George Washington Logan, Unimpeachable Scalawag

It was 1862, and North Carolina was a state divided within a country divided. War raged on distant battlefields. Extreme times required extreme measures. A group of citizens devoted to union and peace or, some simply to maintaining a status quo that war threatened to upend, banded together to form a secret organization to oppose the Confederacy from within. They called themselves the Heroes of America. They marked themselves by wearing a red string sewn into their lapels and became known as the Red String Order.

Formed in secret with a membership that included lawyers, judges, doctors, dock workers, Quakers, abolitionists, free Blacks, slaveholders, and even some Confederate generals, the Order was a ragtag assembly of opposing views and values, held together solely by an allegiance to the Union. They had secret codes and signs and swore an oath to their mission, “lest they be shot through the head.” The Order guided deserters and runaways overland to the Union army, relayed inside information through back channels to Union generals, produced anti-Confederate propaganda, and committed acts of sabotage to force Jefferson Davis to take troops away from the front. In secret ceremonies, they went masked, and it was said that for protection any single member only knew one other member.

The membership of the group remains largely secret, but one likely member was a prominent attorney from Rutherfordton named George Washington Logan. A native son of Rutherfordton from back when gold made Rutherfordton the most prominent town in Western North Carolina, G.W. Logan had long been a staunch Unionist. Inspired by his Revolutionary War hero grandfather, Francis Logan, he had opposed secession from the outset. After North Carolina just barely voted to secede from the Union, he continued his opposition. It is believed that he was a leading member of the Red String Order in western North Carolina during the Civil War. Eventually, he was elected to the Confederate Congress, where he pushed for an end to the war.

Whether the Order had any effect on the outcome of the war is unclear. In 1864, pro-Confederate press exposed the Order, and many prominent citizens were accused of membership and put on trial. Most were acquitted. George Logan was accused, but not charged.

After the war ended, other organizations emerged among prominent and not-so-prominent southerners, modeling themselves on the Heroes of America’s secrecy and ceremony.  The White Brotherhood and the Constitutional Union Guard were two of them, but the most famous was the Ku Klux Klan.

G.W. Logan remained committed to the Union cause. He ran a Republican newspaper called the Rutherford Star, owned a tavern in Rutherfordton and ran a farm outside of it. Eventually he became Superior Court Judge in the Ninth Circuit. He was not an impartial judge. He used his authority to ferret out members of the secret White supremacist organizations and bring them to justice. The Klan in particular, had become active in Cleveland and Rutherford counties. They perpetrated acts of violence and intimidation toward Black families exercising their right to vote and White allies supporting reconstruction.

Judge Logan went after the White supremacists. After a large group of masked men attacked Aaron Biggerstaff, a former member of the Red String Order, Logan brought charges against dozens of men and successfully had the venue moved to federal court. Those who were found guilty, many of them prominent in their communities, were sentenced to time in a penitentiary in New York. For his work against the Klan, Judge Logan was called a scalawag and accused of corruption.

The state legislature that had just impeached Governor Holden for exceeding his authority in pursuit of the Klan during the Kirk-Holden war, launched an impeachment inquiry into the judge, citing his incompetence and partiality. In a brazen display of gaslighting, White witnesses testified that Logan’s encouragement of the Black population to exercise their rights was the true cause of violence in their communities.

In the end, Judge Logan was not impeached, but the accusations were enough to sully his reputation. He lost in the following election to David Schenck, a white conservative and likely member of the Klan. Following his loss, the judge retired to run an inn near Chimney Rock. The inn, known as Pine Gables, still stands.

Though he died in 1889, G.W. Logan lives on in spirit as does the spirit of his enemies, who continue to use impeachment as political tool. He lives on in fiction as well. You can see him as a minor character in my novel, Hemlock Hollow, and as a not-so-minor character in my work-in-progress, tentatively called, Heroes of America.

Looking forward in the Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland has long loomed large on my bucket list, inspired by glimpses of its otherworldly landscape from a two-hour layover twenty years ago. Now, I’ve finally done it, spent a week in Iceland, and “otherworldly” doesn’t do it justice. It is, in fact, quite of this world, as purely elemental a place as any I’ve ever been, still being shaped by fire and ice. Our first night in Reykjavik, the earth shook. I was brushing my teeth, and the five-story hotel we were in suddenly grumbled as if the building was experiencing a bout of indigestion.

“Was that an earthquake?” I wondered. My phone confirmed it, squawking like phones do these days, with an emergency alert to check for gas leaks and find a safe place to shelter. The locals carried on. This was just one of 26,000 earthquakes Iceland experiences in a year.  My first earthquake wouldn’t be my last. It was one of many in a swarm of quakes caused by magma racing to the surface of Litli-Hrútur mountain on the Reyjkanes peninsula about twenty miles away. Two days later it would erupt. The locals cheered. Authorities requested that people stay away, but many still went to see it. Though reported on nationally and internationally, it wasn’t a cataclysmic event. It was a fissure in the side of the mountain oozing lava. Think Hawaii, not Pompeii.

Later in the week, we traveled to the southeast of Iceland, home to Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland, and most voluminous in all of Europe. You see it first in the distance as you drive along the Ring Road. “That’s the strangest looking cloud I’ve ever seen,” you may say to yourself. Then you see that the cloud is, in fact, attached to the earth, and Valhalla comes to mind. Tongues from this beast push through mountain passes they have carved, as if reaching for the ocean. In fact, they are retreating. This glacier and others like it have carved this landscape into what it is. Despite having the power to cut stone, Vatnajökul is no match for rising temperatures.  

There are any number of ways to describe the rate of ice melt. Many tons per day. At Jökulsárlón lagoon, we watched ice chunks float from the glacier out to sea. Since 1890, the glacier has lost an area equivalent to the size of Luxembourg. Just since 2000, it has lost the area of Washington, D.C. Some melting comes along with our emergence from the last ice age. But scientific consensus is that the recent rate of acceleration is tied to the rise in global temperatures from the proliferation of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Iceland is at the forefront of doing something about this.

Today, over 99% of Iceland’s heating and electricity needs are met through renewable energy production, primarily hydropower and geothermal, with some wind power. We visited the Ljósafoss Hydropower Station on the River Sog, built in 1937. A public exhibit explored the history of electrical production and Iceland’s transformation in particular. Until the 1970s, most of Iceland’s energy production came from imported fossil fuels. Being such a small country meant that even small oil price fluctuations had dramatic economic impact. So, Iceland set out to use its own natural resources to sustainably produce power. They built geothermal plants to harness that power I felt my first night in Reykjavik. They added more hydropower stations and started to build wind turbines.

Climate change led Iceland to intensify its efforts. Nearly every vehicle is either hybrid or fully electric. Charging stages abound. Unlike the U.S., Iceland has taken its commitments established in the Paris agreements seriously. It is on track to become carbon neutral by 2025 and to cease the importation of fossil fuels by 2030. Granted, it’s a small country with a lot of natural advantages, but it’s an inspiration, a view of what can be, because in the end, there is no other world. This one, with its fire and ice and everything in between, is the only we’ve got.

Institutionalizing the Insurrection

It is 1868 in North Carolina. Imbued with the right to vote bestowed by the 14th amendment and enthusiasm exploding from the rush of new freedom, African-Americans participate in the state constitutional convention, run for and hold public office, and turn out in droves to vote. Many white citizens refuse to accept the outcome of these legitimate elections. They turn to violence and intimidation to thwart freedmen and their supporters. They lynch Wyatt Outlaw, the first African-American to serve as a town commissioner and the town constable of Graham. They assassinate John Stephens, a state senator who supports the rights of freedmen. But violence ultimately doesn’t work.

What works, in the end, is seizing power through the judiciary, then crafting laws to limit the right of their opponents vote. They gerrymander their districts to reduce the power of African-Americans who do manage to vote. They craft laws designed to entrap poor Blacks then make it illegal for felons to vote. They create poll taxes and literacy tests. Anything and everything to limit the political power of those who might vote against them.

Sound familiar?

It is January 6, 2021 a group of thugs (Mitch McConnell’s words, not mine) besiege the U.S. Capitol at the behest of the outgoing head of state to attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power. A day-long struggle results in five deaths, hundreds of injuries, and a stain on American history. Ultimately, the violence doesn’t work.

Throughout the country now, in state legislatures they control in blue states (often via the gerrymander), the Republican Party is seeking to institutionalize the insurrection with more than 400 separate bills to curtail voting rights. Where chaos and violence failed to steal the vote on January 6th, quiet undermining may prevail in 2024. The worst of it is that what they are doing is completely within the bounds of the Constitution, which gave legislatures the ability to choose electors to the Electoral College, itself a compromise to slave-owning states. Our history threatens to undo our democracy.

Facing down demographic shifts that threaten their political fortunes and fresh off a political loss many won’t accept, the conservative* party once again strives to limit the political power of its opponents rather than adopting policies that might legitimately attract more voters.

The question is what will we do about this? The system has long depended on the righteousness and fair-mindedness of its leaders to function smoothly. Over the past 5 years, we’ve witnessed what happens when those qualities are absent at the highest level.  Last time it took an entire lifetime for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to unclench the fists of white supremacy from the throat of democracy. We don’t have a lifetime to get this right.

We, the majority of Americans who put country over party and still believe, perhaps naively, in fair representation and the power of democracy, need to institutionalize our values. Congress has the power to adopt federal standards to thwart these anti-democratic assaults on voting rights. We must raise holy hell until they do.

*There is little actually conservative about the modern Republican Party. Their obeisance to a thin-skinned, sore-loser, wannabe autocrat requires that they embrace a radical, anti-American agenda the likes of which would cause true conservatives to recoil in horror.

Halloween Fright

It seems appropriate to be returning to the United States on Halloween Day, after having spent two weeks in Italy. Being abroad let me see truly how frightening the United States is right now. Give me ghouls and goblins. Give me ghosts and zombies. These scare me far less than the specter of disinformation that haunts the U.S. right now.

Being there showed me what it’s like to be in a country that takes the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. In order to enter the country at all as a foreign citizen, I had to prove that I had been fully vaccinated and provide proof of a negative test within 48 hours of my arrival. Once in Italy, masks were required to be worn by everyone indoors. They were worn seemingly without complaint. Government offices, public facilities, and many private businesses even went so far to require proof of vaccination for entry. While I was there, the Italian government instituted a nationwide vaccine requirement for all workers, hoping to boost their vaccination rate from 80% to 90%. A curtailment of freedom? Hardly. It made it possible to be out and about during a pandemic without worry of being infected or infecting others.

Granted, Italy was one of the first countries to be hit hard by the virus. Early in the pandemic, their health system was overwhelmed. The death rate was high. The country shut down. They were the canary in the coal mine, and the world watched as neighbors in Naples sang “Abbracciame” to each other from their balconies. It makes sense they would take the pandemic seriously.

Returning to the U.S., my sense of safety was replaced with a sense of dread. Many of my fellow Americans are simply unwilling to do what it takes to face down and defeat a virus that knows no politics or borders.  In Italy, a country with 1,000 year-old buildings and 2,000 year-old roads, scars from old wars abound. In one small hill town, built as a defensive outpost between Florence and Sienna some 800 years ago, a building bore the faint lettering of a name that had been mostly scrubbed out. The name: Mussolini.

Seeing that reminded me of a time when Americans mounted up to take on a common enemy. It saddens me that so many of us fail to do so now. I wondered what might have happened if, in 1941, thirty percent of American soldiers decided they would rather not cross the Atlantic to risk everything to fight an enemy opposed everything we stand for. The world might have been robbed of America’s finest moment.

In this fight, we can win without anyone having to sacrifice their lives. All that’s at stake is a little inconvenience and slight discomfort. But we’re not even willing to do that for each other.  

I’d like to think we’re better than this. We were once before.

Insurrectionist Inclinations

One of the lessons of 2020 is how quickly things can change on a fundamental level. Remember life as it was just one year ago? It seems like a different era entirely. In the face of a global pandemic, our way of being shifted, and nothing seems the same.

Another lesson of the last year is that some things never change.

After having failed in their attempt to undermine voting itself through intimidation and voter suppression tactics, a group of white men rioted to undo an election that didn’t go in their favor. Did the petulant fit happen on January 6, 2021? No. It was in Yanceyville, North Carolina in 1870.

For the past year or so I’ve been spending a lot of time in Reconstruction era North Carolina for a novel in progress. It’s a fascinating period of history, and the similarities to today are striking and scary.

After the Civil War, Congress attempted to hold secessionists (who had committed treason after all) to account. The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 actually withheld the vote and the ability to hold office from those who had supported the Confederacy. Andrew Johnson would undo this with a slew of pardons culminating with mass amnesty for nearly all former secessionists in 1868. His pardons and commutations undid many of the efforts toward a just Reconstruction. This allowed former Confederates to hold office in the South and impose “Black Codes” that in many ways recreated the inequities of slavery. Nonetheless, for a time at least, Blacks eagerly participated in the civic process. They voted in mass. Many aspired to and held public office at various levels, all the way up to Congress. But it wasn’t to last.

In 1870 in Yanceyville, a mob of former secessionists, enraged that Blacks had won seats in government despite their efforts to keep them from the polls, breached the county courthouse where they hung and stabbed to death Republican state senator John W. Stephens. Stephens had championed the rights of African-Americans. This came on the heels of the lynching of Wyatt Outlaw, a Black town commissioner in Alamance County.

The Governor of North Carolina at the time, William Holden, attempted to put an end to this thuggery. He called up George W. Kirk, a former Union officer who’d waged a brutal guerrilla war in Western North Carolina during the Civil War. Kirk led 300 men to round up the insurrectionists, many of whom were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Many were also prominent White citizens.

Holden declared martial law and suspended habeus corpus to quell the insurrection. After skirmishes throughout Alamance and Chatham counties, Kirk rounded up one hundred of the insurrectionists including some of those prominent citizens. None of the charges stuck. President Grant, concerned about the white southern vote for his own 1872 reelection bid, did not provide federal support to Holden. Many former Confederates, their right to hold public office restored by Andrew Johnson, served throughout state and local governments and the judiciary. They freed those arrested and organized against Holden. They imprisoned Colonel Kirk, and in 1871, they impeached Holden. He was the first governor in the US to be impeached and removed from office. He had dared to stand up to thugs, but was left holding the bag by a system that had failed to hold insurrectionists to account.

The tone was set for 1898 in Wilmington when anti-democratic White Supremacists successfully carried out a violent coup against a Fusionist government comprised of African-Americans and their White Republican allies. Black Americans, who had enjoyed a brief period of unprecedented inclusion and advancement in the city, would be subjected to 60 years of Jim Crow segregation, violence, and a willful suppression of their rights.

This brings us to where we are now. In the process of rounding up anti-democratic thugs who would rather impose their will on the country than accept the outcome of a free and fair election, who even carried into our nation’s Capitol the flag of the Confederacy, it would serve us well to heed the lessons of history. When there are no consequences for thuggery, we get more thuggery.

Violence and sedition has been a tool of whites who didn’t get their way throughout our history. And for the most part, it has worked. Insurrectionists weren’t held accountable in 1865 or in 1870 or in1898. Democracy suffered as a result. Advances made by the African-American community during the short period of true Reconstruction were undone. People died.

The question remains: will these thugs, including their leader, our former president, be held accountable in 2021? We have a chance now to make another fundamental change to our country. Wouldn’t it be great to look back on today a year from now and wonder how we every lived in such an unjust world?

A Few Red Drops

“Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember. Then—I forget.” Carl Sandburg

In July 1919, in the midst of a global pandemic and severe economic disruption, an African-American boy named Eugene Williams crossed an imaginary line between whites and blacks while swimming in Lake Michigan. A group of white men threw stones at him, and he wound up drowning in the lake. Like George Floyd and Eric Garner decades later, he too couldn’t breathe. When the white police refused to arrest the men who killed him, angry crowds took to the streets. The state militia eventually was called in to quell the protests. Many more lives were lost.  Sound familiar?

If the intensity of black anger right now seems out of proportion to you, consider that it’s been 101 years since the Chicago race riots, and while much has changed, too much remains the same. Black Americans still live with a fear that white Americans can’t fathom.

Carl Sandburg documented the 1919 Chicago Race Riots in real time as a journalist. He won two Pulitzers eventually, but his most prized honor was the lifetime achievement award bestowed upon him by the NAACP. And he wrote, “Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few drops for history to remember. Then—I forget.” Forgetting is a privilege black Americans don’t have, and that’s why the streets are full. Enough is enough.

People and Profits

The word “unprecedented” is tossed about a lot these days. Very little in the world is actually unprecedented, including global pandemics. We’ve had them before in 1957, 1968, & 2009. The one we hear the most about is the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed at least 50 million people worldwide.

This novel coronavirus is similar to the Spanish flu in that without a cure or a vaccine, the tools that we have to fight it are what experts call non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI). We’re all now very familiar with these measures: staying at home, self-isolation, hygiene, using disinfectants. In 1918, as now, communities issued stay-at-home orders and enforced social distancing. All evidence indicates that those measures worked in limiting greater spread of the virus. The evidence also indicates that these measures continue to work now.

But now, as in 1918, there are naysayers, such as certain governors around the country, antsy to get the economy rolling because they are beholden to a base that has been riled up by astro-turf organizers.This exposes their hypocrisy. The party that calls itself “pro-life” seems to have very little regard for life these days. Many Republican leaders (though not all) have expressed a willingness to sacrifice the lives of their constituents for what would amount to a very short-term economic benefit. Never mind that studies of the 1918 flu pandemic indicate that communities that enforced stay-at-home orders longer actually had better economic outcomes one year later than those that re-opened sooner.

We on the left often push for a system that values people over profits. I hope that one of the outcomes of this pandemic will be the broad realization that we needn’t have to choose one over the other. This pandemic and its economic fallout is a demonstration of the fragility of “low-road capitalism,” the designation given it by University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Joel Rogers.

Low-road capitalism describes an economic system designed to advantage the few over the many. We accept inequality as a given in this country. But it’s not. If we collectively insist on a more equitable system, a few will get less, but the benefits of the many will be profound. A two-month pause shouldn’t induce a precipitous crash. In other democracies, already existing safety nets, in addition to robust government intervention, has softened the hit for the average citizen. Here, many of us still wait for a check that may never come. 

It should go without saying that a more equitable distribution of wealth, in the form of universal health care and basic social services, would encourage entrepreneurship and foster community resilience. But apparently it needs to be said. Somehow this isn’t obvious to everyone. Times like these show that when only a few people have all the wealth, that affects us all (even the wealthiest), because the truth is that it doesn’t trickle down. It never has.

I’m no economist. I’m no epidemiologist. Since I’m neither, I listen to those who are. And I want leaders that listen to them as well. Leaders who then act based on real data and real science. Times like these illustrate the failure of “leaders” hamstrung by failed ideologies and magical thinking. Our wanna-be war time president, a former wanna-be billionaire, who spent his father’s fortune gilding second rate establishments into bankruptcy, cares more about looking like a president than actually being one, and real people pay the price. America deserves better than this. Don’t we?

A New Moonshot?

I just watched First Man. It’s the story of Neil Armstrong, astronaut, father, and husband. It’s a gripping movie, evocatively filmed, quietly and compassionately told, as much about the man and his grief as it is about the technical accomplishment of getting to the moon. It filled me with nostalgia for a time when America took on the impossible and succeeded. In 1962, John F. Kennedy stood before the nation and declared, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”  

For millions of years humans believed that going to the moon was impossible. Marshaling our imagination, wherewithal, and ingenuity, we overcame hardened beliefs that held us earthbound. Thousands of engineers, scientists, mathematicians, accountants, doctors, and astronauts committed themselves to solving the problem of going to the moon. A decade of work and sacrifice and lessons learned culminated with a giant leap for mankind.  

As a nation and as a world, we haven’t had anything like that since. But now we do. We’re going to have to step up and solve the much bigger and more impactful problem of global climate change. 

 It’s happening right before our eyes. We see it in more frequent and more extreme weather-related events: more hurricanes more violently pounding our shores, forest fires setting records for intensity and breadth, flooding in abnormal places and seasons, massive and unpredictable winter storms. Just this month, the federal government released the Fourth National Climate Assessment (https://nca2018.globalchange.gov) which reports that the impacts of climate change are already being felt by our most vulnerable communities. 

In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a landmark report authored by the world’s leading climate scientists. The report (http://www.ipcc.ch/) is full of good and bad news. Well, mostly bad. Warming of the atmosphere is accelerating. The effects of that warming are already being felt by frontline communities around the world. Those effects will only worsen as global atmospheric temperatures rise. An increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius will have dire consequences and that increase is likely to occur by 2040. Just this past week, researchers with the Global Carbon Project reported that that global emissions of carbon dioxide are reaching the highest levels on record, at a time when they need to be drastically curtailed.   

The situation is dire. The good news in the report is that we have 12 years to once again deploy our imagination, wherewithal, and ingenuity to solve this problem. We can do it. We have four more years than John F. Kennedy gave us to get to the moon. And, we don’t have to invent any new technology or figure out new math to solve this problem. The technology already exists to do it now. We can make our homes and cars and airplanes more efficient. We can expand our reliance on carbon-free energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal. We can sequester carbon and wean ourselves from fossil fuels. And despite the screeches from old men touting old ways, we can do so and not kill the economy. Just like going to the moon, tackling this problem will create new industries and require new skill-sets that lead to new jobs. If we take this on as we should, it will “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” 

The problem with climate change is that the future can’t vote, and carbon has lobbyists. But, of all things, climate change should not be a partisan issue. We’re all affected by the climate we live in. There’s no avoiding it, unless you make like Neil Armstrong and leave the planet. We all breathe the same air. We all want the best for our children and grandchildren. Of all issues, this one seems the least controversial.  

That it’s not is due to the efforts of the fossil fuel industry to undermine our faith in science itself. These efforts have had dire consequences, not just for the actual climate, but for our political climate as well.  What we have instead of political will is a failure of leadership. Where once we had brave leaders willing to make hard choices, we now have a scrum of bought politicians and craven hacks. 

It would seem easy then, to throw up our hands and give up. But we didn’t give up on the moon, even though at the time many politicians on both the right and left opposed the project. It’s easy to forget that part of history, because on July 20, 1969 one small step transfixed and transformed the entire planet. 

Science and heroes and champions who stood strong in the face of political opposition got us to the moon. What we lack now are civic-minded, servant leaders asking what they can do for their country, rather than what their country can do for them. What we lack are leaders willing to take on things on because they are hard. 

Going to the moon taught us much about space travel and led to advances in technology and science. The benefits were broad, but not nearly as broad as tackling climate change would be. Those most impacted by climate change are generally those with the least amount of political clout. Frontline communities around the world are already affected. Here in North Carolina, Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Michael have slammed the communities least able to absorb the brunt of their impacts. People have died. Families have suffered, and many continue to feel the effects, long after the television cameras have left.  

Where going to the moon was a political and technical endeavor, climate change is at heart a moral issue. Taking it on requires the best of us, our best skills, our best science, our best innovation, and our best selves.

Winning the Lottery?

Somewhere out there this morning a person’s life has been profoundly changed overnight. There is a single owner of a winning ticket worth $1.6 billion. It’s not me. I wasn’t in the running only because I forgot to stop and buy a Mega-Millions ticket yesterday. The odds were never in my favor. The odds are not in the winner’s favor, either. Windfalls destroy lives far more often than they improve them. I hope this winner beats those odds. I’ll be rooting for them, whoever they are.

I have thought often of what I would do with a massive lottery win. How I would invest it wisely, start a foundation that would address economic and environmental injustice, create trusts for myself and those I love. How I would travel more and worry less and maybe even buy myself a mountaintop retreat. But the odds are that it wouldn’t make me any happier than I am now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t take the money.

Windfalls destroy lives. This can be seen no more clearly than the windfall most apparent to us all right now, the $413 million sequestered into Donald J. Trump’s tiny hands from those of his father, a fortune used to finance the illusion of acumen and grandeur. A fortune with consequences for us all. Usually it’s the winner who pays the price for unearned gain. In this case, we all pay.  By virtue of the illusion financed by those ill-gotten gains, Trump has squirreled himself into our coffers, has squandered our national good will, plundered our clean air, clean water and public lands, and worst of all, soiled our civil discourse.

My only hope is that one day, we’ll be able to look back on this moment in history and laugh. That there still will be an America, a place where an average Jane or Joe can go from just getting by to billionaire overnight. But only if they’re unlucky enough to do so.

The Adventures of the Blue Wind Boy

I am, above all else, a Tarheel.  Not Tarheel as in associated with the University of North Carolina (though I am that, too), but Tarheel as in North Carolinian.  I have officially resided in nine North Carolina counties: Guilford, Henderson, Buncombe, Forsyth, Orange, Wilkes, Wake, Tyrell, and Durham.

Despite feeling that this state is my one and only home, at times, I feel like a foreigner. Usually, that’s after talking with someone so local they can trace their lineage by the land.   There’s a home place they can identify, a farm that an ancestor left behind or didn’t for that matter, a barn known by generations, a spring inherited over and over again, a clapboard house given over to the kudzu back behind a newer brick rancher.

My roots here are shallow.  I was born in Guilford county just three years after my parents relocated from Florida.  My people come from Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina.  A generation or two before that, they came South from Indiana, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania after arriving a generation or two prior to that from England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Like most Americans, I am a mutt.  But, I am a Tarheel mutt.

This fascination with place and belonging, how landscape and family make us who we are, drives all of my writing, whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. I blog reluctantly and irregularly. I’m from the last generation that learned to write on a typewriter. As such I value paper and binding over ones and zeroes. When I write here, it will be about roots, about seeking out the connections that tie us to place. I may extol beauty, but I will also express my anger at those who would choose to destroy sacred places for profit or pleasure.

Everyone is from somewhere.  Everyone belongs somewhere.  For some, like the Maasai of East Africa or the Achuar of the Ecuadorian rainforest, the connection is obvious and stated.  They are indigenous.  Most of us these days are not.

It is human nature to make a home, but it is also human nature to wander.  As a species, we have come a long way from our roots in the African savannah.  But, still we seek connection to place.  What I hope to explore in my writing is how I can situate myself in the world, with the understanding that though I’m not indigenous to anywhere, this Earth is my home.  And, it is at once beautiful and fragile and awe-inspiring.