Diagnosis day, it’s here again. Some days reach the level you don’t even have to say what it is. Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. But not all of those anniversaries are good things. Some of them are reminders of the world turning upside down. Realizing that nothing would ever be the same. A total change in your perspective, in your life.
I sit surrounded by trees and the calling of birds and somewhere off to my left, the angry chatter of a squirrel. The silence allows me to hear myself, even though in the distance I hear others talking on the trail and the muffled sounds of vehicles crossing the bridge upstream.
It has taken me a while to write this. My heart hurts with what has happened, and it is difficult for me to find words. However, I know I cannot be silent.
I am a Christian. I am male. I am southern. I am descended from ancestors who were primarily Anglican and Celtic. I am proud to be each of these, and I should be. They are who I am. They are what made me.
But, I am also angry. No, I am outraged. How DARE these perversions of everything I hold dear openly proclaim the direct antithesis of these values while claiming to operate under their banner?
My faith tells me God created all things, and all of humankind is in his likeness. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Scripture never mentions race. It talks about tribes and nations, but those are political and cultural differences.
More than being a man, I strive to be a gentleman. This means I treat everyone with civility and respect regardless of background, social standing, and or potential benefit to me. Even more than that, I am a southern gentleman. I say y’all, sir, and ma’am. I can brew the best sweet tea you have ever tasted and put away fried chicken with the best of them.
As I research my ancestors, I find men who fought with honor. Unfortunately, through the lens of history we see that their causes all had blemishes. Slavery during the Civil War is at the forefront, but the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, treatment of the Native-Americans during the westward expansion, and the allowance of slavery in the first place are all dark blemishes on our collective past. But, as painful as reminders of these can be, it is important to keep them at the forefront of our memory.
The memory of this nation is short. We need the reminders. We need to be shocked. We need to experience the pain of what we have done. Only through that will be always be on our guard to never let it happen again.
We cannot rewrite history. We must celebrate the accomplishments of the past while recognizing the failures of the same men we herald. There is no historical figure who was perfect, and neither are we. It is up to us to do the very best we can to strive towards the ideal of liberty and equality espoused in our founding documents. We will never be perfect, but we can be better. We must be better. We will be better.
That being said, there is no place in the political conversation for those who wish to eliminate or segregate all those who disagree with them. The foundation of our political system is discourse, not violence. Until we return to civility with each other, the nature of our republic itself is in jeopardy.
Violence has no place in the discussion, from either side. If you feel the need to resort to violence, you should re-evaluate your argument. White supremacists who defend your arguments with scripture, try reading it for yourself for a change. Don’t call yourself Christian until you start behaving like a follower of Christ. Don’t claim your racism represents southern heritage until you embrace how many aspects of southern culture came from Africa.
We are one nation. This nation was built on the idea that ALL men (and women) are created equal. They share the same rights, responsibilities, and struggles. We are all in it together. Let’s act like it.
To say that this past weekend was involved would be an understatement. Really, it was the entire week. It started, for me at least, on Tuesday with the Relay for Life Survivor Dinner. Wednesday, I started the Survive and Thrive program at Georgia College. Then on Friday, things really got crazy.
The day started with the Georgia College Celebration of Excellence. I hadn’t been on campus much since having to give up my job, so it was great to be able to see old friends and coworkers. But the highlight of the ceremony was getting to see my wife receive the inaugural Eve Puckett Community Service Award. Nikki worked hard to earn that honor, and it was well deserved. She’s worked with student groups, Relay for Life as a team captain, event leadership, and finally event lead, not to mention her tireless devotion to her students. But, that was just the beginning of the day.
Friday night was Relay. As soon as she smiled for the pictures following the award, Nikki had headed straight to the event site. She worked all day setting things up and making sure things went perfectly. She worked her heart out for it, and it was perfect. It was an amazing night, and she did wonderfully. It was well into Saturday morning when everything wrapped up and we made it home, but mixed with the exhaustion was a great sense of satisfaction. WordPress isn’t letting me upload photos for some reason, but I have all them posted in a Facebook album.
I am incredibly proud of Nikki. In the past year, she’s become a supervisor at work, was selected as the Relay event lead, received the award, and has been a great caretaker. She has accomplished a lot, and I look forward to what the upcoming year will bring.
Tonight, as honorary chair of the Baldwin County Relay for Life, one of the things I have to do is give a speech. I imagine I’ll end up going off script (this is scheduled to post right around the time I deliver it), but here is what I have prepared.
Georgia Military College has seemingly always been part of my life. Although I was home schooled, I spent most of my teenage years going to their prep football games. My boss’ son was the quarterback, so I had a good excuse to be there. As time moved on, I graduated high school and spent a year at the local vocational school. Finally, once summer day when it was 128 degrees in the electrical lab, I decided that I really didn’t want to be an electrician. I talked it over with my parents, and I started getting everything together for my admission to GMC.
GMC is a large institution, but the Milledgeville campus at that time had more prep school students than college students. But still, coming from a program where I was one of 4 to being in 25 person classes, it was quite a culture shock. In an effort to fit in, I went to the Student Activities office and asked about starting up a College Republican chapter and joining SGA. Well, I had to have at least 5 people to start the CR chapter, but I could join SGA just by coming to the next meeting, so that’s what I did.
In what I still find as an extremely weird twist of fate, that was the week the 48th Brigade of the Georgia National Guard received deployment orders, taking quite a few GMC cadets, and all but one of the SGA officers, with them. So, I quickly went from trying to see what SGA was about, to being vice-president. Through that organization I formed many friendships I continue to enjoy through this day. I learned to speak in public without having a panic attack (kind of vital for me these days…). I went to my first conference, and while I was learning in the classroom, I learned just as much in the Student Activities office. I continued my involvement, and the next year was elected president.
As time moved forward, like it always does, I won a few awards, went to a few more conferences and retreats, and generally had the time of my life. I knew I would soon graduate, but that didn’t mean I was in any way looking forward to it. But graduate I did, moving on to my first congressional campaign over the summer, and starting at Georgia College as a junior political science major that fall.
Once again, time marched forward. Four years later, with my political science degree and a recently finished Master of Public Administration in hand, I met a friend for lunch at Amici’s. She wondered why I was so dressed up, so I told her that I had just interviewed to be part-time faculty at GMC until I found a full time job. Well, I got the position. And I was now a “peer” to all of the faculty who had taught and mentored me through the years. A few months later, I walked in faculty as my childhood best friend walked across the stage in his Marine blues to receive his degree from all the Army brass. I continued teaching once I got my full time job. And on into my second full time job. But things still change.
Due to my health issues, I have let my department chair know that I will not be returning for spring quarter. For the first time since fall of 2010, I will not be a faculty member at Georgia Military College. It is still a bit strange to comprehend, but GMC will always be a part of my life. I grew up there. I experienced my first take of leadership there. It was my first professional job. And most importantly, I had my first date with my wife there.
I’m only going to be three blocks away, so I’m sure I will still be visiting often. And I hope that my former students continue to stay in touch as well.
Opera cum Fidelitate
This is the type of post I have grown weary of writing, but once again a life that has made a tremendous impact on me stands ready for a memorial tribute. My uncle, to me he was Uncle Brooks – to basically the rest of the world he was Archie, stepped from the body ravaged with cancer into splendor of paradise Sunday evening.
He was a warrior, serving in the Army during Vietnam and then for another couple of decades until his retirement. Or, I should say first retirement; he had several. He was a member of the Special Forces. To my youthful mind, and still to this day, he was the epitome of a warrior. He taught me to shoot, was a constant reminder of honor, and perhaps most impressive to me, was not phased by snakes in the slightest. It was probably a good thing that I never saw him encounter a spider until I was much older, but that’s a different story…
Earlier this week, it was my honor to bring forward a resolution to the Georgia College Staff Council to honor Eve. I wanted to share the text, and it is posted below.
I know it is strange to be wearing my SGA pin after having been out of the organization seven years. Even SGA has gone though several logo changes since then. But, this pin was given to me during the retreat where I first met Eve Puckett. So, I am wearing it today instead of my alumni pin, or my University Senate pin, in her honor and memory.
The outpouring of memories from everyone who loved Eve has been overwhelming. My post from Tuesday has been viewed by nearly 13,000 people from all 50 states and over 40 countries. Just to put that into perspective, the next most popular post of all time on this site has had 36 views. So, it is by no means my writing ability.
The woman we remember today has impacted countless lives. Her memorial service is being held in the largest auditorium in any of the surrounding counties. And I fully expect the place to be packed.