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The lunatic fringe is at 10 percent and holding

By Carl Langley
EdgefieldDaily.com Guest Columnist

web posted August 13, 2007
GUEST COLUMN – One of the downsides of living in a free society is that the more sane among us too often find ourselves putting up with the crazies allowed to run free when they should be bouncing off of walls covered with foam padding.

A good case of the mental rot in today’s 10 percent lunatic fringe that makes up our society can be found in Aiken, where the local paper, like a lot of others, runs a daily column in which the unstable are given the same public forum as the stable.

The chatty but often incoherent ramblings of some folks can be found in offerings called Talkback or Rants and Raves. It is a poor way to attract readers, but a poverty of ideas now afflicts a news business lacking in imagination and depth.

When it was announced several months ago that the Aiken downtown was getting a big clock that will not only help those able to tell time but may, in the course of years, become the signature piece for a rapidly growing city.

The promise of the clock reminded me of the years I spent in Coumbia as a student at the University of South Carolina. It was a pleasure to stroll down Main Street and look at the big clock in front of Sylvan Jewelers.

I don’t know how many times it was published that the clock given to our city was bought and paid for by Security Federal Bank as a way to make our downtown unique. It is a worthy endowment to the city and its residents.

So far as I have been able to determine, the only expense to the city was preparing a suitable place for the clock and installing it. We are talking pennies here, not the hundreds of thousands of dollars sunk in a railroad depot and a black history museum.

The ones supporting the railroad depot and museum are blithely claiming that taxpayers are not being handed the bill, but that’s not exactly the facts. The bulk of the money, I am informed, is coming from accommodations taxes and other levies.

And where do accommodations taxes and other levies come from? Why right out of the pockets of taxpayers. All this leaves me to wonder how much those promoting the historical ventures have invested from their bank accounts.

I am devoting most of my time this morning to the clock because I am amazed that such a magnificent gift has not spared from complaint those imbeciles who wake up each morning suspicious about everything and go to bed each night with a haunting fear that someone or something is out to get them.

Within the past few weeks I have read, in Talk Back, several complaints about the clock, with most of the critics complaining about the city’s financial investment and some unhappy with the location, which will be on the corner in front of the bank.

One imbecile recommended the city move the clock into the center of the intersection of Laurens and Richland, the epicenter of all downtown traffic. The site is in the middle of U.S. Highway 1, the north-south route between New York and Miami.

A fountain once sat in the center of the intersection and old timers can’t count high enough to give an accurate tally of the confused drivers who ran their vehicles into the fountain over the years. They also can’t tally up the numbers of times the fountain was vandalized by teen-agers carrying boxes of laundry detergent.

In regards to all this carping and complaining by people who apparently have little else to test their minds, I refer to the words of former Aiken County legislator John May, who made annual pilgrimages to Robert E. Lee’s birthplace and used the intersection as his starting point.

May remarked years ago at a Democratic Party rally that every society can lay claim to a 10 percent lunatic fringe, He said the numbers are validated each time an election is held or someone is so bold as to suggest a civic improvement.

Then, I give you the great American newspaper editor H.L. Mencken, who once observed that the Puritans among us share the same philosophy. He said Puritans go to bed each evening with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere had enjoyed a pleasant day.

So there you go, we have it all here in Aiken. We have the nut cakes who refuse to look a gift horse in the mouth and we have the pessimists who are seized with the fear that some folks in Aiken are so brazen as to welcome these little things that make this a pretty town.


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