Author Archives: k4drs

Five Tips for Self-Quarantine

As we are well into the second week of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, and self-isolation, most people I know are starting to go a little stir crazy. It’s difficult. It’s scary. The world has never been like this in our lifetimes. And most of us that take it seriously are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

This is something cancer patients and others who are immuno-compromised individuals deal with on a regular basis. I’ve had several month long periods of self-isolation, and would like to offer some tips on how to handle the mental toll of being isolated. 

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A Season of New Beginnings

They say the first of the year is a time for new beginnings. Well, for me, that day seems to be today. There are so many new things happening, it is difficult to wrap my head around it, but it is a season of incredible opportunities.

I’m teaching, again

Daniel sitting with his cat, Donnie, on his chest.
This is my first day of class picture. I never thought I’d be teaching in a t-shirt, but that’s the joy of online learning. Also, my teaching assistant, Donnie, insisted on being in the shot.

First, I am officially an assistant professor again. I had taught for Georgia Military College for six years prior to having to step down in March of 2016. And while I still am not able to teach in person, today is the first day of my class for GMC Online. It is very different, but I am also very excited.

It’s quite a time to be teaching an intro to American government course. For the third time in history, the President is facing a Senate trial following an impeachment. The powder keg that is the middle east is a little more explosive than normal. Not to mention, the presidential election is heating with the primaries starting in the next few weeks. Not to mention since I’m in Georgia, it’s the second Monday in January.

Georgia General Assembly

Northern corner of the Georgia State Capitol with a statue of John Brown Gordon, a Civil War General, on horseback in the foreground.
The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. Statues on this side of the building include Gen. Gordon, seen on horseback, and President Jimmy Carter, near the building wall.

At 10 o’clock this morning, the Georgia General Assembly was gaveled into session. For the next 40 legislative days, they will decide the state’s budget and hundreds of other bills and resolutions. It’s organized chaos, and I miss it terribly. They have some big issues this year.

The anticipated revenue is down, so budget cuts will be necessary. Obviously, these are always unwelcome. Some state agencies have already instituted hiring freezes in preparation. One way they are looking at improving revenue is the expansion of gambling in the state. This will have strong opposition I’m sure, just as the state lottery did when it was authorized in the early 1990s.

Beyond the budget, the AJC also predicts there will be a push for a change in seat belt requirements (currently, they are not required for adults in the back seat). Healthcare and education are always huge issues. Governor Kemp’s campaign pledge to increase teacher pay will be at odds with up to a 6% cut in the rest of the budget. And of course, there will be plenty of partisan grandstanding.

It’s an election year, so both sides will be playing to their base. SB 281 was pre-filed for the session and bans semi-automatic weapons and magazines that hold more than ten rounds. Meanwhile, SB 224 removes places of worship from the prohibited places list for concealed carry. It also changes the language regarding carrying in courthouses and courtrooms. Likewise, there are bills to ban transgender youth from participating in sports as their presenting gender and that make it a felony for a physician to perform gender reassignment therapies or surgery. Yet, HB 426 is awaiting action in the Senate, which would include gender and sexual orientation as criteria for hate crime enhancements.

A new opportunity

Finally, and perhaps the biggest thing for me personally, is something that I have wanted to do for years, but always seemed a bit beyond reach. But I’m proud to say, it has finally happened. Over the weekend, I accepted a position as a board member for a new charter school. There will be more details forthcoming, but it is an amazing opportunity to be able to influence the education of multitudes of students in the coming years. Lifelong learning has always been important to me, but my work has always focused on college and adult learning. Now, I will be able to be involved with K-12 education as well.

Needless to say, the future is looking bright. I am still dealing with the effects of cancer, but this is a chance for me to be involved and make a hopefully huge impact on future generations.

On politics, racism, and enlightened debate

I’ve debated saying this, but I feel like I have to. Racism is a term thrown around far too often in the political arena. It is not racist to disagree with someone who has a different color skin. But telling someone to go back where you came from means that they don’t deserve a seat at the table, are less of an American, and has less intrinsic worth. This is inherently racist, to a level I would severely discipline or even fire an employee who made such statements.

The Republican party for years denounced the Democrats lack of holding Sen. Robert Bird accountable for his involvement in the Ku Klux Klan. Why can’t they now do the same thing with the President?

The American republic is never more than one generation from extinction. We are not perfect, but we should require ourselves to strive a little bit more toward perfection every day. That is the only way the, “Empire in many respects the most interesting in the world” will survive.

It is okay to disagree on policies. But disagreement doesn’t mean the other side hates America. They simply have a different view of where the country should be heading. Debate objectives. Debate policies. But if you want this country to survive, rise above personal attacks. They serve no purpose other than to weaken your arguments from enlightened debate to antagonistic mudslinging.

My Letter about Library Funding

I just sent this email to the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners concerning library funding. Be sure to let your elected officials know how you feel. Posting on Facebook is not enough. 

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I grew up in another county, but I jokingly referred to Milledgeville and Baldwin county as “the nearest civilization.” It was the nearest shopping, nearest dining, and the nearest large library. Today as a resident, the behavior I see from the city and county governments is anything but civilized. Mary Vinson library is being held hostage like a human shield in a western shootout.

I understand there is more to the agreement than just library funding. I understand jurisdictional agreements for water delivery are important. But, those issues pale in comparison with the resources the library provides. The Service Delivery Strategy expiration was not an unforeseen circumstance. This is not a surprise to anyone.

What is a surprise is how willing the county is denying its citizens vital resources. The library is not a luxury. It is where children continue learning over the summer. It is where a job seeker can have access to online resources and applications. It is where hobbies are built, relationships are formed, and the community becomes the best it can be. It is where ignorance is destroyed and citizenship is built.

It is not a resource to be used as a pawn in a political game of chess. It is not a sacrifice to make for brinkmanship. It is not a tool to achieve an end.

Fulfill your responsibility and come to an agreement that fully funds the library. You were elected to represent this community and tend to their interests. Ignoring that responsibility will not be tolerated.

—–
Daniel R. Simpson, MPA

So are we purple, or…

We’ve reached the end of election week, and basically everyone is disappointed. Republicans lost the house. Democrats failed to get the Senate. Here in Georgia, Republicans lost seats in both the State House and the State Senate, but maintained control. Meanwhile, there are two statewide seats going to a runoff and the not so simple matter of the governorship.

Yes, THAT race. The one where the Brian Kemp (R) has declared victory and that Stacy Abrams (D) is vowing to take to court to make sure every vote is counted. The one that is less than 13,000 votes from needing a runoff. That’s 0.33% of the vote total. It doesn’t get much closer than that. I’m having flashbacks to Bush v. Gore in 2000.

But the question remains, “Where do we go from here?” I had friends working on both sides. I have concurrently been mocked for being both conservative and liberal. In an era where people are more divided than ever, how do we function in a divided government?

To any elected official who may be reading this… Remember that you were elected to govern. Don’t let good ideas die because they came from the other side of the aisle. Represent your district, not your party. Work together on areas where there is common ground to get needed changes made. Immigration is more than just building a wall. Healthcare is more than the Affordable Care Act. We have rural areas of this state without basic infrastructure like high speed internet which is the key to education, technology, and being able to start a small business. Not to mention hospitals closing throughout the rural areas. I’m lucky to live near a hospital now. But people in the surrounding counties aren’t so lucky. Work to address these issues in a practical, achievable way.  And don’t forget about south Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico, and everywhere else IN THIS COUNTRY that are struggling to rebuild after major natural disasters.

To my friends who were fired up and working for this election: do not despair if your candidate lost. To the victors, don’t gloat. Your victory means nothing if your candidate makes a fool of themselves in office, or if the government is in worse condition at the end of their term than when they took office. Be an activist. Lobby for your views. Make sure your elected officials (and their staff) know your name. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can still let them know your views in a rational and professional manner.

But even more importantly, do YOUR part to make your community a better place. Volunteer for different projects. Locally, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with different non-profits who would love some extra help. You drove people to the polls? How about driving cancer patients to treatment? Instead of asking people to vote, get a group together and clean up a park on weekend. Don’t leave it to the elected officials. Do your part to make your community better.

We have at least two years of divided government. During that time, let’s start identifying as Georgians and Americans again instead of Republicans and Democrats.

Photos from Jekyll Island

Here’s some photos from our recent visit to Jekyll Island.

I have seen the Promised Land

I've been to the mountaintop... and I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 3, 1968

It’s hard to explain. We call it a funk, or depression, or a million other things. And often times, we think we deserve it. We think it is a punishment. We are told it’s because our walk with God is weak, or because we are out from under authority.

Mental health is one of those things that’s not talked about, especially in the church community. But it is very real, and yes it affects Christians. If David, a man after God’s own heart, could write, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1-2), how are we to say that it is because we are out of fellowship? 

It is a serious thing. It is a dark and lonely thing. But while you pour yourself into the scriptures, fill your heart with songs and spiritual songs, and pray without ceasing, it is still okay to ask for help.

So here it is. I am on medications for depression and anxiety. I meet with a therapist on a regular basis. I have a wife who is understanding and supportive. And I have friends that encourage me. And I encourage them as well. You see, we all experience it. It is a part of life. It is not something we should be ashamed about.

I’ve not been suicidal, but I’ve been close before. Most people assume it started with the cancer, but it’s been around for years before that. It just took me until recent years to get to the place where I would ask for help. And I am so glad I did.

It gets better. It may get worse again after that, but the hope of it getting better is what can keep you going. I have seen the Promised Land. There are two of them: one that will last for eternity and one mortal one that can be life after cancer, depression, whatever you’re going through.  And I know that I will be there again one day. I decided long ago to keep pushing for the good days. There are good days and they are my (mortal) promised land. When the valley is deep and the shadows long, I remember the mountain and the beauty of the promised land. When I have an allergic reaction to the meds and my skin burns like fire, I think about the promised land. When I’m facing down a syringe that I know will cause my body to ache for days, I remember the mountain, and I think of the promised land.

We all work for something. A cure. Being able to go back to work. Being able to start a family. That vision is your promised land. Focus on your promised land. But like the civil rights movement from which I borrow the quote, you’re not going to get there overnight. It’s even more difficult alone. So if you need help, ask for it.

Talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends. Talk to your religious leader. Use the contact page and talk to me. As a friend posted earlier, “If you need help, look for it. It’s there. People want to help you, myself included. You ARE important. You DO matter. This time WILL pass. Depression isn’t a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly.” You’re not alone. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

The Cooking Gene

The Cooking Gene. I don’t think I have it. But I have read the book by the same name by Michael W. Twitty, and I highly recommend it. While its subject matter requires a mature reader, as the Amazon summary says, “As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.” 

This is not a cook book by any means. And while it dives a bit too deeply into the food science for my taste, it is to provide a solid foundation for the more relevant discussions built upon it. In these times of racial strife, this book looks at what brings us together to a common table while also examining the deep hurts and atrocities that led to much of the discord which still festers nearly two centuries after the abolition of slavery in the United States.  

Twitty focuses primarily on how southern cuisine is essentially African cuisine, a point which he argues quite effectively. In the preface, he states,  

The Old South is a place where people use food to tell themselves who they are, to tell others who they are, and to tell stories about where they’ve been… It’s a place where arguments over how barbecue is prepared or chicken is served or whether sugar is used to sweeten cornbread can function as culinary shibboleths… I dare to believe all Southerners are a family. We are not merely Native, European, and African. We are Middle eastern and South Asian and East Asian and Latin American, now. We are a dysfunctional family, but we are a family. We are unwitting inheritors of a story with many sins that bears the fruit of the possibility of ten times the redemption. One way is through reconnection with the culinary culture of the enslaved, our common ancestors, and restoring their names on the roots of the Southern tree and the table those roots support. 

Twitty walks the reader through the old south of Virginia and surrounding area and tells the story of how slavery spread through the deep south and westward. He details the differing experiences of slaves depending on where they were sold or traded. He connects how today’s “soul food” connects back to African traditions. How the tradition of fried chicken at funerals is tied to African religious practices. But more importantly, how these traditions are not siloed into one race or culture, but now serve the purpose of uniting us in a shared history.  

“You must know your own past,” is as much a theme of the book as anything else. Twitty details his ancestor’s journey from Africa, to the auction block, to the plantations, and to where they are now. But those aren’t his only lines. Either through force or hushed attraction, his DNA also includes the slave owners and their families as well. As he discusses the conflict it causes him, he becomes a microcosm of the south itself. With its conflicted history, we like Twitty, must discover who we are, where we are going, and how to get there while moving our collective family from dysfunctional to united.  

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Twitty, M. (2017). The cooking gene : a journey through African American culinary history in the Old South. New York, NY: Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.