Gaston & Catawba

Mother had a word for this: ‘SASSYFRASS!!!'

My mother, who passed away 21/2 years ago at the age of 90, was a Christian woman, a woman who did not use profanity and who would have been aghast at the vulgarity of much of today's public discourse.

“Miss Bea” did have a temper, however, and when confronted by what she knew to be absolute nonsense, she often had a powerful, one-word response.

That word was “sassafras,” usually pronounced “sassyfrass.”

To fully capture the way she said it, however, I'd better write it this way: “ SASSYFRASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's the response my mother would give me when, as a youngster or even as a young adult, I had done something that I really should have had sense enough not to do, something that was bound to lead to trouble.

SASSYFRASS!!!!!!!!!” she said when I announced my plan to buy a 1974 AMC Hornet during my freshman year in college, knowing there was no way I could afford insurance, gas and maintenance for that rolling pile of junk and pay for college, too.

SASSYFRASS!!!!!!!” she said when I told her that I had decided to take off most of the summer between my junior and senior years at UNC-Chapel Hill to “see America” with a friend of mine in his 1974 Pinto.

And “ SASSYFRASS!!!!!!!!!!!” was most definitely her response to some of the girls I dated, some of the clothes I wore, and some of the hairstyles I fancied back during the mid-1970s as well.

I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately. In fact, I think about her every morning at 5:15 a.m. when I unroll my daily copy of the Observer to read about our nation reaping the whirlwind after years of sowing the wind with financial foolishness.

I know exactly what her response would be.

To a president who said for years that we could wage a full-scale war in Iraq and another in Afghanistan with no tax increases and with absolutely no worries about how to pay the bills?


To a Congress that overwhelmingly passed the Economic Stimulus Package of 2008 and gave away more than $152 billion that the government did not have, all for the sake of political pandering?


To presidents and members of Congress who have spent decades doing next to nothing about developing sustainable energy sources in this country – sources that would have stemmed the tidal flood of U.S. dollars for foreign oil?


To all the big wigs, fat cats and high socket boys in the financial and lending industries who made a host of stupid, greedy decisions and bad investments over the past decade and now look to the taxpayers to bail them out?


To the politicians at every level of government who have abandoned one of the basic tenets of leadership – planning for the future – and who look no further ahead than to the next election?


To me and to you and to all of us as Americans who have refused to demand a higher quality of leadership, one that accepts responsibility, tells the truth and actually leads instead of follows?


But there is another group for whom my mom would save her loudest and most emphatic pronouncement.

To all those who say that the election this November does not matter, or that it is OK to accept more of the same no matter how deeply into a hole “the same” has gotten us?