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Freedom's Wildfire

Freedom's Wildfire


2022 rolled in as the elusive hands of time clicked into place, marking another trip around the sun. We crawled out of the soot, shook off the gritty remnants of a year gone by and exchanged our grievances for resolutions we had no intentions of keeping.


Although much of this past year felt like we were standing still, waiting for the perpetual ball to drop, we welcomed back a life moving forward as the world reopened. Our shared experience in the fragility of our own mortality somehow left our communities and our country evermore divided and seemingly on fire.


The politics of a free world came crashing into our lives, whether invited or not. Democracy; the land, the myth, the legend. The Great Experiment of our forefathers unraveling to the beat of journalistic sensationalism and the evolutionary human need to survive, and of course, be right.


Being right morphed into something no longer recognizable. It was no longer about truth and provable details as a world of 'alternate facts' became the petri dish of discourse and conspiracy. A mob mentality spun out of control, leading mankind down a dismal and burning path of consequence over integrity as people pledged their allegiance to a man, over their country. Disregarding the very flag that allowed them a choice, they coveted a golden idol as though the world they dreamt of were literally in his hands.


Over 1.1 million people in the United States died from COVID[1], and in true American tradition, the masses took to the airwaves to discredit a man who simply stated the facts. A scientist with nothing to gain and everything to lose relayed his expertise and like a bucket of water to a growing flame, it all went up in smoke.


Coming out of a pandemic hibernation felt more like climbing out of a cave, our eyes squinting as we struggled to see clearly. A collective celebration of survival and triumph would have to wait; after all there were more intensifying things in need of our attention.


Taking a giant step backward in time, the white-washing, mansplaining patriarchy and its supremacy flipped the vernacular of its supposed enemy and used it to justify the banning of books and the teaching of actual history simply because it did not fit their personal narratives. Snatching up the word 'woke' from black culture and using it as the blade to a sword designed to instill fear, aging white men and naïve millennials coddled it like a newborn. Bending and twisting its definition into something fictional, they raised it into an empirical threat, warning the masses that because of it whiteness was on the brink of extinction.


From supply chain issues to rising grocery costs to the unrelenting climb of oil prices, everyone scrambled to point the finger and blame anyone, except the real cause. Greed. A true American pastime, greed built this country and its powerhouse legacies. It continues to rule over Congress, political parties, corporate entities and even our neighbors.


We learned an election, like a single strike of a match, can conjure an unyielding blaze that will destroy everything in its path. Leaving the 'every man for himself' mentality to fester, down to the last dollar and the paper it's printed on, it becomes the fueling ember to the holy grail of survival.


The Supreme Court of the United States, once the respected and honored last word on the interpretation of our sacred Constitution, cast itself into the limelight of politics. Sailing across the bench and into the pockets of those in power, they tossed out precedents like breadcrumbs to an overgrown trail. Quoting the defender of marital exemption in cases of rape, the Supreme Court of the United States used the words of Chief Justice Matthew Hale, of the King's Bench, to justify stripping women of their autonomy. American women stood stunned at the border of equality watching our bodies again become the property of men as though the 1600's had somehow reemerged through a smoke-filled mirror.


The twenty-four-hour news cycle moving at the rapidity of quickly tapping fingers, even the speed of light cannot compete with an ever-changing gossip and rumor mill being dispersed through technology.  Everyone's wrong, everyone's right, and everyone claims to be winning. Our failure to recognize that two wrongs never equal a right, no matter who benefits from it, has cloaked an entire country in an interminable wildfire.


The masses demand freedom while simultaneously sacrificing the same for others, like pawns on a chessboard. Each wielding and threatening free-will like it belongs to them, and them alone. Demanding less government, while supporting its interference into the lives of those deemed unworthy, becomes the juxtaposition of a more perfect union. Our collective right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remains an oozing ulcer that continues to hold our world hostage and our planet tilted on its axis.


Yet in the ash, rising above the smoldering shrapnel of an invasion, we watch a tiny country stand united in its desire to remain a democracy. No one could have predicted an unlikely leader, freely elected by a people, would one day arm each of them and stand fervently beside them in the war-torn streets where their homes once stood. Together and steadfast they continue to sacrifice their very lives to keep hold of that very precious ideal that Americans have long taken for granted.


A combined allegiance to a country, to a flag, has long carved the messy details of a history steeped in righteousness and wickedness. The virtue of society resting concurrently and unsteadily on the shoulders of integrity and dishonesty. Whether or not the change it brings has been for the greater good or a greater power remains to be seen.  


When you light the yule log and greet the new year ahead of us, may you remember all those before you and all those with you along this ever-winding road. And may we all wake in the morning to the warmth of family and find freedom still outside our front doors.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html

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Day Four Roadtrip 2021

Heading out the following morning around 10am, we filled up in Powell at $3.23 a gallon and drove straight to Heart Mountain to learn about one of the 10 American concentration camps during World War II. An informative and enlightening experience unfolded as we discovered the realities behind the 'relocation' and 'internment' of thousands of American Citizens.


The 'camp' was nothing short of a prison, detaining 14,000 people with Japanese ancestry from August of 1942 until November of 1945, two months after the war ended. Not learning much about these relocation centers in the American public schools I attended, I was quickly reminded America's past is never that far behind us. Lurking in the shadows of a forgotten history are the thick scars of oppression and bigotry. Creaking along a cogwheel system of habitual entitlement, the belief of race superiority doesn't lie dormant in the pages of long ago, it still screams loudly among us.


Using the fear sparked by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt and his bigotry reigned supreme, as he and the media spun a web of prejudice to convince the nation of the many dangers to come if these Japanese citizens were allowed to roam freely.


Immersed in the self-guided tour, it didn't take long to recognize the recycled rhetoric still used today. The divisiveness it creates, allowing the rampant white supremacy ingrained into the fabric of our country to fester.


Although the thousands of imprisoned Japanese at Heart Mountain, and the other 9 'relocation centers' in various states, were not tortured, or murdered, they were definitely not treated like humans. The barracks were constructed in such a way that 6-8 family members shared one room, as barracks were divided into small sections inside. Toilets were installed side by side without privacy partitions.


During the early months of filling the camps with prisoners, food was sparse. Many came from their homes thousands of miles away, forced to leave their businesses and homes behind. Later, prisoners were granted permission to grow gardens and construct a root cellar. The hospital, kitchen, housekeeping, and laundry were all staffed and ran by those forced to live behind barbed wire and armed guards, for no other reason than their ethnicity.


Wondering about the property we ventured to an original barrack that had been recently donated back, (most were sold, or torn down after the facility closed). The reconstruction of the divided rooms speaks volumes to how difficult it must have been to pack 8 family members into one small space. The hospital and boiler room are still standing, though crumbling to the point they are not accessible to anyone. I was able to get a few inside photos from outside windows that are now covered in cage wire.


Much to my surprise the Japanese were not the only ethnicity targeted during WWII, over 11,000 Germans and 3,000 Italians were also detained, labeled 'alien enemies', though many were citizens. Finding myself faced with this very real and blatant human rights violations, I quickly realized how much has not changed in the United States. This grand American Experiment in democracy, cradling its ideals of freedom on worn and faded parchment, have yet to come close to realizing them.


Adventures filled with unknowns and small surprises often make the journey more desirable. Sometimes, not so hidden in the hills of dust and time, we find the gaping wounds of America's own atrocities, still oozing beneath the scar tissue of our self-appointed privilege.


May we all seek the answers beneath our truths, offer light to those left in the dark and wield kindness like a sword upon those we disagree. May we also wake each day with gratitude when we find freedom still outside our front doors, and spread love along this ever winding road.



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