he’s talking about, that might have been true, but these days there’s so much industrial pollution and waste water run-off in the Chattahoochee that if it’s hot, it’s because it’s burning your skin. Atlanta pumps a lot of waste into the river, ruining it for all of the cities downstream.

Chattahoochee River, River Walk, Phenix City side.
Chattahoochee River, River Walk, Phenix City side.

That hasn’t stopped both Columbus (on the Georgia side of the river) and Phenix City (on the Alabama side of the river) from both trying to develop the area. One of their projects is a river walk. I remember when the Columbus government first started building the river walk back in the mid 90’s. If I remember right, I did a March of Dimes event there when I was a sophomore in high school. It was pretty nice. The view was good. Even going back there now, after having seen the skylines of so many cities in and outside the US, it’s still good, though that may be partly the nostalgia.

Blown dam on the Chattahoochee River
Blown dam on the Chattahoochee River

The other project that Columbus is working on is something to do with white water rafting. The city government has this idea in their head that if they build it, ‘they’ will come, in the hundreds of thousands, so, sure enough, several historic dams that were built to power factories that used to operate along the waterfront were blown open to create a ‘white water’ effect in the river. Personally, I think it looks more like a ‘lazy river’ ride at a theme park, way too tame for someone seeking a real white water thrill, but maybe they haven’t opened up all the dams yet.

My wife and I went down the Phenix City riverwalk with my dad and he was telling us about how the city made a big deal out of blowing the dam we happened to be looking at, at the time. It was televised and people were expecting a large explosion, but it wasn’t really anything special. I still wish I’d been there to see it, but mostly because I’d have been interested to see what was at the bottom of the river. I bet they pulled a lot of neat stuff out of there.

Covered over square tunnels visible in far walls.
Covered over square tunnels visible in far walls.

Across the river from where we were, for example, there was a wall built of large square stones that was previously submerged. In the side of that wall there were square tunnels running back into the bank. I wonder what’s in there? Was it used fro waste run-off or sewage? The way it was built, with two walls in terraced set-up, it seemed like there used to be a road down there.

Old factories and a power station (small building 1/4 from the right)
Old factories and a power station (small building 1/4 from the right)

Anyway, there’s a lot of history in that area. One of the last major wars of the Civil War was fought in Phenix City. Columbus used to produce most of the boots and swords for the Confederate Army. Columbus was also the end of the line for river cargo from the Gulf of Mexico, since it sits on the fall line. Now, those old factories are being converted into expensive lofts and the river is being turned into a commercialized tourist attraction (which will probably fail due to health concerns), but at least the river has a bit more character now. I wish I could get down in there with a metal detector…

Alabama Attempts to Usher in a New Dark Age

Officials in Bay Minette, Alabama delayed a new program that would allow some nonviolent offenders to choose church over jail after a civil liberties group objected.

The “Operation Restore Our Community” initiative was slated to begin this week, but the southwest Alabama city’s legal team will take another look after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a cease-and-desist letter Monday.

via Reuters

What were they thinking?  The officials in Bay Minette, I mean.

I saw a small article about this tucked into a corner of an issue of the NY Daily News a few days ago and decided to look up more information about it online.  The Daily article didn’t mention anything about the ACLU or a protest; it was just all glowing and positive, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the reporter had suddenly forgotten about the separation of church and state provision in the US Constitution.

Reading the Daily article, I was mentally transported back to a time (a.k.a. the Dark Ages) when the Church presided over the sentencing and punishment/rehabilitation of criminals.  I thought we’d covered this ground already and gotten past it with that whole Enlightenment thing that happened in Europe.  The founding fathers of this country didn’t introduce the separation of church and state into the Constitution on a whim.

The officials mentioned in the article are trying to hide the obvious, that this is a drive to get criminals on the ‘right path’ by converting them to Christianity through extended exposure.  They’re instead claiming the weekly ‘check-ins’ are just for the purpose of accountability, and to access community based resources to help them fix their lives.

I wonder if such a thinly veiled excuse to get people into local churches will stand up in court?  I wouldn’t be surprised, since people can win lawsuits over spilled hot coffee, but I can’t believe that anyone would have thought that this would be OK, or that it would be true to the principles that this country stands for.  I’m not against churches.  I’m not against Christians practicing religion, but when you give someone an option of going to jail or going to church for a year, it’s not really a choice at all.  It’s more like a European telling natives in a newly ‘discovered’ land that they can either convert or be sold into slavery, or perhaps killed.  Freedom under a new religion will be preferable to a loss of liberty for most people.

There are reasons why church and state are separated in this country.  The US is diverse.  There are people of all faiths here and people who choose not to have any faith at all.  It’s one of our freedoms, and we should never be forced to choose between going to church or going to jail, even if the person in question is guilty of a crime.  A secular law system requires secular consequences.