In the nineteen-thirties, nutria were imported to the United States from South America for the fur trade; by the end of the nineteen-forties, the rodents were turning up in the Louisiana wetlands. By the end of the nineteen-sixties, there was an estimated wild population of twenty million. This abundance of nutria provided many trappers a living until the fur trade collapsed in the late nineteen-eighties. With no money to be made off the pelts, the population grew out of control and began destroying the Louisiana wetlands.
Nutria reproduces very quickly. Left unchecked, the population can become out of control in an area. A litter is born every eight weeks, and the females can begin reproducing after twelve weeks.
Nutria feed off the roots of plants in the Louisiana wetlands, killing them and making the land susceptible to erosion. These wetlands act as a cushion between the ocean and…
In the months leading up to the 2020 General Elections, so many conspiracy theories and reckless statements were being made that I found myself generally concerned about the safety of our democracy. Then one evening, while watching the local news, a report came on talking about the lack of available poll workers due to COVID concerns. I took it as a sign, and the next day went to my local county elections board and asked to volunteer. To my surprise, the lady handed me an application and said, “We’re hiring and need someone healthy enough to take equipment to polling locations around the county and work the polls as well.” So, I filled out the application and went and took my drug test. She pretty much hired me as part-time help on the spot.
Election Day for Me Is Three Days
Election Day for me starts that Monday. I and two others check the equipment, ensuring it’s all in good working order; inspect all the security tags; load up all the equipment and haul it to each polling location. We leave it all secured in the places. All the equipment is cabled and padlocked. The key is issued to the poll manager at the office later that afternoon.
My Second Election Day
My second Election Day is Tuesday. The actual day of voting. I must be at my polling spot at 6 AM. There we all swear in, take all the equipment out and set it up and have it running by 7 AM when the polls open. On a busy day, I’ve sat at a polling pad checking voters, only getting up twice. Once to go to the bathroom, and once to go to lunch for 30 minutes. Polls run from 7 AM to 7 PM, by the way.
My Third Election Day
On my third day of elections, I do everything in reverse of the first day. I go to each polling place and pick up equipment and take it back to the election board office. As I put all the stuff up, I make sure that everything is good, and if there are any defects in the equipment, I have to report it to the elections board supervisor.
I want to say this. I work elections for the state of Georgia. One of the states involved in the controversy of the 2020 election. All those allegations you may have heard made by the loser of the election and the losing party are all bullshit. The election process is secure — bottom line. Donald Trump was a one-term President. That’s just the reality of it all.
A Bright Side to The Election
On Election Day, I had an experience that moved me to the core. It was late in the day. Well after 5 PM, an elderly black lady, no younger than 80, with a walker, entered the polling station. She was being escorted by her daughter, who was a little older than me. She came to my table and wanted to cast her vote. Her daughter informed me this was the first time in her life she had voted and that she would be assisting her. I sat it all up to where she could vote. I turned the pad and moved it as far as I could on the table to get it to where she could sign it. She said, “Thank you.” and scooted on over to her voting station. I took a lot of pride in helping that lady. I also realized when I was doing this, for so many years, it had been white men, like myself, who had suppressed this lady’s vote. And now, at 80 or maybe older, she has finally been empowered to cast her vote. I still think about that moment often.
Making It a Fair Fight
When I got home that night, I told my wife Donald Trump lost this county. And he did, due to the African American vote. Those voters came out because Stacey Abrams’s non-profit, Fair Fight, put in the work and mobilized the black community to come out and vote. Everybody should feel free to cast their vote, regardless of their color, political affiliation, or whatever. If you are an American citizen, you shouldn’t have any apprehension about going and voting.
A few days after the election, I contacted Fair Fight and told them about the elderly black lady and praised their work. I also encouraged them to continue their fight and take it nationwide if need be. With all the changes in voting laws, they need to stay vigilant in mobilizing voters. It’s our right as a citizen to have proper representation of the areas we live in, and we can only reach that if everyone goes to the polls.
I live in a tiny town in a rural area. The population is around 5000 people. Over its history, it’s gone from a flourishing agriculture hub, pre-Civil War, to a rural industrial complex post World War II. Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, this area has been in steady decline. You see, when the financial crisis hit, this area was already seeing a decline in its most valuable asset, kaolin. Kaolin is chalk. It’s mined from mineral deposits left over millions of years ago when this area was an actual coastline. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, a large pristine kaolin deposit was discovered in this area. It could be mined from the ground and took minimal refining to make it usable. As more and more kaolin was removed from the ground, those pristine deposits became less and less over time. More refining had to take place, costing the mining companies more to process the kaolin to sell. In search of cheaper costs, many companies started getting their kaolin from other areas. While the mining business still exists here, it’s nothing like it was when I was a kid. Back then, you’d see chalk trucks on the highways seven days a week, moving clay. There is a noticeable difference in mining activities now from when I was younger. As you get older, you think back to when all the old-timers used to reminisce about the good old days and begin to realize you’re now one of them.
Relying on Non-renewable Resources
When I was a kid, I’d hear those same old-timers talk about the kaolin and talk about it running out one day. They’d talk about geologists predicting we’d have enough around for the next 30-40 years. Well, I graduated High School 26 years ago, and it seems that prediction was correct. It’s strange how science can do that, huh? The problem with this declining industry around here is the first thing to go are the jobs that rely on this industrial complex before its complete decline. Many of the construction jobs in this area no longer exist because they relied on the work from these refining facilities. The companies will be here till the end. They’ll continue to hire fewer and fewer employees. So, as you can imagine, the unemployment rate is higher in this area than it used to be.
The Effects of Unemployment and Under-Employment
A lot of people think, “Well, if there isn’t any work there, just leave.” Some can, but for others, it’s much more complicated than that. For many, this place is all they know. Honestly, they think the world is a war zone outside of this county. That’s what happens when you get all your news from one right-leaning news network. Others have more extenuating circumstances. They may have exuberant debt. They could have loved ones that rely on them to be around. It’s just the human factor, you know. But in the past twenty years of this decline, I’ve witnessed the people of this small-town decline with it. There has been a methamphetamine epidemic, accompanied by prescription pill abuse, and in recent months violent crimes have been on the rise. Just this year alone, people have been arrested for drive-by shootings, gang violence that resulted in a shootout in the center of town, and just this past week, a local schoolteacher, who had been missing for a week, was found dead off the side of a rural county road. Foul play is suspected. All of this would’ve been unheard of when I was growing up here. And it’s all linked to a lack of employment opportunities, I think. “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” At least, that’s what I was told as a child. People participating in these types of activities are lost. They feel they have nothing to lose. Many may say they are broken. They are broken because they have lost hope. Their hope has run out along with the employment opportunities that existed here at one point. It’s not just a lack of employment either. I know people here with their bachelor’s degree, working as a server at the Waffle House or a cashier at Wal-Mart, whatever to make ends meet, due to a lack of employment opportunities that may have been here in the past that are now gone. That must be a blow to their self-esteem. Think about it?
Desperate Times Breed Desperate Measures
That feeling of desperation drags those people down in a state of depression that, frankly, I wouldn’t want to tread close to. That’s why there is rampant drug use in so many economically depressed areas. So many use drugs to dull the sting to their ego. They knew, at one point, there was a better life than this. They saw it as children. Their piece of the pie was taken from them at the table and tossed on the floor. Drug use leads to other crimes of desperation. Drug dealers make money, and a vicious cycle ensues. Those that don’t fall into the cycle of crime become bitter and latch onto anyone who says they can make it better for them. I still see Donald Trump signs in people’s yards. Trump hats and propaganda are still alive in dying little areas like this all over the country. All because they all feel left out and forgotten, and people like him prey on them for support. He’s just like one of the local drug dealers. It’s a shame.
What People Need
What people need is action. Like many dying areas in rural America, this area was raped and pillaged by large companies for its natural resources. Once the resources were removed, those large multi-million-dollar companies packed up shop and moved on to the next spot, leaving the people who had become dependent on them behind to fend for themselves. With no jobs and minimal opportunities, these communities begin to cannibalize themselves and soon turn to skeletons of their former glory. There’s a way to fix these dying communities, though; the infrastructure is there; if our leaders would open their eyes and look forward to progress instead of examining past mistakes and placing blame, they would see. What is one thing all these old industrial areas have in common — railways. If our government would invest in a high speed rail infrastructure like Japan, China, and Europe, people could take the train into the larger cities and work. If I rode a train for an hour to Atlanta to work, got paid the same wage as people in Atlanta do, then came home to this area to live every day and many others here did the same, this would become a thriving area once again. All small towns throughout the country would see a new explosion of growth. In many of the larger cities, there is a homeless problem. Many of those people work. Yet, they can’t afford the expensive housing in the city. Take, for instance, my house. It is 1800 square feet with a carport, concrete driveway, a lovely little home with a 12-acre pond in the backyard. I paid $85000. This same house in Atlanta would be around $500,000 or more. A high speed rail system throughout this country would solve so many problems almost overnight.
Invest in the Most Valuable Commodity
In this world, the most valuable commodity you can invest in is the people. Providing high speed rail would be the equivalent to the interstate project tackled after World War II. Look at how that transformed our country. It is past time the infrastructure of this country is updated. It’s time for the people of this country to start calling out the politicians who use infrastructure as a political talking point. We, the people, must demand action to protect our future.
I’ve seen a lot of content as of late of many young people who seem to be disgruntled with the current job market. They compare having a job as a modern-day form of slavery. Many refer to it as wage slavery. They believe many people have become slaves to their employers. Handcuffed and shackled by their need for a paycheck. I can see this point of view and have pondered this train of thought over the last few days.
The current economic and political system that we operate under in the United States is capitalism. Capitalism is a system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state. In theory, this system allows people to earn an optimal reward for the amount of work that they are…
“I have a fight going on in me,” the old man said. “It’s taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
The grandfather looked at the grandson and went on. “The other embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”
The grandson took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee gave a simple reply. “The one you feed.”
In me, this first wolf represents fear. The list of negative perceptions combines to form fear inside me. Fear of changing the life that I have been living over the last 25 or so years. The life that I was taught to live, not the life that I’m drawn to live. I strive for freedom from the 9-5 and have always yearned to be released from this man-made system. Yet, my fear of failure grows larger the older I get. As I sit in anguish every evening, knowing I can do it, that damn evil wolf steps in front of me with teeth showing, growling, hair raised along the ridge of his back. I succumb to his hostile advances and toss him a slab of raw meat to appease him.
What Is the Raw Meat?
This morning on my walk, I analyzed what exactly is the raw meat I feed him. I feed him my false sense of pride, my ego, false sense of superiority. Everything listed in the parable, I feed him. I’ve never given those characteristics any credence in myself. I view those only to be found in evil people. But I realized they exist in myself as well this morning. Now that’s been recognized; maybe I should quit feeding that wolf so much and nurture the good one.
Look Beyond the Evil Wolf
Behind the evil wolf stands the good wolf. He’s hungry too. How do you go about feeding him? That evil wolf is always right there in front of the gate, ready to gobble up any food you toss in there. You must open the gate and confront him. See, the evil wolf is fear, so if you walk towards him, he will still show signs of aggression, but he’ll back up as far as possible because he is scared. There is the chance he’ll lash out, but only out of fear. You take that hit and keep moving forward, and he’ll keep backing up. Then place the food in front of the good wolf, who the evil wolf fears. Eventually, that evil wolf will begin to fear you and stay out of your way as you go into feed the good wolf. He’ll still try you. That’s what he does.
That All Sounds Simple Enough
I know it sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. I think about many personal accomplishments I’ve made over the years for encouragement. Like quitting smoking, losing 30lbs, getting my SCUBA certification, to even purchasing my property, all those were scary things that I looked right in the eye and overcame. Making the change in my life to be freed from the chains of my 9-5 may be the scariest of them, but it’s becoming a priority for me. When we begin to prioritize things, it slowly breaks the fear of them down.
I have always been a dreamer. I have always had a massive imagination that seemed to have no boundaries. From the time I was a toddler laying in front of the television racing my matchbox cars through the southwest deserts of the United States while hearing Dan Rather’s voice faintly in the background reporting the evening news to my parents, to now, a middle-aged man who imagines himself every afternoon at my daily status meeting looking at every person in the room and saying, “You know what? I’ve had enough of this bullshit. I’m out. Later.” I really do that a lot hear lately as my boss goes around the room asking questions about this and that. Then I snap back into reality. Give him the report on my department. Gather up my stuff and walk back down to my office. I ask myself this evening as I go into a long holiday weekend, “What keeps me there?” I answer myself back with, “Fear.” Fear is a dream killer and imagination smasher.
The Comfort Zone
Many Americans have a fear of stepping outside of their comfort Zone. It’s kind of like their home. They made it the way they want it. It’s cozy and warm. You view your home as safe, right. The difference between your home and your comfort zone is this; if you walk out into your yard, dig a hole in the ground, slap a flower down in there, give it water on a regular basis that flower will grow. In your comfort zone nothing grows. It’s a dead zone. Inhabited by spirits of your past that hold you prisoner in there, so you don’t outgrow them and leave them behind. They use their fear to control you. They make it your fear.
This fear is taught to us by our mentors, teachers, and parents. They don’t realize they are doing it. They are just teaching the younger generation what they have been taught. Let’s look at it like this. Take Little Johnny laying on the floor playing with his matchbox cars, imagining them racing through the desert, then his mother gets up from Dan Rather’s evening report and comes over in the middle of this intense, nose to nose race and just stomps down on top of the matchbox cars. Then nonchalantly walks on into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee like nothing happens. That would be messed up. Some would even interpret it as child abuse. Now take a child with a dream of say being an artist. Then toss him into our current education system where this dream is viewed as inferior and eventually the child is swayed into getting an education in a field that has been deemed as successful by society. Don’t you think that’s kind of the same thing.
Missing Your Calling
As a product of this education system my dreams and imagination were never nourished and dried up. My parents thought I should’ve gone to college like my brothers, but college wasn’t for me. That’s why I went into the military. That was fun and nurtured my imagination and dreams. If I hadn’t done that I would’ve pursued a career in music and everyone in my life would have shit a brick. I look back now and hold that as one of my biggest regrets — not pursuing that path. I’m not bitter about it. I mainly just wonder if I could’ve made it. Not like a huge rock star, just an average musician making a living doing something he loves.
I wrote this piece to just put it out there and feel that vulnerability. To get that feeling of relief that it’s out there you know. So many people guard that stuff, and it festers in them while they sit in their comfort zone. If you noticed I used fester, not grow to describe the feeling while in your comfort zone. Growth is a positive gain. When something festers it’s painful, inflamed and usually slows you down. That stuff must be tossed out. And maybe many who read this will toss it out as they exit their comfort zone.
Following the onset of The Great Depression in 1929, the United States caught the second blow to its population right in the gut the next year. Directly in the heart of the country, the lower midwestern plains of North America began to experience a manmade disaster brought on by years of undisciplined farming practices and drought. These two circumstances combined turned this country’s once-fertile with rich, deep topsoil into a baron wind-blown dust bowl. This phenomenon happened due to farmers’ lack of understanding of the area’s ecology, non-rotation of crops, and improper plowing techniques, all of which promoted erosion of the topsoil.
Cutting Their Losses
As the situation worsened in the Midwest, many farmers who were already financially strapped packed up their belongings and left. As many as 2.5 million people exited the Midwest during the 1930s due to the conditions brought on by this ecological disaster. Some rural areas in the Midwest saw population drops as much as 40%. Many relocated to the west coast of the country. There they worked the abundant farms in California, Oregon, and Washington. This migration, brought on by a manmade ecological disaster, was the largest in U.S history.
This massive migration is an example of climate migration. Climate migration occurs when people have no other choice but to leave their homes due to the changing environment, more frequent storms, higher tides, more frequent flooding, long periods of drought, more frequent wildfires. These are all examples of ecological scenarios that may cause people to up and leave their homes searching for a more stable environment to thrive. With the acceleration of climate change brought on by our industrialized societies, we see more of these massive migrations take place. For example, the Central Americans moving north towards Mexico and the United States. Many are leaving due to a changing climate that is causing more and more drought affecting their farmlands, causing food prices to soar, and leading to overall instability in their communities.
If we continue doing the same things we’re doing, more and more people from everywhere will have to move. It won’t only be people from other countries coming into the United States to escape the environmental problems in another country. Look at the map posted below. That is a map of the drought in the United States as of May 25th, 2021. Look at it. Roughly one-half of the country is experiencing some sort of drought conditions. And if you look at it deeper, the areas deep in drought have been there for a long time. The land can only sustain a large number of people for so long without water. Eventually, all those people will have to move east.
I ask myself, “Why have our leaders let it get this far?” Why have they politicized the issue to the point that a group of educated people doesn’t even believe it’s real? When will these people think it’s real? When they have to leave their country to live in a foreign land? By that time, it’s become too real. Many climate change deniers I know claim to be God-fearing Christians. If that’s the case, did God not leave us, human beings, as stewards of the land? As a father, if I built this immaculate house and then left it to my son and in a few short years it was in utter ruin, I’d be a rather disappointed father. Aside from the religious appeal, it’s also being a responsible person to maintain a nice living area, RIGHT? I digress and am putting my soapbox away.
In 1983 the first coral bleaching was observed during a strong El Niño. The first worldwide coral bleaching event occurred in 1998, and then again in 2010. The period between 2014 and 2017 was the most prolonged and widespread bleaching event ever recorded. It resulted in the death of approximately two-thirds of the corals in the northern part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
What causes these bleaching events is the rising temperatures of the ocean brought on by climate change. Rising temperatures put the coral under high amounts of stress, causing it to expel algae, its food. This occurrence leaves the coral vulnerable to disease, stunts growth, affects reproduction, and can result in death.
The world has lost half of its reefs in the last 30 years. This continued loss of coral reef systems worldwide could have a significant negative impact on sea life. For millions of peoples worldwide…
Memorial Day week of 2018, my wife and I went on vacation to Washington D.C. D.C is a place that I had always wanted to see, ever since listening to the stories my mother told me as a child of her youth in the city. We took an overnight train from Savannah, GA., to D.C. and arrived late in the afternoon on that Saturday before Memorial Day. As we walked through Union Station, D.C., it felt like I was in a dream. From Union Station, we walked to our hotel room which was a block from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Our walk took us directly across the Capitol Building grounds, exposing the view straight down the National Mall displaying the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in the distance. We got to our room, threw our bags down, and shot straight out to the Mall to take in the sights early that evening. It was just flat-out amazing to me. For the next four days, we walked all over the Mall. On Memorial Day, we walked from Arlington National Cemetery to The Library of Congress. The entire length of The Mall. On that Memorial Day, I laid a rose on JFK’s grave. I Listened to taps in Arlington National Cemetery while watching artillery guns shoot a 21-gun salute to our nation’s fallen. Saw the Presidential motorcade and capped the day off being invited into the Library of Congress main reading chamber, which was only open to the public two days of that year.
I Did It All Completely Unplugged
I spent this entire vacation unplugged. My cellphone stayed cut off in my backpack the whole time. I had no camera. I had a Facebook account at the time. I never checked it while there and never posted anything while there. My wife took all the photos on her phone. This journey was akin to a spiritual pilgrimage to me, and I wanted to take it all in undisturbed and undistracted. After our return to Georgia, I reluctantly powered my phone back up. But for the following eight months or so, I never got back on Facebook. There was just something nice about not looking at it. Finally, for one reason or another, I wound up logging into my account one day, and right off the rip, all I saw was negativity. It was nasty political posts, and just woe is me, people. I opened my settings, found where to delete the account, and deleted it. I’ve been off Facebook ever since.
After removing that looming cloud of doom from my life, I began to consume entirely too much cable news. My watching habits weren’t politically driven either. I watched all the cable news shows on every cable news network. I began watching them in the evening like many people may watch evening sit-coms and network programming. As I watched the evening coverage on January 6th, 2021, the Capital riots, I could feel the rage consuming me. Flipping station to station, all I see are images of these reprehensible, immoral, and politically corrupt people storming a building that I see as sacred. I decided this is enough; these cable news networks love this; this is money to them. All they want is to pander to negativity and enrage the masses; that was it. I turned away from cable news as I had from Facebook due to so much negativity. Now I only consume from my local news and the network evening news. Where I was consuming cable news on the television, I’ve replaced that time with, The Andy Griffith Show, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Life is so much more pleasant now.
Negativity Is A Virus
I’ve come to realize some things after detoxifying from these two mediums of information. Negativity gets inside you and festers like a virus. If all you are putting in is negative information, you begin to view the world through a negative lens. Your interactions with people become less appreciated. You begin to view people cynically. Your outlook on life becomes terrible. Every little thing bothers you, and you wind up angry about things that aren’t that important. It’s anger that has been programmed into you by a media company. It’s not even your anger.
How Can We Protect Against This Virus?
I want to say, first off, it’s okay to be angry about something. Anger is a natural human emotion. But be angry when someone has wronged you, not when Sean Hannity or Don Lemon have sensationalized some story for ratings—money. Don’t get mad because some Russian hacker has posted the most unbelievable political story in the world on Facebook, which in turn someone may have tweeted. That’s letting someone else or some other entity control your emotions. No one likes to lose control of anything in their life. Now that’s something to be angry about; there are people out there who expect you to believe things and be mad about them mindlessly. Negativity is time-consuming; it’s tiring. It’s like a job. It consumes you. Life is so much better to look at through an optimistic lens; maybe if we all tried harder to filter out so much harmful content consumption making the world a better place for all wouldn’t be such a daunting task.
This evening while watching the evening news, I noticed my neighbor pulling down her driveway and pulling up to the front of the house. She’s not precisely my neighbor. The place next to me is her second property, her little local lake house. She’s an elderly lady, and as I watched her pull down there, a feeling of somberness just washed over me. In the past, she and her husband would go there to watch sunsets over the pond in our backyard. He just recently passed away, and this was the first evening she’s been out there since his passing. It was just heavy watching her walk around the property alone.
They seemed to be a happy elderly couple. They’d always stop and ask me how my son was doing in Hawaii. They’d talk to Buddy, my dog, through the fence; he reminded me of Elmer Fudd in the way he dressed. He always wore a red and black flannel shirt, khaki pants, and a hunting hat like Elmer Fudd. He was 81 when he passed. She’s a long-retired schoolteacher and acts and dresses like the sweet old lady that would be a retired schoolteacher. They were pleasant to talk to and were still deeply in love after all these years together.
I hope that I get to live the long, happy life that those two have. It’d be nice if 40 years from now, my wife and I could go sit down by the pond together. Hold hands in a swing, and reminisce about the older couple next door who used to do the same thing while watching the sunset. I could exit this world in peace if I could spend my final evenings like that.
So, this evening this blog post is for Mr. & Mrs. Horton for giving me an example of a life well lived.