Alex Kearns – A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Mon, 19 Nov 2018 13:02:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Alex Kearns – 32 32 A very scary time for young men Wed, 03 Oct 2018 19:00:02 +0000

Two things struck me while I was reading the news this evening (everything from Fox to Vox):

Today Trump said “It is a very scary time for young men in America, when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of.” Let’s try to forget, for a moment, his nails-on-a-chalkboard style of babbling, and focus on the statement itself.

I shall assume that Trump was referring to young white men in America because it has always been a terrifying time for young black men. So…white males. In that he was alluding to Judge Kavanaugh, we can extrapolate that his comment spoke to privileged and empowered white males – the so-called “elite” that are the target of Trumpites’ ire.

Apparently, it is scary, very scary, to be a pale-skinned, wealthy, youthful possessor of a penis in these here United States. Interesting.

Meanwhile, a recently released report from the Missouri State Auditor informs us that Missouri can’t account for about 1,200 sex offenders who are required to register with law enforcement in the state. “Those unaccounted for include about 800 sex offenders considered to be the most dangerous: people convicted of rape, sodomy or child molestation in the first or second degree.” And Missouri isn’t alone in this. State after state report that they’ve managed to lose track of thousands of sex offenders. Women and children are, of course, most vulnerable to attacks.

But hey … it is a very scary time for young men in America.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. 9 out of 10 rape victims are female.

But it is a very scary time for young men in America.

Child Protective Services agencies estimate that 63,000 children a year are victims of sexual abuse. The perpetrators of the crimes are, by an overwhelming majority, male. (57% white)

But it is a very scary time for young men in America.

And we won’t even go into how “scary” it is for immigrant parents who are seeking asylum only to have their children torn from them and “misplaced” in your administration’s hellish “system.” Or how “scary” it is for young black men who risk being gunned down in the street if they walk in a white neighbourhood … or sit in their own apartments.

How about a single mother in an inner-city? Or someone who can’t afford healthcare or a parent who doesn’t have access to a decent school for their child or an elderly woman facing a lonely and economically-uncertain future or a town on the edge of a toxic coal-ash dump? Is this country not more frightening for them than it is for the eternal frat-boy, wallet-whipping, BSDs that you’re so worried about, Donald? Are the subjects of your concern afraid when they walk down the street, cross a parking lot at night, deal with a leering boss, try to placate a drunken and abusive spouse etc.?

But we agree on one thing: This is a very scary time in America. In fact, it’s downright terrifying.

]]> 0
Bullying Fri, 16 Mar 2018 11:22:53 +0000 Camden County Tribune & Georgian published an article about a recent case of “bullying” at our high school. A link to a video was posted on the T&G's Facebook page – and I urge you all to use great caution before you watch it. Please check to make sure there are no children around, that it won't be seen by those who are emotionally fragile, and that you, yourself, are well braced.]]>

Today, the Camden County Tribune & Georgian published an article about a recent case of “bullying” at our high school. A link to a video was posted on the T&G’s Facebook page – and I urge you all to use great caution before you watch it. Please check to make sure there are no children around, that it won’t be seen by those who are emotionally fragile, and that you, yourself, are well braced.

“Two Camden County juveniles were arrested for sending this disturbing death threat video to some fellow students, but only served a few days in a youth detention center before being released back to school. Because the charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, the students will face no punishment by the school system.”

This is not “bullying” – it is terrorism at its most foul and cowardly. The video is the culmination of an ongoing program of torment on the part of students who chose to target three others. It is horrifying, nauseating, shockingly professional, and will lodge itself in your mind and heart.

All that prevents me from wanting to lock the perpetrators up and throw away the key is that they are teens themselves and obviously in need of psychological intervention. As it is, the two boys were given a plea deal for “misdemeanor disorderly conduct”…and they returned to school. That’s it. (And after each tragedy rocks this nation, people ask “Why didn’t anyone see that coming?”)

Weeping angel statue by Alex KearnsI ache for the parents of the victims. Were I them, I think my rage would lead me into questionable waters. And what do you tell their younger siblings? What do we tell ourselves?

I cannot help but think that the prevailing fad of applauding and embracing socio-political thuggery and intolerance is bearing toxic fruit. For each wretched anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bill (nothing more than reprehensible legislated bigotry), there is a child who is learning to feed and unleash the monster of cruelty inside. For every adult that mouths racist opinions and prattles mindless slogans of xenophobia, there is a rock in the hand of a young man or woman. And with every blow to the ideals of compassion and equality, another child is broken.


An open letter to Senator William Ligon (R – GA).

How dare you, sir? How dare you presume to say that you represent us and then proceed to act in such a way as to revolt many of your constituents and violate our trust?

On Feb. 23, 2018, the Georgia State Senate passed your SB-375 (the so-called “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act”); a vile piece of legislated discrimination that will allow child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies (even those that are taxpayer funded), to refuse to place children with same-sex couples. What “faith” is this? Whose “faith” is this? Not mine, I assure you.

Senator Ligon, are you aware that there are more than 400,000 children in foster care nationwide and almost 14,000 in Georgia alone? Should your efforts not be directed toward attracting qualified parents and not attacking gay couples who seek only to provide a child with a solid and loving permanent home? And to do so on “religious” grounds? I am sickened by your blatant and sanctimonious display of hypocritical legerdemain.

And what of interfaith couples, single parents, divorcees and others with whom an agency might have a “religious” objection? Are the Christian/Jew couple to be punished? What about mixed-raced couples? Or are you planning to exhume miscegenation laws as your next trick? Once you’ve set us on the rancid, greasy slope of LGBTQ Jim Crow laws, where will it end? But then you’re not even making a cosmetic pretense at “separate but equal”, are you Senator Ligon? You’re just standing on your flimsy high-horse and throwing crushing rocks at those of whom you disapprove – and you’re doing it in our name.

How dare you! How dare you and your like-minded brethren convert your version of Christianity into a bullet and shoot it into the hearts of those who seek only to provide a home for a child in need. 
YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME – and your actions are fueling the fires of hatred. (See above and read through again and again…imagining that your own child, Sir, was a target of vicious bullying/terrorism.)

Sen. William Ligon
121-E State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334 
Phone: (404) 463-1383


It has been a brutal day of shock, disgust, and (hopefully) introspection in Camden County as people try to make sense of the incomprehensible terrorizing of three of our most-loved high school students. There is little I wouldn’t do right now to crumble rafters, shout down walls, rattle the doors of complacency, and scream the truth to those who pretend that justice was done.

(I hope that my intense rage isn’t influenced by my past eleven years as the victim of a death-threat-spewing cyberstalker…but I don’t know. I, too, sought action by the courts and law enforcement and I, too, was told that “there’s not much we can do about it until he shoots ya.”) But I suspect that it’s just my extreme allergy to unfairness and that my mother-self that has roared within me since I saw the video.

And then that makes me wonder: how do the parents of the perpetrators feel? Proud of their miscreant little progeny or alarmed that they are so horribly off-track? And then I want to weep for the children who thought that making such a video (or tormenting others at all) was right or funny or clever. What is to become of them? The concept and production of the video required a level of sophisticated malevolence that shakes me.

There is a way forward in all of this – beyond the usual “forgetting in the face of the next atrocity” – but I don’t know what it is. I pray for healing for all involved. And greater wisdom and insight for myself so that I can do more than write, write, write.

There it is – a very minor epiphany. This case has, for many of us, exhumed every other lost or hurt child, every online attack, every student who failed to come home from school, every Matthew Shepard, every back turned in cruel judgment, every hope crushed by the damnation of an intolerant society, every politician willing to turn a blind eye, every one who thinks “It’s not my problem.”

Thank you for “listening” as I tap out my thoughts. Hug your kids for me, please.

]]> 0
A Rant-let Wed, 14 Mar 2018 13:21:19 +0000

I seem to have spent much of the past few decades wondering how or why others appear to be tuned in to a different frequency than I. The most basic of values are so often shockingly dissimilar, definitions are opposing, and the entire approach to life is so unalike as to make me wonder if we’re even the same species.

Case in point: a man on a Facebook page that I administer is vociferously in favor of a sometimes-contentious local issue. Fair enough – many people support this initiative. But I was curious about this rather disturbingly vehement man so I looked at his page.

Boy wearing googles and a colander on his head attached to some voltage meterIt is a festering public hellhole of pro-gun memes, falsehoods, “alternative facts”, anti-immigrant images, knee-jerk hatred, and other revolting lunacy. I’m sure that when he’s not glued to his keyboard, he probably seems like a fairly normal guy – and to many people in this country, he IS normal.

And that’s where I get confused and, admittedly, just a tad pessimistic. We are told to “find the middle-ground” but where exactly is that elusive real estate when we’re talking about things like racism? Slightly racist is okay as long as one doesn’t go all white-hood? Sexism is fine short of raping a woman? Xenophobia is tolerable as long as you don’t shoot immigrants? Homophobia is all right if you refrain from physically attacking an LGBTQ individual – deny them equality and respect all day long, just don’t beat them up?

I’m the first to proclaim that human life is 7 billion+ shades of grey – but I also know that some things are absolute…for me. There is no middle-ground in the question of whose “rights” are paramount; a madman’s to obtain a gun or a child’s to live to see the end of a school day; a “religious freedom” politician pandering to the lowest (intellectually) constituent’s or a same-sex couple’s to marry and build a family; a man whose masculinity is predicated on demeaning and subjugating females or a woman who strives to attain equality in all things.

Meh…I’m going to go back to listening to my own station. I know there are others out there but that doesn’t mean I have to dance to their discordant tunes in that polluted moral bog known as “the middle-ground.”

]]> 0
Environmental activist blasts plan to rezone 1,000 acres of Cumberland Island Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:28:28 +0000 "Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed."-Wallace Stegner Cumberland Island National Seashore and United Nations Biosphere Reserve is the largest of the southern United States' sea islands. It is a paradise of eco-diversity and incomparable beauty. Visitors can only access the island by a private boat or the ferry from St. Marys, Georgia, and when they arrive, they find that they have been transported to a realm that is beyond all expectations.]]>

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed.”-Wallace Stegner


Cumberland Island National Seashore and United Nations Biosphere Reserve is the largest of the southern United States’ sea islands. It is a paradise of eco-diversity and incomparable beauty. Visitors can only access the island by a private boat or the ferry from St. Marys, Georgia, and when they arrive, they find that they have been transported to a realm that is beyond all expectations.

Cumberland is a perfect marriage of the physical and the spiritual: there is transcendent natural majesty there that reaches deep into our souls, releasing and transforming us in unexpected ways. When you run your fingers lightly over the masterpiece of a live oak, emerge from a twilight tunnel of ancient green into a sun-dazzled world of sugar-sand dunes, and stand alone on a beach that vanishes into the curvature of the earth…you are profoundly changed. Suddenly you hear your own voice on the wind, taste the sea salt on your skin, walk with a gentler but firmer step, and know what it is to be Eternal.

Cumberland-Island-BeachYesteryear: In 1954, several members of the Carnegie family (long-time Island residents) invited the National Park Service to the Island to assess its suitability as a national park. On October 23, 1972, Congress established the Cumberland Island National Seashore and began purchasing thousands of acres of land on the island. Ten years later, Congress designated the northern half of the island, about 9,000 acres, as the Cumberland Island Wilderness Area. Private acreage remains on the island however—some as life estates that will revert to the National Park Service and about 1,000 acres that are held as fee simple inholdings.

All was well…until recently.

On December 7, 2016, the Camden County, Ga, Planning Commission met to discuss a Hardship Variance that was filed by Lumar LLC (a consortium of some Island family landowners) regarding 87.51 acres on Cumberland Island. Lumar sought to create a 10-lot subdivision in the heart of the Island – on land that is zoned “conservation preservation” and is less than a quarter-mile from the Sea Camp ferry dock. In that paved roads are not allowed on the Island, they required a variance to the County code that requires a paved road for any subdivision.

Despite the fact that the applicants failed to meet the five hardship variance requirements, their request was granted.

Two separate parties responded by filing appeals: William R. Bruce, St. Marys, Ga, resident (and other signing individuals); and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and the St. Marys EarthKeepers. Online petitions protesting the subdivision of the 87+ acres quickly garnered over 20,000 signatures and more than 1,000 comments were emailed to the County Commissioners.

The appeal was scheduled and then postponed until April 4. Camden County then contacted the parties involved in the appeals and requested a further postponement. Now we know why.

From that initial hardship variance, this has mutated into a monster. Now, the entirety of Cumberland Island itself is at stake as the Camden County Commissioners forge ahead with their plan to rezone all 1,000 acres of privately-owned inholdings, thus exposing the Island to a devastating level of development. If, for example, they decide to rezone for 1 housing unit per every 5 or 10 acres (as seems likely) the Island could well be the site of the equivalent of a very exclusive gated subdivision.

This is all a clear and egregious violation of the Cumberland Island National Seashore enabling legislation: “The seashore shall be permanently preserved in its primitive state, and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions.”

To those who have experienced the rare wonders of Cumberland, imagine disembarking from the ferry only to be greeted by the roar of chainsaws and bulldozers and the death-groans of live oaks. To those who have yet to find their way to this wonderland of natural beauty, hurry…it is now on the endangered list and the clock is ticking.

We cannot stand idly by as the knife of tax-greed is plunged through the heart of Cumberland Island National Seashore. This is a “last unicorn” situation and we need your help. I urge all citizens, businesses, and organizations to make their voices heard by emailing the Camden County Georgia Commissioners and speaking out at their meetings. Share information via social media, and watch for upcoming activities, action alerts, and opportunities to participate.




]]> 2
Doesn’t it Always Seem to Go That You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘til it’s Gone? Thu, 14 Apr 2016 10:29:46 +0000

St. Marys Georgia Convention & Visitors BureauSt. Marys, Georgia: A peaceful little coastal town of unsurpassed beauty. It serves as the gateway to Cumberland Island National Seashore, a mecca for tourists who want to experience true Southern charm, and a dream-realized for those seeking a natural environment beyond compare.

Enter developer Christopher T. Ragucci and his Knights of the Green Shield/Worldwide Group. (Cue “Razzle Dazzle” from “All That Jazz.”) They quickly changed the company name to “The Port of St. Marys, LLC” and set about trying to convince the townsfolk and elected officials that turning St. Marys into an industrial barge port would be a blessing and boon to all.

“The Port of St. Marys, LLC, has submitted a Rezone application with the City of St. Marys for the 722 acre tract of land formerly home to the Durango Paper Mill. The Rezone application requests a change from its current classification of PD (Planned Development Mixed Use) to a PD (Planned Development Industrial) district under Section 110-68 of the City of St. Marys Zoning Ordinance.

The application states that, “the intent of the Port of St. Marys Industrial & Logistics Center Planned Development District (Port of St. Marys) is to create a rail served industrial and maritime logistics facility on the former Gillman/Durango Paper Mill site. The plans include a barge dock and ship berths, cargo handling and rail intermodal facilities, as well as, shore based infrastructure. Initial planning indicates approximately 3,000 linear feet of barge & vessel berthing is attainable on the North River. The marine facilities will enable industrial operations to access the North River, St. Marys River, Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean and serve as a key component to the vision and success of the project.”

Hmmm. And this is to be located beside and within the downtown residential area, a stone’s throw from the St. Marys Elementary School, and on the doorstep of the Historic District. (The property in question is also the site of Georgia’s second-largest Wood Stork Rookery – an endangered species.) Citizens immediately began pounding at their keyboards in search of information. Who, exactly, is this developer? What is his background and success rate? The former question turned up a wealth of alarming Mario Puzo-esque media articles. Attempts to answer the latter yielded no information.

Meanwhile, in June 2014, The Port of Fernandina, FL, (a mere eight miles away as the crow flies) unveiled their Master Plan and, lo and behold, there was a rather shocking image of “The Port of St. Marys Potential LNG Facility” (LNG = liquefied natural gas). Ah…Kinder Morgan, the owners and operators of the Port of Fernandina, shakes its grisly saber again.

As you can imagine, feelings are running high in St. Marys as City Council wrestles with whether or not to rezone the property to allow for the creation of an industrial barge port. Those in favor say “It will bring many jobs!” (It should be noted that the Port of Fernandina, a well-established, deep-water, Kinder Morgan-owned port, employs 45 people.) Those opposed to the project claim that it flies in the face of our Comprehensive Master Plan (which is true) and that it will negatively impact our economy, property values, environment, and quality of life. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am strongly opposed to the proposal.)
Will this small jewel of the Georgia coast be sacrificed upon the altar of commerce and industry? Will the legendary “peace of St. Marys” be shattered by legions of heavily-laden trucks, trains, and barges? We shall see.

This is your coast too, my friends. Please consider signing (and sharing) the petition. You can also find us on Facebook.

]]> 3
Georgia GOP trying to legalize bigotry, again Thu, 25 Feb 2016 16:13:17 +0000 A Facebook message: “Alex, I think you’re a really great person doing wonderful things for the world but you need to stop promoting homosexuality on your Facebook page or people will get ideas about you. I’m sure you’re a good Christian woman so your writing should reflect those values.” Gadzooks! “…get ideas”? What - that I’m (gasp) a closeted lesbian? A lapsed Christian? Or that I have actually studied the Bible and believe, above all, in acceptance and equality...]]>

GOP Elephant Using Georgia Capital Gold Dome as a Toliet

A Facebook message: “Alex, I think you’re a really great person doing wonderful things for the world but you need to stop promoting homosexuality on your Facebook page or people will get ideas about you. I’m sure you’re a good Christian woman so your writing should reflect those values.”

Gadzooks! “…get ideas”? What – that I’m (gasp) a closeted lesbian? A lapsed Christian? Or that I have actually studied the Bible and believe, above all, in acceptance and equality. (I’m a big fan of 1 John 4:20. Look it up sometime. Actually, I think I’ll make that my Facebook cover photo for a while.) And “promoting homosexuality”? Is that what you think it is when someone speaks out about against bigotry? Interesting.

Meanwhile, I received a morning e-blast from Georgia Senator William Ligon:

“Thus, the Senate Rules Committee added a second section to the bill, known as the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This additional language protects individuals and legal entities from facing any civil penalties for acting upon their sincerely-held religious beliefs concerning lawful marriage. This law would help prevent frivolous lawsuits by those trying to coerce people into uniformity of belief, speech, and action concerning marriage. The bill is now ready for consideration in the House of Representatives where you can continue to let your views be known about the legislation.

For those who need to understand more of what is at stake in these efforts to protect religious liberty, Erick Erickson has just written a new book, You Will Be Made to Care. It can be pre-ordered right now on Amazon.”

So I popped over to Google to check out this highly-touted tome.

According to its website, the book will teach readers, and I quote:

  • How lawyers are raking in millions through politically correct lawsuits against religious groups that don’t affirm homosexuality as “normal”
  • How there is nowhere to hide: no matter how small your bed and breakfast, or your wedding chapel, or your flower shop–the leftist-homosexual mafia will shut you down if you don’t share their beliefs
  • How Christian clergy will be forced to perform gay weddings or see their churches forced into bankruptcy

The book is a litany of the “right’s” greatest horror-stories in the so-called “war” on Christians led by the “leftist-homosexual mafia.” Erickson writes “The secular left in America has its own religion — the state. Worship of the state and the self cannot tolerate dissent or competition, and therefore is moving aggressively to shut down, silence, and drive from the town square any competing ideas. Evil has been preaching tolerance, but now that it is dominate (sic), it seeks to silence good.”

Dear Lord, save me from these misguided moral-warriors who masquerade their bigotry with a cloak of pious “Christianity.”

What terrifies them so (for all hatred is born of fear)? The much-ballyhooed “breakdown of the traditional American family unit”? News flash, buckos – that done broke down some time ago. That the “sanctity of marriage” will be compromised? Too late to close the barn door, Bessie – 40%–50% of marriages end in divorce. That the whole purpose of marriage is procreation? Kinda sucks for those who cannot bear children or those who marry later in life, huh? And about those 450,000 children currently languishing in foster care in America – but I guess that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. I’ll get back to you on that.

Face it, oh ye ever-so-sanctimonious, uber-“Christians”: your narrow-minded prejudice is not based in either scripture or reality. It is built upon a shaky foundation of ignorance and fear. (Oh, and before you post, email or Twitter again on your fancy-dancy iPhone…the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, is gay. BOO! Scared now, ain’t ya?) And before you go all “Yes, but it’s not the American way” on me, chew on this for a while: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ALL men are created equal.” Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address

So, in short, dear Facebook message-sender (and Senator Ligon), I am sick unto death of the antediluvian idiocy of so-called “religious freedom laws” (while being forced to pay taxes into a state system that is attempting to violate my own religious beliefs), the bastardization of scripture, and holier-than-thou bigots who hide their trembling uncertainty behind placards, Bibles, and warped pulpit-thumping politicians who want only to trade upon the sad ignorance of those who need to elevate themselves by stepping on the faces of their brothers and sisters.

You want to enact laws that will allow others to refuse service to LGBT people? Allrighty then. Stand in front of me and explain how this is different from denying service to a single parent, a black couple, a Muslim couple, a Jewish couple, a mixed-race couple. Look at your own sons and daughters and tell me which ones are not worthy of equality. Go ahead. I dare you.

]]> 2
Shining a Light on Hidden Predators Sat, 21 Feb 2015 18:47:00 +0000 “A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 3 of Title 9 and Article 2 of Chapter 5 of Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to limitations of actions and child abuse and deprivation records, respectively, so as to extend the statute of limitations for actions for childhood sexual abuse...]]>

the Hidden Predator Act

During the 2015-2016 Regular Session of the General Assembly, our Georgia elected-officials are expected to vote on HB 17 – “the Hidden Predator Act.”

“A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 3 of Title 9 and Article 2 of Chapter 5 of Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to limitations of actions and child abuse and deprivation records, respectively, so as to extend the statute of limitations for actions for childhood sexual abuse; to provide for a short title; to provide for limitations of liability for certain legal entities; to change provisions relating to tolling of limitations for a minor’s cause of action; to change provisions relating to the tolling of limitations for tort actions while criminal prosecution is pending; to change provisions relating to the confidentiality and use of certain records; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.” (Click for the full text)

Dry prose indeed. But it seeks to address a heinous situation in our state: the ongoing victimization of children, and the legal system’s inability to bring the perpetrators of unspeakable crimes to justice.

Imagine a small south Georgia town where it seems that most children are involved with a local karate academy. Parents send their children to “Master Peeples” and his staff with full faith and confidence that their sons and daughters will have fun while learning respect, self-discipline, and the joys of participation. The Academy is beloved by the town, participates in festival parades, puts on displays of student-prowess, and is, in all respects, a cherished and trusted member of the community.

Now imagine learning that the owner of that venerable academy is suspected of molesting children. A courageous young man has spoken out at last. More victims come forth. They suffer through the unimaginable pain of reliving horrific events from their childhood. They withstand the cruel taunts of those who seek the comfort of denial.

You swallow your rage and revulsion and gently question your son or daughter. You watch the news stories unfold. You pray – please God, please God, not my child. But you may never know.


Thomas Ary, a volunteer at Pak’s Karate in Kingsland, was arrested and charged with child molestation. The owner, Warren Craig Peeples, was also under investigation, but four months later, District Attorney Jackie Johnson revealed in a letter to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations: “While there is sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges for acts involving multiple victims, the state would be barred by the applicable statute of limitations…”

Johnson’s letter continued “The expiration of the statute of limitations is an absolute bar to prosecution. As such, my office is unable to proceed to grand jury on these allegations” and “Based upon witness interviews, multiple acts of sodomy, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation and sexual battery occurred with students of Pak’s Karate beginning as early as 1988 and continuing up until 2001.

So there you have it: damaged minds and hearts; a community torn apart; six victims whose courage was tested… and they were victimized once again – this time by an antediluvian system that protects the devil while sacrificing angels on the altar of unconscionable and indefensible legalities.

Six former victims came forth, but how many others have been silenced by fear and shame? How do they go on, watching each day as the bus takes more children to the “Academy”? How do any of us sleep at night knowing that we are complicit in this crime through our silence and lack of protest?

We cannot erase the scars of past deeds – but we can come together to right grievous wrongs, seek justice, and try to shed light on the dark and fetid corners that the existing laws cannot penetrate.

Please contact your elected leaders and ask them to support HB 17. “Like” the Hidden Predator Act Facebook page. Speak out for those who are, too often, voiceless. Enough is enough.


Author’s note:

I wrote this article with the full knowledge that some within our community will be offended for their loyalty is fierce and they question the veracity of the victim’s statements, the findings of the investigators, and the statements of the DA. To them I would say “When in doubt – any doubt at all – err on the side of the children.” I have come to know one of the victims well. I have seen and heard the evidence. I have done my “due diligence.”

Even if you choose not to believe that crimes were committed in this case, you must agree that a statute of limitations with child abuse is inexcusable. Consider the victims of such crimes: the trusting children who are surrounded by adults who, by their words and actions, let the child know that his/her abuser is a “Good person.” What is that child to do? How are they to know?

Then the years go by. They grow – fragile flowers somehow rising through the sullied soil – and they begin to realize that the wounds remain. They begin to understand the utter Wrongness of what was done to them. They summon the strength to speak as they watch, day by day, more children enter an arena of pain. And how do we respond? We say “It’s too late for your voice. It’s too late for justice. You should have said something when you were too young to reach the high shelf above the kitchen counter or stay out after dark.”

I am not so naïve as to imagine that some claims of abuse, years after the fact, are unfounded. Humans are humans. But when six victims come forth, when (after thorough investigation) the DA is convinced of crimes and yet stopped by legal minutiae, when the evidence is clear, documented, and indisputable, it’s time to say “Enough!”

A splinter will, after time, rise to the surface. If untreated, it will fester. If it festers, the system is compromised. Are we willing to sacrifice our children? Are we willing to continue to feed into this conspiracy of silence? I hope not.


]]> 1
Who Am I now? Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:52:30 +0000

Dealing With Dementia

This evening I popped out to the corner store for milk. A woman was there with an older man. He was walking up and down the aisles as she trailed behind him – sighing and huffing and saying things like “Dammit, Dad! You dragged me out to get something with you and now you can’t remember what you need?”

Her words seemed to fall like blows on his shoulders. He began picking up items in a random fashion and knocked over several cans of soup. I bent to retrieve them up and when I straightened I looked into his face. There it was: the panicked, lost look of a man who set out with clear intent… and lost his bearings along the way. I know this look – and it breaks my heart.

For those of us who watched helplessly as loved ones drifted away from us, there are no words to describe the pain. So much of Who We Are is found in our reflections within others’ eyes – and to lose that is almost unbearable. As their memories fade, we find ourselves doubting the veracity of the past – for what is the past if not shared memory? Dementia, Alzheimer’s – we try to name the thief even as we rage at its daily crimes against humanity.

Unless you have looked into your mother or father’s eyes and seen only a gently quizzical “Who are you?” in place of the once-familiar gladness; unless you have turned to your life’s-partner to share a yesterday-moment, only to find him gone even though his hand is in yours; unless you have experienced the soul-freezing terror of being lost within yourself…you cannot know.

America: By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030.

We will, as a society, be challenged. We will be asked to stretch our compassion, economics, and medical ingenuity to new horizons. How we respond to this will be yet another measure of Who We Really Are.

Eight months before my father passed away, I took him out for lunch. As we were leaving the restaurant he became slightly agitated and began searching the pockets of his coat. He found a carefully-folded piece of paper and handed it to me. Later that night I read it. He’d carefully printed out this Billy Collins poem:

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

]]> 3
Legalizing Discrimination Thu, 27 Feb 2014 11:49:03 +0000


HB 1023 and SB 377 are now slithering through the dank halls of Georgia’s government. These bills would allow business owners to openly discriminate against gay Americans by denying them employment or services: banning them from restaurants, hotels etc. (Translation: anybody who wishes to discriminate against someone for any reason need only say that it’s because it’s part of their “personal religion”.)

The so-called “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” would, in effect, permit any individual or for-profit company to ignore Georgia’s anti-discrimination and civil rights laws. Legal experts warn that such “religious-freedom” bills are so vague and all-encompassing that they fling the doors wide open for discrimination against not only gay individuals, but many other others as well. Gee… ya think?!

The thought that even a penny of my hard-earned money could, via state taxes, go towards supporting the rabid plans of these myopic and destructive dementors sickens me. We seem to be moving backwards these days – deliberately ushering in our very own version of The Dark Ages.

(There are small candles being lit: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called on state officials to pursue legislation recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state – a key first step in what he described as “a long road to marriage equality in Georgia.”

Why any measures to ensure equality should have to walk “a long road” is quite beyond me. Hasn’t this country already shed enough blood in those wars and emerged into the light? Was the fight for civil rights just momentary political expedience? I’d always assumed that it was a national awakening and long-overdue triumph. But perhaps I was wrong.)

We’re better than this. We can – we must – be better than all of this. I’m a “Trudeau-baby” – born and bred during his influential years. (Hint: he was the Prime Minister of Canada). I agree wholeheartedly with his declaration that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Dear God, people…in a world that’s torn apart with man’s inhumanity to man (and all other creatures) who are we to seek to deny, suppress, punish or legislate love?

Now let’s hear from a good ol’ Georgia boy:

“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us a capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes. And we must.”
39th President of the United States, James Earl (Jimmy) Carter.

Here’s HB 1023 in all its hellish intent.

I see this as nothing less than an attempt to corrode all rights and freedoms. Racial equality, reproductive rights, wage equity – all of it teeters on the edge of the slippery slope for there’s no such thing as “more or less equal.” No shades of grey or equivocations: it’s either equality for all or sink into the morass of bigotry and social/moral chaos.

What truly, truly confuses me is that so many of those who promote and support these heinous bills call themselves “patriots” – even as they defile the Declaration of Independence and the spirit of America.

Please… take a moment to write to those who would plunge our state into darkness, damage our economy, and shame us in the eyes of the world. Politicians seek, first and foremost, to perpetuate their own existence. Tell them NO! Tell them that we will not accept legislated intolerance.

Click here for a list of elected Georgia officials.

]]> 3
As Time Goes By Sat, 16 Nov 2013 15:12:09 +0000

glass_marblesWhen I was a child, I had a purple Crown Royal bag filled with all manner of marbles. We collected them, admired them, competed with them, and crowed about who had the most or “rarest.”

There was something deeply satisfying about the heft of the bag, and the “aggies, beauties, cats-eyes, clearies, steelies, tigers and swirlies” within. We gathered friends in the same ways: through an arcane process of admiration, competition and number-building.

During my childhood, my family moved several times, and though I cried bitter tears about losing my “gang”, I always knew that I’d gather a new one. And I always did (until the “loner” years of high school).

How easily kids make friends. When they’re very young, all one has to do is put them in one another’s proximity. Why does it get so much harder with the passing years? We seem tentative and suspicious – so we collect masses of acquaintances instead (and, weirder yet, hundreds of “social media” “friends and followers”).

At some point we bring out that proverbial Crown Royal bag, “cull the herd” and toss away the marbles that no longer please us or possess special meaning. Sometimes we rediscover one or two that we truly cherish: the battle-scarred, trusted, and unique. So we put them in our pocket to keep them close. By the time we’re in our 50’s we have a handful of beloved friends. And that’s a Good Thing. It speaks of depth, quality, reality and truth.

But it also frightens me. Some of my most-treasured friends are now in their late- 60s and 70s. Some are facing physical battles. These handful of “beauties” mean the world to me and the thought of ever losing them strikes at my heart.

I know… I shouldn’t waste time grieving future loss but, instead, give glad thanks for having found these extraordinary people…and I do – each day of my life. But in those small hours of the night when you lie abed; feeling the earth turn on its axis; the cosmos clash and wheel beyond you; the past, present and future perching at the end of your bed; and the darkness expanding into your thoughts…it’s hard to not cry for the losses behind and ahead.

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Tennyson

“And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Gibran

I know that. I do. But, like a child, I will always rail against the unfairness of it all, even as I celebrate every drop of joy this life contains.

No matter how many years pass – no matter how wise and mature and accepting we become – we all clutch the bed-covers at night and, in our true-voice, cry out in prayer, “Don’t leave me. Just please, please don’t leave me.”

But we go on… learning, often through heartache, that we must never allow a touch to be withheld or a loving word unspoken. (Time is an evil thief and a fairy godmother: the helpmate of hope, and the handmaiden of despair. I think that, had it been up to me, I would have invented a far better system).

]]> 1
Along A Dusty Road Sat, 19 Jan 2013 13:45:47 +0000

It is an inescapable truism that “watch-dogs” are essential for the well being of us all. Too often those who are motivated by financial gain, expedience or power, seek to circumvent the laws and structures that serve to protect citizens and the environment.

And so we have the many organizations (and individuals) that devote their time and effort to remaining steadfastly vigilant. They don’t look for “issues” – they simply function as entities that can be contacted and called to action when questions and concerns arise.

That being said, as co-founder and long-time Chair of the St. Marys EarthKeepers, a matter was recently brought to my attention. A sharp-eyed observer noticed a huge number of heavily-laden trucks trundling along the roads leading to a section of roadway in close proximity to the tributaries of the St. Marys River: a lovely and delicate waterway that rises from the Okefenokee Swamp and makes its tannin-rich, blackwater journey to the sea.

Countless emails, hours of research and several phone calls later, this is what has come to light so far:

On June 29, 2011, Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) submitted a letter to the Georgia Environmental Protection Department (EPD) requesting a one-time variance from the state’s Solid Waste Management Act requirements in order to conduct a test project that would “demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the use of EZBase (a coal ash product) as a roadway construction material in Georgia.” (Translation: They have mountains of toxic coal ash and hope to find a way to get rid of it).

On September 12, 2011, JEA submitted a revised Sampling and Analysis Plan. Sampling under this plan includes a baseline analysis of the soil and water at the project location and quarterly sampling for at least one year after EZBase is applied – including tests for the following “target analytes”: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, vanadium, sodium, sulfate, chloride, fluoride, and pH.

The GaEPD granted the variance on May 31, 2012 and JEA proceeded to apply EZBase to approximately five miles of road on Rayonier Forest Resources, L.P.’s property in Charlton County, Georgia during the months of Sept.-Oct. 2012. The first of the four quarterly samplings under JEA’s Sampling and Analysis Plan should occur sometime in Jan. or Feb. 2013.  (It should be noted that the test wells and sample tests are being funded by the JEA itself).

Meanwhile, in the course of digging through the many mind-numbing layers of regulation and documentation, I discovered that EZBase has been applied at a least four locations in St. Marys, Georgia: Osprey Cove Golf Course, Cumberland Harbour residential development, the Cumberland Harbour fire department parking lot and The Reserve at Park Place. (It was subsequently removed from the golf course cart paths as a condition of the sale of the property.  A resident informs me that the paths were crumbling and people were complaining of headaches and respiratory issues). EZBase has also been used on the roads of the Bridge Pointe development (Camden County).

Apparently the JEA provided SGC Inc. (involved in the development of most of the properties listed) with EZBase at no cost. The product was also delivered, free of charge, to Osprey Cove. Kingsland, our neighboring city, has also used EZBase (without satisfactory results) and it is expected that further inquiries will reveal that many more communities are likewise affected.

The unsuspecting residents of these areas have now been alerted as to the presence of EZBase and they face the potential ramifications: plummeting property values, re-sale impacts and health concerns. No variances were granted in the above cases.

EZBase contains a legion of toxins, including arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, vanadium, cobalt, boron and at least 12 other heavy metals. In high concentrations, these metals may cause birth defects, lung disease, nervous system disorders and a battalion of other serious health problems. Indeed, the material is so hazardous that it has to be contained in specially-lined holding areas of landfills and disposal is expensive. (JEA now charges $50 per truckload delivery (about 20-25 tons). The utility had previously paid about $625 to dispose of that amount).

EZBase (industrial solid waste) is not allowed in residential areas, near schools, in proximity to wetlands, water sources or wells. The federal Environmental Protection Agency supports “beneficial reuse of otherwise hazardous waste” but admitted late last year that there hasn’t been enough testing done to determine the safety of coal ash byproducts. For the past two years the agency has been considering whether or not to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste.

So to sum this up: the JEA applied for a one-time variance to test (on the Rayonier property near the St. Marys River in southern Georgia) the safety of a highly questionable and unproven coal ash product and yet the utility has apparently been marketing to and supplying developers and property managers with the material for several years. Without the knowledge of, or permission from, the GaEPD.

This issue impacts our economy, our property values, our health and our environment. As is usually the case, there are more questions than answers at this time. Certainly there is one man who fervently wishes that he’d never heard of EZBase: Steve Johnson.

Over two years ago, he consented to the no-charge delivery of 16 tons of coal ash material (marketed as EZBase) and applied it to the roads on his 30-acre property in Middleburg, Florida. Now his land is virtually worthless and he fears for the health of his family. 2010 soil samples indicated that the arsenic levels on Steve’s property were 4 times the acceptable state level while the vanadium content exceeded 75 times the state standards for safety.

How many more people and areas will be impacted by the application of a material that has yet to be proven safe? How many are, unknowingly, affected now? From a report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental protection (dated April 30, 2008):

“JEA began marketing this material in 2006 and over the past two years has sold approximately 700,000 tons of EZBase, or 30,000 tons per month. Approximately 300,000 tons of the material has been sold for use in Florida. The balance was sold for use out of the state. Some of the uses in Florida and southern Georgia have been for uncovered roads in rural applications. The plan was that these rural roads would be covered with asphalt at some future date. Some of these uncovered, rural road applications have resulted in dust complaints to the Department (due to the cementing properties of EZBase, it was not expected to cause a dust problem).”

Between 2006 and 2008, 400,000 tons of EZBase found its way to Georgia – even though the Georgia Department of Transportation de-listed “fly ash” products as acceptable road base materials in 2006.

Questions: How many thousands of tons since then? Why did they even bother with the variance for the Rayonier test site? “The plan was that these rural roads would be covered with asphalt at some future date.”: was there any follow-up to ensure that the roads were properly covered? Given all of the documentation regarding high levels of vanadium, arsenic etc., how can the JEA possibly justify or defend the shipping EZBase to residential developers – in some cases at no charge?

This appears to be a case of acting first and seeking permission later. I would strongly suggest that any Florida or Georgia citizen living near roads that have been paved since 2006 contact their city’s planning department – as well as their local leaders and state legislators.

Meanwhile, I think of the children playing in parks near these roads; the expectant mothers working in their gardens; the elderly couples enjoying their evening stroll; homeowners who assume that their property value will increase…none of them knowing that they may be paying a very high price for putting their trust in systems and businesses that sometimes place profit above public health and safety.

From The Sierra Club: “Every year, the nation’s coal plants produce 140 million tons of coal ash pollution, the toxic by-product that is left over after the coal is burned. All that ash has to go somewhere, so it’s dumped in the backyards of power plants across the nation, into open-air pits and precarious waste ponds.”

Apparently, it’s also being used to pave our roadways.


More Reading:









]]> 6
Fiddling While Rome Burns Mon, 03 Dec 2012 13:25:43 +0000 “But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” – Rachel Carson]]>

As a life-long environmentalist (“environmentalism” was once known as “simple common-sense”), I’m accustomed to trying to convince others that plastic detritus is suffocating the planet, recycling is A Good Thing and those who live on the coast run the very real risk of drowning in rising waters even as drought and cataclysmic storms decimate other areas of the nation.

“But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” – Rachel Carson

Ms. Carson wrote her seminal work Silent Spring in 1962 so we’ve had at least half-century in which to consider the impacts of mankind’s voracious “slash and burn” approach to the maintenance of the land, air and water.

But we’re odd, solipsistic creatures who are addicted to instant gratification and measure success by our level of consumerism. He/she who buys the most, wastes the most, lives in the largest house and drives the biggest car wins.

These days there is much discussion of the environmental “tipping point”: that Alice in Wonderland moment of plummeting down the rabbit hole with nothing but our worst nightmares at the end of the fall.

But what, exactly is that “tipping point”? Is it the 350ppm level of CO2 in the atmosphere under which we must stay if we are to thrive? If it is, we’ve tipped already because the current level is over 391ppm.

Perhaps the critical point is found in the rate of polar ice melt. If so, we’ve taken a big step off that cliff. From March to September this year the ice loss was a mind-boggling 4.57 million square miles (an area that is larger than the United States). Meanwhile, Greenland and two of the three ice sheets that cover Antarctica have lost an estimated 237 billion metric tons of ice in the past two decades alone. And the rate of melt is accelerating… fast.

Half way down the rabbit hole some scream in protest while others calmly deny that they’re falling.

I imagine a vast stadium with millions (trillions? centillions?) of carefully placed dominoes. They stand in endless rows of elegant precision – the creation of a mind that grasps the concept of cause and effect. Like nature itself, it all appears to be so perfectly ordered that nothing could disturb the field.

And then it happens: a man carelessly topples the first domino. From there it is an unstoppable avalanche of logical sequence – unless the Brobdingnagian foot of “collective human will” steps firmly down upon the floor and ends the chaos. (At which point that which went before is left in disarray and that which remains standing is the only hope).

Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, there is much media chatter about sea level rise and its ramifications for coastal areas. Oh, the shock! Who knew? (Okay, yes, scientists and sane people did… but they’re “anti-progress” cranks who don’t understand the joys of driving a Hummer).

Ignore those annoying EPA people. Disregard those silly NOAA wonks and global scientists. Let’s, instead, dance like star-struck rats behind the Pied Piper parade of politicians who delight in the “kick the can down the road” game while waving banners inscribed with catchy mottos e.g. “It Ain’t My Problem!,” “Drill, baby drill!,” “Who Gives a Frack?” or the oh-so-common one, “What the Heck – I’ll be Dead by Then, Suckers!”

Some communities are actually trying to be proactive by doing their best to seek out and disseminate information via public symposiums and ongoing educational out-reach efforts.

Others are “armoring” the beaches or replacing existing artificial barriers such as bulkheads and rock walls with biodegradable bags filled with oyster shells. (In time, oysters begin to thrive and do an admirable job of stabilizing the shoreline. This is being tried on Sapelo Island, Georgia). Yet, still, despite overwhelming evidence and the consensus of the global scientific community, many people are either skeptical or uncaring.

And then, of course, we have the rabid “climate change denialists” who will remain adamantly ignorant even as the rising waters wash away their placards and “Global Warming Is A Hoax” tee shirts.

Never mind our responsibilities to present and future generations. Never mind the tragic loss of life. Never mind the crushing economic costs: billions of dollars lost during last summer’s drought in the Midwest; Hurricane Sandy at $50 billion and mounting; the coastal cities like Hallandale Beach, FL, (9 ft above sea level) where $10 million was spent on new city wells because salt water had seeped into six of the wells that were close to sea. The list goes on.

One would think that all of this would be alarming enough to have, long ago, caused a concerted international response – but most people can’t even be bothered to forgo plastic grocery bags in favor of cloth ones. They “forget to bring them to the store.”

And so the dominoes fall and I doubt that mankind possesses the will or the way to avert the inexorable finale. It will take a sudden moment of global shock – a collective “Uh oh! We have to turn this around… fast!” – to produce meaningful change. But one wonders what unimaginably devastating event would precipitate such an awakening.

Right now we’re just modern-day versions of the small Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, praying that he can hold back the sea.

]]> 3
A Vanishing World Sat, 29 Sep 2012 17:46:53 +0000 You hold in your hands an intricate basket made of woven sweetgrass, palmetto and pinegrass and you marvel at the artistry. You listen to the murmur of a language that challenges the lexicologist’s analysis, for it is a melding of many ancient cultures into a unique and musical tongue. A burial by the sea so that the spirit of the lost one can return to the home beyond the waves, the exhilaration of a “ring shout” as the Lord is praised… these are the precious traditions of the Gullah/Geechee: a world, people and history that was pivotal in the formation of this country. Now, as “progress” alters the face of the Sea Islands...


You hold in your hands an intricate basket made of woven sweetgrass, palmetto and pinegrass and you marvel at the artistry. You listen to the murmur of a language that challenges the lexicologist’s analysis, for it is a melding of many ancient cultures into a unique and musical tongue. A burial by the sea so that the spirit of the lost one can return to the home beyond the waves, the exhilaration of a “ring shout” as the Lord is praised… these are the precious traditions of the Gullah/Geechee: a world, people and history that was pivotal in the formation of this country. Now, as “progress” alters the face of the Sea Islands, knowledge and awareness are all that stand between a treasured reflection of human courage and the mere ghost of a forgotten time.

And now the Gullah/Geechee community on Sapelo Island is being threatened.

BJ’s Confectionary

Visiting Sapelo (a 16,000-acre barrier island) is like taking a step back in time – a time before high-rise condos, malls, traffic lights and the clamour of “civilization.” The Island’s natural beauty is stunning – from the seemingly endless stretch of the (usually) deserted beach to the regal live oaks draped with Spanish moss.

The island community of Hog Hammock includes a general store, bar, two churches and some small businesses. Most inhabitants of the town (pop. 47) are members of the Gullah/Geechee community, and have been living on the island for generations. The residents bring over all supplies from the mainland or purchase them in the small store on the island while the children of Hog Hammock take the ferry to the mainland and take a bus to school.

The Gullah/Geechee culture has persevered along the South Carolina and Georgian Sea Islands since its roots in the early 1700s. (Although the wider society itself is comprised of the same mixture of West Africans, Gullah has come to represent those of South Carolina while Geechee refers, specifically, to the Georgian inhabitants).

Modern day researchers consider the stretch of land from Sandy Island, South Carolina to Amelia Island in Florida the “Gullah Coast” – the locale of the people who’s labor created some of the richest plantations in history – and work assiduously to explore and preserve these diminishing remnants of a turbulent and often painful past.

Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society
Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society

A Board of Trustees established Georgia in 1732, primarily as a method of providing land for impoverished British citizens while supplying England with much-needed agricultural products. Though the colony, in 1735, enacted an anti-slavery law this ban was lifted in 1750 when the need for labor became crucial. It was thought that the peoples of the West African coast would be well suited for the challenging climate and, as the rice economy grew increasingly powerful, so too did the lucrative slave trade.

Plantation owners sought the men and women of the Windward Coast of West Africa, specifically Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia: an area already deeply involved with the indigenous rice, indigo and cotton crops. Over the centuries that followed these displaced and isolated peoples recreated their home cultures – retaining, blending and adapting – until the whole became known as “Gullah” (a word that is thought to be a variation of “Angola”, though its true genesis remains unclear).

The Gullah language itself is a monument to survival and adaptability for it merges the various terms and words of the diverse West African peoples with the English language of their new (enforced) surroundings. Many aspects of the language bear great similarities to the patois of the Dominican Creole, The Bahamian dialects and others created through the blending of cultures. The result is a fascinating amalgam of past and present: a reflection of two worlds that collided, causing the tragic loss of one and the success of the other.

The Wallow Inn
The Wallow Inn

The music of the Gullah/Geechee culture has been studied extensively for it gives deep insight into the language, traditions and spirituality of these extraordinary people. “Praise houses” served as safe locations for the celebration of the soul and this continuation of the religious community supported, united and nourished an enslaved culture. “Ring shouts”, a rapid, rhythmic, hand clapping accompanied by spiritual songs while dancing counterclockwise, are intimately connected to the “old ways” of the West African coast.

Though few elders remain who know the songs and movements, there are groups such as The Macintosh County Shouters of Georgia who strive to keep the traditions alive today. These are echoes that reach out across the time and tide: that create a bridge between the people who were torn from their land, transported and enslaved and those who followed. The notes weave though generation after generation, creating a living memory of shared heritage.

In the early 1930s renowned ethnomusicologist, Lorenzo Dow Turner, recorded the voice of islander Amelia Dawley as she sang a song that her mother, Octavia “Tawba” Shaw (a slave) had taught to her. Dawley then taught the song to her own daughter, Mary Moran who would become the final individual in the United States to guard the ancient words and rhythms.

In 1989 this song was traced to Benju Jabati of Senehun Ngola, Sierra Leone who was the last person in her village to know the piece. Moran and Jabati were introduced and, together, performed what was revealed to be a Mende funeral song. The past and the present were finally reunited in one extraordinary moment of cultural truth and honor.

The Trough
The Trough

After the American Civil War, the rice planters of the mainland gradually abandoned their farms for the freed blacks were, for the most part, unwilling to work in the cruel conditions of the rice fields. With the exodus from the Sea Islands, the Gullah/Geechee peoples were increasingly isolated in remote areas of the Low County and were free to continue their religious, social and cultural traditions with little influence from outsiders. This period of calm lasted well into the 20th century.

Since the 1960s however, on-going development of the Sea Islands has threatened the Gullah people and they have fought, through public awareness and government intervention, to retain the land that they have owned since the Emancipation Proclamations of 1862 and 1863.

In 2005 a 20-year project was, at last, completed and the New Testament – translated into the Gullah language – was made available. In 2006 a ground-breaking initiative was made real when the U.S. Congress passed “The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act” that guarantees over 10 million dollars directed toward the preservation of, and research into, historic Gullah sites.

But now we return to Sapelo Island, the settlement of Hog Hammock (on the National Register of Historic Places) and a future that is looking increasingly bleak for the Gullah/Geechee culture there.

The inhabitants of Sapelo have fought fiercely to prevent their home from becoming similar to over-developed “vacation areas” such as Hilton Head and St. Simons Island. But now, staggering county tax increases caused by a fluctuating economy and bureaucratic incompetence may prove to be a fight that they cannot win. (The people of Hog Hammock own the only private land left on Sapelo, almost 97% of which is owned by the state).

Hog Hammock resident, Cornelia Bailey
Hog Hammock resident, Cornelia Bailey

Consider the case of Jasper Watts: her 73-year-old mother still owns the three-room house that she grew up in. Last year she paid $362 in property taxes for the acre she lives on. This year, McIntosh County wants $2,312 – an increase of nearly 540%.

(The county has approximately 14,000 permanent residents and thousands more with vacation homes. It has put off reviewing its taxable property and the last evaluation was in 2004. In fact, during a June meeting, Paul Griffin, the chairman of the Board of Tax Assessors, called the work “very, very sloppy”).

Senator William Ligon has suggested that residents file a lawsuit if they do not find relief. But, until then, what of the people of Hog Hammock who face massive tax bills? Is this ancient culture to be wiped out by the stroke of a tax assessor’s pen?

Please contact Senator Ligon. Something must be done to right this grievous wrong.

More info: Sapelo Festival



]]> 3
Self-editing Sun, 23 Sep 2012 13:53:07 +0000 It's so much easier to edit other people's work than my own. In that I (usually) know exactly what I meant to say/write, my brain plows ahead and overrides my capacity for reading analytically.

Perhaps this same phenomenon is at work in our attitudes and beliefs as well: we lose the ability to step back and dispassionately examine the stance that we've taken. Our words begin to form our belief structure (when it should be the other way around) as we dig our heels in the sand. Even when we’re proven wrong, we strut along in our Emperor’s new clothes and refuse to adjust our position.


Opus - Mental Floss

It’s so much easier to edit other people’s work than my own. In that I (usually) know exactly what I meant to say/write, my brain plows ahead and overrides my capacity for reading analytically.

Perhaps this same phenomenon is at work in our attitudes and beliefs as well: we lose the ability to step back and dispassionately examine the stance that we’ve taken. Our words begin to form our belief structure (when it should be the other way around) as we dig our heels in the sand. Even when we’re proven wrong, we strut along in our Emperor’s new clothes and refuse to adjust our position.

This tends to be most prevalent during times of political turmoil or social change: no matter how many times something is proven or disproved there are those who jam their fingers in their ears and raise their voices in order to drown out those annoying and inconvenient facts.

Last week I was unfortunate enough to overhear a conversation at a nearby table in a local restaurant. Two men and two women were discussing political issues – and their volume was such that there was no escaping their words.

I won’t sully this page with the details. Suffice to say that the range of topics included an assertion that President Obama is a “socialist Muslim” and “everyone knows that blacks, as a race, have lower IQs than whites.”

I have encountered far less overt racism here in the south than I did in Illinois and I was stunned by what I was hearing.

Did I wade in and rebut their “points”? No. I simply paused by their table as I was leaving and said, “I told the waitress that you’d be paying for my coffee. Your ignorance and disgusting comments curdled the cream and upset my stomach.”

Some (like those four) are just incapable of self-editing. They’ve built their bunkers of hatred, brick by brick, over the years and now huddle behind them, smug in their belief in their own superiority. They use the term (usually sotto voce) “Those People” never realizing that we are all “Those People” to someone else.

]]> 2
Matthew 16:26 – Gaining The World Fri, 24 Aug 2012 13:27:32 +0000 I've often been told that the only way to compel people to "take environmental issues seriously" is to talk to them about the financial impact of their actions (or inaction). I suppose that I'm guilty of resisting that theory for I tend to assume that, for the most part, people are intelligent creatures who understand that we do rely on the "good graces" of this planet for our continued survival and well-being.


A glowing earth in our handsI’ve often been told that the only way to compel people to “take environmental issues seriously” is to talk to them about the financial impact of their actions (or inaction). I suppose that I’m guilty of resisting that theory for I tend to assume that, for the most part, people are intelligent creatures who understand that we do rely on the “good graces” of this planet for our continued survival and well-being.

Perhaps I take an overly-simplistic approach to “environmental stewardship”: as we care for our houses, families and careers in the knowledge that they shelter and sustain us so, too, must we carefully protect the water, earth and air that allow us to exist. But I am willing to concede that others may not agree with that position and, instead, look to their pocketbooks for motivation. And so…

One example: The Mississippi River, the country’s primary highway for barge traffic, has dropped as much as 14 feet in the drought that has also devastated crops in the Midwest and triggered wildfires in the West. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dredged the Mississippi River almost nonstop since the start of the drought – with equipment costing taxpayers as much as $85,000 per day.

In 2008, the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER) released a number of reports addressing the economic impact of climate change. Here are just eight states that they examined.

(Note: The economic impacts are based on climate changes already in motion. Unabated climate change would likely increase these economic effects).

Colorado: More than $1 billion in losses due to impacts on tourism, forestry, water resources and human health from a predicted drier, warmer climate.

Georgia: Billions of dollars in losses from predicted higher seas along Georgia’s coast.

Kansas: Losses exceeding $1 billion from impact on agriculture of predicted warmer temperatures and reduced water supply in much of the state.

Illinois: Billions of dollars in losses from impact on shipping, trade and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.

Michigan: Billions of dollars in losses from damage to the state’s shipping and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.

Nevada: Billions of dollars in losses from a much drier climate and pressure on scarce water resources. Water limitations could affect tourism, real estate, development and human health. Many western states may confront similar challenges.

New Jersey: Billions of dollars in losses from higher sea levels and the impact on tourism, transportation, real estate and human health.

Ohio: Billions of dollars in losses from warmer temperatures and lower water levels and the resulting impact on shipping and water supplies.

Eight states – trillions of taxpayer’s dollars. And this is just a small slice of the global pie.

Matthias Ruth who coordinated the research and directs CIER states “If there’s a single bottom line in all of this research, it’s that delaying action on climate change carries a significant cost. State, local and national leaders will save money in the long-run by adopting a proactive approach.”

That was in 2008. Four years later, we still await the “proactive approach.” But then, we’ve known about all of this for so long. In the late 1950s, carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements were made on a mountaintop in Hawaii. Over the next decade, these measurements confirmed that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were rising year after year. In 1967, an early computer simulation suggested that global temperatures might increase by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on CO2 levels. Improved climate models developed over the next decades and confirmed the link between CO2 emissions and climate change. So we really can’t plead ignorance, can we? Somewhere out there Rachel Carson is saying “Told ya so!”

But, as always, I believe that there is hope – if we act decisively and comprehensively NOW. And, as always, it requires each one of us to make conscientious every-day choices and raise our voices through support, emails and, above all, our single greatest responsibility – our vote. Please examine each political candidate’s stance on the environmental issues that so deeply impact our finances and the well-being of future generations…and then vote according to your conscience.

Here’s an eye-opener for you, Georgia:–GEORGIA.pdf 

If what it takes is an assault on wallets, there you have it.


]]> 3