“ Police have received information that some of the milkshakes thrown today during the demonstration contained quick-drying cement” the PORTLAND POLICE DEPT.
Yep, milkshakes are now weaponized.
I have to admit I don’t know much about “Antifa”. They seem a subject of interest on my friend’s facebook pages - which in Alabama is largely informed by Fox News. But who are they, where are they, and what are they trying to accomplish ? Regardless of whether you hate them you have to give them credit for confronting a bunch of alt-right guys called the Proud Boys with milkshakes.
I can’t believe I just wrote …milkshakes weaponized.
Antifa (pronounced an-tee-fah) in short stands for “anti-fascist”. Daniel Penny wrote a article for the New Yorker a few years ago, followed by a piece in the The Atlantic by Peter Beinart describing the rise of the “violent left”. Both required reading for those seeking to understand the movement. I found Antifa has fascinating historical UK roots in the Battle of Cable street that helped cement British resolve against Hitler and Mussolini that led to the iron-willed resistance by Churchill saving England in World War Two.
“On October 4, 1936, tens of thousands of Zionists, Socialists, Irish dockworkers, Communists, anarchists, and various outraged residents of London’s East End gathered to prevent Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists from marching through their neighborhood. This clash would eventually be known as the Battle of Cable Street: protesters formed a blockade and beat back some three thousand Fascist Black Shirts and six thousand police officers. To stop the march, the protesters exploded homemade bombs, threw marbles at the feet of police horses, and turned over a burning lorry. They rained down a fusillade of projectiles on the marchers and the police attempting to protect them: rocks, brickbats, shaken-up lemonade bottles, and the contents of chamber pots. Mosley and his men were forced to retreat.”
The Proud Boys should be thankful they were spared the chamber pot.
After reading about these guys I am wondering what does Antifa see themselves as being, and is the threat they perceive as real as they think. Antifa is best described as an ideology, an identity, that is actively involved in self-defense. Per Bray in his book about Antifa, “It’s a leaderless, horizontal movement whose roots lie in various leftist causes—Communism, anarchism, Socialism, anti-racism.” And obviously anti-fascist. Antifa’s defining moment in the U.S. has been at Charlottesville VA. when alt-right and white supremicist groups converged in a well planned “unite the right” rally and then murdered Heather Heyer in a car attack where protestors were targeted by James Fields. Multiple clergy who attended the rally credited Antifa members in preventing their deaths something not often reported.
Charlottesville seems to partially vindicate Antifa’s hard line approach. Its difficult to imagine a way to deal with the hate groups, especially when police were willing to let them protest. That may not seem to matter much but the white supremacy groups were going to unite as one movement in a place called Emancipation Park. The park was built originally exhibiting a statute of Confederate Genral Robert E. Lee and his horse “Traveler” and named Market Street Park. But in 2017 it was renamed to honor freed slaves and the city council voted to remove ther statue. This controversy made it a focal point for the Unite the Right rally. Filled with mostly black clergy and students as the groups approached, Antifa stepped in protected the entrance and beat the alt right groups savagely with night sticks and peppered them with balloons filled with chemicals until they retreated.
Penny writes about the The Anti-Facist Handbook, “Bray notes that state-based protections failed in Italy and Germany, where Fascists were able to take over governments through legal rather than revolutionary means—much as the alt-right frames its activities as a defense of free speech, Fascists were able to spread their ideology under the aegis of liberal tolerance. Antifa does not abide by John Milton’s dictum that, “in a free and open encounter,” truthful ideas will prevail. “After Auschwitz and Treblinka,” Bray writes, “anti-fascists committed themselves to fighting to the death the ability of organized Nazis to say anything.”
This is how Antifa sees themselves, a continuation of those who stood against the rise of Hitler and european facism but having learned the lessons of inaction and determined not to repeat it. Then the key being they are fighting to suppress the ability of the alt-right and white supremicists to say anything. That extends to those who give them a voice or platform. This in part explains the attack on Andy Ngo in the video above which creates a conflict in what they are defending. But that is the part about Antifa mainstream media ignores. The movement has a mission, and to avoid rights being taken away and oppression to take root, they argue rights must be taken away or suppressed by those who are using it for their agenda. In sense this makes me think of the classic Hitler arguement; do we kill Hitler when he was younger, knowing what was to come ? Most say yes. But who determies what is not known? Antifa’s argument is smiliar, it claims ity knows the outcome of facists and white supremacists, and it is true their intentions have been made clear.
No one can say white supremacists, or for that matter black supremacists (if there is such a thing) or supremacists of any stripe want a inclusive and democratic society.
Antifa’s agenda is freedom and equality for all ultimately but that means taking away the freedom of those who seek to use it to oppress it. This implies a moral judgement and thats the rub about Antifa. They makes no bones about it they are suppressing the ability of the alt right to have an audience and will act aggressively towards those who give them a voice like Ngo. This, of course, leads to a lot of characterizations about them (like Trump) but if they are not viewed in a historical context it doesn’t make sense to those unfamiliar. Trump made the comment “they were fine people on both sides of the conflict” regarding Charlottesville. No Mr. President there are not “fine people” in the alt-right movement who think its appropriate to promote white supremacy in a park established to honor freedom from slavery. In fairness Trump likely repeated what a senior advisor told him, hopefully that individual is banished from access at this point.
But is Antifa suppressing free speech ? Yes of course, but….this they believe is necessary, as the far right and white supremacy groups are using this freedom to harm those they feel superior to. Antifa simply says no, we will stop it with force and meet you in the streets and humiliate you in the public eye.
They do this by giving the white supremacists and alt right groups more violence than they are prepared to accept and make them pay the public price of being humiliated. Thus denying them a public platform to show strength instead they become victims and look weak which denies them a desired public image of strentgh. The best example of this is how previously popular spokesman Richard Spencer got punched in the face.
Spencer who had been given a role of spokesperson for the movement became a poster boy for what symbolized weakness with a simple smack in the face by a Antifa member. Instead of people listening to what he had to say in the interview by the Atlantic below, millions watched this video over and over of him being punched and laughed.
Are these people domestic terrorists as President Trump describes or are they brave defenders of democracy ?
They certainly have made the Proud Boys a little less proud at the moment with just milkshakes, albeit weaponized with liquid cement which resulted in the boys having to shave off their hair, eyebrows and beards they famously wear and look like idiots. Or as Antifa said at the confrontation in Portland, “you want to be skinheads we will make you skinheads.”
And so they did…with chocolate milkshakes and quick drying cement.
I heard about a business that burned, a small religious oriented bookstore and boutique named “Take Heart” in the small town of Blowing Rock in the Appalachian Mountains. Rumor had it that this little place had several mountain laurel trees that for decades people from all over the world had written down small prayer requests and tied them to the branches of the trees. Last week a fire totally destroyed the business yet did not burn one prayer. Nor was the tree harmed in any way. Both the tree and the prayers were directly beside and touching the burned building. Reportedly as the firefighters sprayed water on the fire, the fire would hit the trees and prayers, but it just stopped. Not one leaf was wilted, nor prayer was burned or showed any evidence of heat.
I went to check this out and I still do not understand what I saw but the story appears to be true. Not one prayer, and there are thousands, were lost.
I can’t see how this could possibly be faked. Also, it is not possible for trees so close to a fire to not be injured or killed. But they were not, not even a leaf was wilted. People were coming up and hugging each other and crying while talking to owner Sheri Furman and seeing what is being called a miracle.
She said, “The fire was jumping out of the windows, right next to all of those prayers. Not one of them was touched. As much damage as there was to the store and our inventory, God surely had a hand in the preservation of our messages to Him.”
Those interested in helping Mrs Furman rebuild can do so by sending donations to the-Bless Your Heart Fund at First Citizens Bank. The bank can accept cash or checks made payable to Bless Your Heart Fund. The mailing address is First Citizens Bank, P. O. Box 268, Blowing Rock, NC 28605 or online at their Go Fund me fundraiser.
Here are a few photos.
Also I found this little place where they make handmade graham cracker cookies and homemade ice cream. Being on the fat boy diet and only eating Keto…of course I had to stop.
Then I wanted to see why the town was called blowing rock so this required seeing the actual “blowing rock”.
When your wide awake at 3 am drinking coffee, and you find yourself reading doctoral theses at the University of Kentucky about the Chattahoochee River, this is what you find. A footnote leading to Richard Thornton!
First, most of us have heard some version of this history. “The Creek / Muscogee tribal town of”Eufaula” was originally located on the western side of the Chattahoochee River in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There was a ferry used to cross the Chattahoochee, which transported people, livestock, and goods across the river to a village named Tapamana”. Modern-day Georgetown being on the east side and Eufaula as we know it on the west.
The important Creek Confederacy tribal town of Eufaula was located on the western side of the Chattahoochee River in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It operated a ferry, consisting of timber rafts, which transported people, livestock and goods across the river to the village of Tapamana, or the same from the east bank to the west bank.
At Abbeville high school the official version was a European explorer was being led by an Indian to a village on the west bank of the river. A huge tree was across the river (impossible), and the guy asked what is this places’ name, and the Indian waved and said in broken English “you follow” and there you go, that’s what we named it.
Note Coach Dale’s version is probably not what really happened.
Most of Eufaula’s Creek/Muscogee occupants moved to the Indian Territory in 1836 and founded the city of Eufaula, Oklahoma. Some Creeks remained and took allotments in what is now Barbour County and in the northern part of Henry County. This is how my family got their land near Edwin. A poor disoriented Irishman following Beaver Creek (named for beaver) met a Muscogee maiden whose father and brother had died, and at that time a woman could not hold title to land. Thus a husband was needed, alas the name O’Carroll appears on the allotment.
In the year following this allotment agreement with the Creeks, the city of Eufaula, Alabama was founded near the location of the original Creek tribal town. Almost immediately after the Creeks left, a ferry was established by white settlers at the same location, because there was a ridge next to the east side of the river, where tow ropes could be anchored. Think the bluffs you see when you cross the bridge going to Georgetown to eat at Michelle’s.
The name “Tabanana” or sometimes, “Tabanache” means the descendants of Tapamana was what Georgetown’s original name was. So where is the original “Tapamana” and where did that name come from? Strangely you will not find anything similar to that word in a Muskogee-Creek Dictionary. However, if you look into a Shipibo/Conibo — Español Dictionary from Peru, you will find that “Tapaman” is the plural in Panoan for a type of timber raft, used to ferry people across rivers. “Tapamana” would be the place where those rafts are stored. Or what we know as Georgetown.
Eufaula or “UFaula” is not what it seems as well. This name first appeared on a map of Georgia by the Spanish in 1615. A guy named Richard Thornton who is President of The Apalache Foundation and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Coweta Creek Tribe has done a lot of research on this topic and is worth reading. If I understand his argument, the place names are like a trail. At some point, a group of Peruvian explorers settled an area in eastern Georgia as shown on the map. At another point, these people moved west and settled in the area near Eufaula and Georgetown and thus named them using words from a distinct dialect only found in Peru.
I just stumbled across him by way of the University Kentucky, not sure how to credit that link. But I am glad I did and had no idea we may have some Peruvian roots. I’m going to visit this guy and talk about this in person and see what else we might discover.
In Barbour County a little community, Boyd with a population of 6 is about to change forever.
Boyd’s store, home to guns, groceries, tires and hardware goods of all description has closed. Saturday was the last day.
Johnny Boyd, his late wife, my cousin, Minny Ruth operated it for nearly 60 years.
She passed away last year and Johnny is now ill and wheelchair bound, and holds a picture of Minny Ruth.
Their son Bobby long left and moved to the big city where he works as a principal. It’s no secret he never liked the store business and wont be taking it over. Johnny retired once, sold the store, bought a fancy motorhome and set out to discover America. “We’re going to travel in our golden years to national parks”, he told me. But they never made it to the Mississippi state line, he sold the motorhome and bought the business back after a miserable two week retirement. “The store needed him” he claimed. Minny Ruth would just roll her eyes.
Johnny’s father had a store here before his. It was across the road, and that store came from where his father had a store before him a piece down the road. No one is quite sure how long there has been a store in Boyd but its at least back to the Civil war. Boyd is not a very big place. Standing in front of the store you can see each end of it. With a good aim you could shoot a deer at the city limits sign in each direction. There is one church and approximately six people live here. The nearest Walmart is 20 miles away.
I am told the population varies from 6 to 8 because one couple has ….marital troubles. I ask what kind of troubles.
“They keep having babies, divorcing and remarrying. Those kids can’t keep their hands off one another. She got knocked up in high school, they are childhood sweethearts”.
The couple now in their forties are still making babies.
“Young folks breed like rabbits round here”, the older man told me.
Love is strong in Boyd Alabama.
I had a tire blowout on a trailer so I went up to Johnny Boyds to get it fixed. While there I had a conversation with a Mr. William Burks.
Mr. Burks is an icon at Boyd’s store.
Since I have been 2 years old William Burks has been at the store never missing a day. If they were closed and you needed a tire fixed, ran out of gas, or medicine for a cow or horse, he would open up to the store get you what you needed. It was William who fitted me with my first .410 shotgun after Mule-kicker bloodied my nose and gave me a black eye.
William never asked what happened, kind and gentle he made sure the new shotgun fit my shoulder just right. We walked out back and I shot a tree in the church yard. “Try not to shoot the church” he calmly cautioned.
I promised him I would not shoot God. He chuckled.
Waiting on my tire I reflected on all the years of coming here and realized that William was the story.
Working with all kinds of people I never saw him be anything but courteous and nice. He always remembered the name of people ’s children asking how and where they were. Most young people leave this area when they get grown. William genuinely cared about them all.
Remarkably William shared a wisdom learned from watching everyday life in a rural community for 50 years. People simply exploit one another was his conclusion, the most successful of those are who seem to get ahead in life. “All you can do is be true to who you are and not be someone else. God puts us here to live and die, not much we can do to change that. What we can do is learn to care about one another”. I hear people, not from the South, describe it as fake where people are nice but really its an act. The southern hospitality thing is a myth they say.
No, its not and that is one of the qualities about being southern that is hard for an outsider to understand.
How we can we be so nice to one another and hate one another ?
But its true. In a tragic landscape often filled with racism, corruption and violence, people somehow remarkably care deeply about one another. Perhaps this is what has held this place together all these years.
People like Mr. William Burks in Boyd Alabama.
Im just curious if this is a good idea so I linked an article linked below discussing how a District Attorney in California is experimenting with “blind charging.” Which means a prosecutor is not allowed to know a person’s race before charging them. I believe without doubt Henry, and Houston County had one of the most corrupt judicial systems in the country. We didn’t need a Harvard ethics study to confirm that (it did). It was particularly cruel towards two groups of people, blacks and poor rural whites. When it came to dispensing justice it was and still is very much a culture of who you know.
What’s interesting to me is not whether someone on the bench or in the prosecutor is racist but the deeper question if they carry an unconscious bias. Richard Banks and Richard Thompson Ford of Stanford Law School point out, “The goal of racial justice efforts should be the alleviation of substantive inequalities, not the eradication of unconscious bias.” Cornell Law School notes in a study ,“Race matters in the criminal justice system. Black defendants appear to fare worse than similarly situated white defendants. Why? Implicit bias is one possibility… Judges hold implicit racial biases. These biases can influence their judgment.”
Assume they are right, how would we know the degree to which this is present in Henry County? Here is what I have been doing. There are two cases that I have been following in the Henry County courthouse. Quietly… so my old friend little Sambo doesn’t know which ones they are. When they are over, I want to compare the outcomes. Then I want to request the previous cases - different race and social-economic groups, but the same criminal circumstances and compare results and publish the data. Then we have data not opinion.
I get that judges and all of us to a degree are not colorblind. To say otherwise is fantasy. In south Alabama, we are hard-wired to think differently along racial and economic-class lines. We are also hard-wired to treat a white man who comes to court wearing red wings and parking his logging truck out front differently than a little prepster with a daddy-paid-for attorney at his side. One gets pretrial diversion, and the man from Screamer gets weekends in the county jail. The black kid often just gets to jail. But just how explicit is the difference and what does the data not our beliefs say? If it’s substantial then “blind charging” might be the answer.
From the NYT: ”While riding the train in San Francisco three years ago, a white man told an African-American man that he smelled bad and should move away from him. An argument followed, and the African-American man, Michael Smith, was eventually tackled by police officers and accused of assaulting them.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Smith with seven counts, including battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. But after viewing body camera footage, a jury acquitted Mr. Smith, then 23, on most of the charges, and the prosecutors dropped the other counts. Mr. Smith’s lawyer said he does not believe a white person would have been arrested or prosecuted.
While the district attorney’s office disagreed with that assessment of the case, George Gascón, the district attorney, has acknowledged that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are prosecuted in the city, which led him to ask a troubling question: To what extent does bias affect the work of prosecutors?”
“The Henry County Report is back“… I heard some people saying at a store this week. I just stood and smiled; they had no idea who I was. In truth, we were never gone you just had to know how to look. It’s always been archived. But I have decided to take up my pen and keep a little personal blog after reading a few things.A few days ago I decided to get some local news so I went online. I learned a squirrel…yes, a squirrel was using meth and was trained to attack people. The Limestone County Sheriff’s Department raided a home and made two arrests. One was a squirrel. Now just how exactly does one arrest a squirrel? Reports indicate deputies believed the person arrested had a pet squirrel that was fed meth to help keep it aggressive and trained to attack people. (Note to self, I can’t believe I just wrote that.)
I was able to get a link to a video from Paulk, the man who they were after, who is “on the lamb” rejoined with the attack squirrel. He defends the squirrel and claims he is not a killer, but is a “mean motherfucker” as he rubs his stomach and ears below.
So arrests were made of a man and squirrel. The squirrel was caged and hauled off in the paddywagon. Animal control got involved, and they could not figure out a way to test the “attack squirrel” for meth, fortunately a Alabama Game and Fish officer intervened and they released it. But what if the squirrel had tested positive for drugs, then what? The home raided then was discovered not even to be where the man lived nor did they get the right man. The tree the squirrel was nabbed from was in a city easement, so no is sure yet who owns the squirrel. There is an outstanding warrant for the man below with the squirrel. Pause right there. Limestone county’s finest, made a drug bust arrested the wrong man, went to the wrong house and arrested an attack squirrel. Think Barney Fyffe on LSD. But note that headline for the evening newscast on WTHR a NBC affiliate. Someone with a badge told them “Police find a attack squirrel on meth”, the news director and reporter both believed this and ran with it for the evening news. That sounds almost as bad as Dothan’s elite press corp.
“He’s not a trained attack squirrel…” Paul says. “And he’s not on meth I’m pretty sure. Better not find out he’s on meth, anyway.” He told the Washington Post that “My squirrel is babied beyond anything anyone can imagine, it has a very good life”. Don’t you just love that statement, who on earth would believe there is such a things as a “trained attack squirrel”? ( Note to self cancel subscription to Washington Post)
The Limestone County Sheriff’s Department is withholding comment, not surprising because imagine how exactly they comment on a drug raid that hit the wrong house where an attack squirrel was arrested and accused of being on meth but later had to be released. The Police academy In Birmingham that trained these officers refused to comment on procedures to arrest squirrels.
Signs and wonders the bible says.
Seeing how the big time Alabama news sites were strange, I went national. Here I learnedthat young people are growing horns. Yep horns.
I’m not joking. After perusing a few X-rays and listening to doctors interviewed describe the horn phenomena, I had to just turn off my computer.
Signs and wonders the bible says.
After a break and cup of coffee, I decided all this was just too damn weird, so I opened up the fancy new Apple news program. There I saw a tranquil picture of a moose in Alaska and clicked it. Here I learned in a borough of Alaska, which is what they call a county. A local government opened the meeting with a prayer to Satan. “Hail Satan,” the people were saying. This was too much, so I went to check on the cows.
Signs and wonders the bible says.
Jennifer Johnson, AKA the “Alabama Sodomizer”.
When I tried a news search on my phone, I learned a Alabama woman sexually assaulted an unconscious man. Apparently there was a video made of him duct taped, hand and legs bound as she….did certain things including sodomizing him while he was drugged with GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid). Certain parts of his body reportedly were in “rough shape”. Now what in the hell is in a woman’s mind to just attack a man and sodomize him ? Imagine Your this girl’s parents and looking at her mugshot on the evening newscast going out and drugging and sodomizing men in the community. You got to ask yourself where in the hell did such behavior come from.
Signs and wonders the bible says.
The world appears to have gone crazy, Alabama appears to be unsafe. I believe these are all the “signs and wonders” the bible speaks of. Hopefully, I can add a little clarity to all this, elevate the discussion to issues that really matter and document some real news, and I assure you I will not be growing horns and riding around in a truck harassing young lady reporters (Tiffany McGrath) like drama boy.
As for the “hail satan,” crowd I will just say this if the devil is seen in Henry County Alabama unlike Alaska, we will shoot him on sight.
Do we pay people for their ancestors’ being held slaves ?
Speaking before the house committee, Coates makes a compelling case for reparations. I read his piece in the Atlantic a few years ago and was moved. He speaks a hard truth this country is reluctant to face. I’m a Southerner, and I have always felt the issue got resolved at Appomattox. Slavery (the primary cause of the war despite what the lost cause crowd says) and the war, is different from comparisons to Germany or Japan and their issues of slavery/forced labor. The American Civil War had two armies, two countries and two distinct congresses at war with over 700,000 thousand dead. Additionally, the terms of Lee’s surrender were honored by the South, and that has not always been easy. Thus they cannot be renegotiated. But Coates argues on moral grounds and pushes our nation to be more than it probably is. I cannot fault him for that. He says, “That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings. That if D-Day matters, so does Black Wall Street. That if Valley Forge matters, so does Fort Pillow. Because the question really is not whether we’ll be tied to the somethings of our past, but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them.”
The Atlantic has the full text here.
Equally powerful to Coates’ argument is one made my Quillete columnist Coleman Hughes below.
For a month I have witnessed only a white sun blazing down with nearly 100 degree temps and dust, there is no rain. And it is only May. Two weeks ago one evening a death owl came visiting. I spotted him before dusk in a tree staring at me, then after a few long moments, he flew away as I raised the camera.
According to family lore, he is warning that a death is coming to the clan O’Carroll. And death did come days later; our patriarch died in his sleep. Homer Neal at 97.
With him, I think dies a part of us. Not that many of “us” exist anymore. Not the real Carrolls. We exist in the ground of this place, our bones interned, in spirit and in the memories of a few that are dwindling in number. There is a log cabin and church we built and gave to the community. But largely we are fading away into a forgotten history and being absorbed into the red clay. When all the living are gone and no on left to hold the memories of those who came before us…what then ? Do we cease to exist ? I have always questioned why we were here and why G-d gave us such deep knowledge of this place (we came in the 1820’s). My Great Uncle Homer Neal reminded me the value to knowing a place in a multigenerational way, working the land season after season year after year, father son then many grandsons down. But there are also he warned demons. With such time you begin to understand what is not obvious and lies beneath the surface of whats seen by others, the why behind it. The less you know is sometimes best, the more you know worse, you can never go back to the illusion you held.
Below are a few photographs of him, the day before he left for World War Two, the moment he came back and kissed his wife Eloise. Above the day he started being a farmer. We will miss you Neal.
Ignorance is very hard to explain. Here is how I will describe it from a local perspective. Imagine you are a well to do politician. That term is relative what would be middle class in Colorado or California is wealthy in Barbour County Alabama. Nonetheless you own your home, a nice vehicle or two. Your wife doesn’t really have to work, but sort of does. You have a few dollars in accounts and everything is paid for. Your primary concern is watching and attending football games, keeping your affair secret, and providing for your children. Several hours a day is spent engaged in thinking about what others think of you. This is what more than anything else determines who you are.
Meanwhile on the other side of town there are children that have no place to play this summer. You know a few of their relatives because you pay them to wash your bass-boat and cars. Handing them a 20 on top of a hundred you think x’s the little block of redemption to balance the inequity. It doesn’t. But consider your children have taxpayer funded boat ramps to launch their 50k bassboat this summer on the lake. Their children don’t even have a place to play.
Do something or I’ll make you a little project between now and election time.
If there is a myth of what Alabama is (outside of football), this is it’s burial ground. Witnessing hundreds of millions of dollars being spent at Auburn, it is humbling to drive just an hour west and experience the most significant example of architecture the state will likely ever produce. The reality is the next generation of Alabamians not once stopped and recognized the holocaust their ancestors perpetuated. Instead, they chose to omit it from history books and build monuments to white supremacy.
“This [the West] is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.”
Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water (Penguin Books 1980, 38)
Last fall a former professor initiated a discussion about planning’s role in forming landscapes. The argument played out on this online journal, so it was never a secret if read carefully. No one should be surprised my coming to Wyoming was in part a documentary photography project from the onset.
It was continuation of an argument in every graduate design studio at Auburn. William’s position is known, articulated in a series of books about the American landscape, East 40 Degrees and Easy On Easy Off, He holds the belief lessons learned from studying our best human efforts at creating landscapes of the past and identifying failures or urbanism can be applied to making decisions that benefit society in a top-down design approach.
I attended a class of case studies of planning decisions and their outcomes in Boston and Denver taught by Michael Robinson at Auburn University. He is a student of the unseen forces that drive development. Both these men are contradictory, living polemics in the top-down-versus-bottom-up debate that started when they came of age at Harvard with the debates of Jacobs, Mumford and McHarg.
Their challenge was to insert myself into the government side of planning where a culturally valuable agricultural landscape was at risk. Only with such first hand knowledge could I understand the reality. Williams advised me every day take one photo and analyze how decisions were made by public officials. Then document how these decisions shape the landscape over time the next several years. His prediction was I would become cynical about human nature. Robinson’s predictions were just as dark, that I would “be forced to take the side of money or not be able to politically survive completing my education”.
Naively I thought they were wrong and believed in a process that is equitable and consensus-driven. Developed in part by the government’s response to the 1961 publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities and the federal funding of land use / master plans that created or revised zoning laws. The key to good planning is transparency and an informed public guiding the process. I believed this narrative as much as those on the Titanic thought their ship unsinkable.
The way it should work is a majority of citizens make decisions on a consensus basis which prevents individual citizens to pursue self-interest with the coercion of public officials. However as one prominent local attorney told me, ”The public doesn’t get to call the shots”.My observation is to maintain public support, elected officials must mislead the public. This turns into a predictable Orwellian nightmare. The public denied information, prevents politically appointed boards to make good decisions about development. There is no lie per se, just an omission of facts and lack of transparency to the public that serves to undermine place.
Wyoming, to quote the previous head of the County Commission, Steve Shockley, is obsessed with private property rights. “We do not want anyone telling us what to do”. The commission’s two person majority denies they accepted the state statutes for example on the definition of “subdivision”. Their fear of laws and personal theories on “planning” being undemocratic seem copied verbatim from a reader’s digest version of Friedrich Hayek’s theories in 1945 “to achieve their ends, the planners must create power … so that it can be used in the service of a single plan.” It was this use of power that produced what the author of these theories would contend was an inevitable and irreconcilable “clash between planning and democracy.” The idea that consensus-driven planning decisions are taking away private property rights and is undemocratic is not healthy.
Communities across rural Wyoming were empowered through the federal and state governments funding of Land Use plans in the early 1980s were able to create plans of how they wanted counties and towns developed.
When a comprehensive land use plan developed by consensus with public meetings and used to develop zoning rules and regulations offers citizens a chance to plan their community the way they choose. Without this the process becomes manipulated by individual and political self interest.
If you ignore this process it creates a perfect storm for developers, mining operators, real estate speculators to exploit a landscape for profit. What generations have built up before them of open space, civic identity and community is erased. One need only drive south along the I-25 corridor from Wyoming to Colorado to witness the outcome of this approach.
I spent the past six months on a government contract documenting how planning decisions were made by a municipal and county government, over time I will document how these play out on the landscape.
Platte County Wyoming is not unique; it’s not a story of good guy versus bad guy, nor about corruption; it’s about a failure of process. The former chairman of the Town of Wheatland’s Planning and Zoning commission Herschel Pruitt wisely said, “When people break the rules they are doing it for only one reason; they have something to gain.”
There are three Cs of Planning — First, identify the most compelling reason to plan in your community; second, rely on collaborative approaches; third, foster regional connections.
A collaborative process allows local officials to weigh and balance competing viewpoints, and to learn more about the issues at hand. This type of open source - transparent process allows people most affected by land use decisions to drive the decisions, not a few seeking to profit from them.
Ultimately on a personal level I faced a situation where hospice had been called in for my parents two thousand miles away and if I was radically honest neither could I proceed as county planner when there is a refusal by the majority of the county commission to respect the process. It is not personal, and again I stress not a good guy vs bad guy debate, it is an ideological divide that cannot not be overcome.My ability to preserve agricultural landscapes and encourage responsible growth is best not in the role of a planner managing tension between adversarial interests but using my photography, research and analytical skills to document the results of these decisions. These landscapes are complex bio-cultural systems underrepresented but worthy of preservation.
Ultimately this will be a reflection of a place on the cusp of change, documenting how it happened in those very last days when it was still what it used to be. Perhaps as well it will encourage socially conscious planners and lawmakers to reassess their methods.
Swanson, Larry. 1999. The emerging ‘new economy’ of the Rocky Mountain West: Recent change and future expectation. The Rocky Mountain West’s Changing Landscape 1(1):16-27.
Center for Resource Management. 1999. The Western Charter: Initiating a Regional Conversation. Boulder, CO: Center for Resource Management.
Wijesuriya, Gamini, and Jane Thompson. 2016. Three people-centered approaches. Heritage, Conservation and Communities: Engagement, Participation and Capacity Building 34.
The Nature Conservancy. N.d. The Crown of the Continent. Online at https://www.nature. org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/montana/placesweprotect/crown- of-the-continent.xml.
Mitchell, Nora J., and Brenda Barrett. 2015. Heritage values and agricultural landscapes: Towards a new synthesis. Landscape Research 40(6): 701–716.
Kothari, Ashish, Philip Camill, and Jessica Brown. 2013. Conservation as if people also mattered: Policy and practice of community-based conservation. Conservation and Society 11(1): 1–15.
Everywhere you go now there are birds, willow trees are ready to explode. Rode up to the Double Four Ranch this afternoon, took a few shots out the window…of “unsullied wyoming”. I am thinking this will be my last ride in this landscape as I am needed at home. The black suit in my closet if cleaned and ready never something as children we desire to face. Its not quite spring in Wyoming but its coming…or the birds say so. And the calves certainly hope so.
Very difficult to realize one’s parents are mortal. The angel of death has visited my family repeatedly this past year taking many, some young and unexpected. My closet now has a black suit at the ready. Hospice has been called so my stay in Wyoming will be cut short.
Word from Silverton all the way to Wyoming.
Got to spend some time with the Town Council of Hartville Wyoming last night. “Unsullied Wyoming” they called it. Just good people sitting around discussing how to make their community better, so refreshing. There are very few places like this left in this country.
Yes a shipping container can be interesting and designed well.
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