The spirit of my people is wedded to this land.
The bones of my Ancestors lie in a small churchyard in rural Kentucky, a place without cell phone reception and filled with people who may have never seen a plane fly over their heads. There, among those secluded stones, rest nearly every one of my Kin that walked the clays, sand, and dirt we now label the United States.
Generation after generation, all brought to one place, and practically holding hands in union. I can remember setting eyes on it that first time, walking up a hill 860 miles from home to witness the collected essence of the streams my heart rowed upon.
My family is an old one, migrating from Germany to Pennsylvania in 1650, nearly fifty years before the Seminoles ever set foot in Florida. In one generation they moved to the hills of Kentucky, becoming farmers and staying put until my own Grandfather became enamored with palm trees and bright, sunny weather.
We would fight in the Revolutionary War, one of the many families that believed enough in a life without England to kill for it. We would soak the roots of the Republic in blood again in the Civil War, fighting on the side of the Union to break the back of the Confederacy.
One of my greatest joys is to remind my fellow Southerners that my grandpappy whooped their grandpappy’s ass. Regularly.
From there we would serve in nearly every conflict the American flag called for: we died in a cloud of poison gas, went island hopping in the Pacific, helped to establish the DMZ, came back from Vietnam alive, and even aided our first misadventure in the Middle East. The women in my family would inject much needed education and sophistication all throughout, as well as an Italian passion to smooth out the rougher edges of a farmland upbringing. My great-grandmother brought her children a love of Spirit and a taste for intelligent discourse, a gift my grandfather was kind enough to foster in me.
To say my family, my Ancestors, are tied up in the history of this Nation would be an understatement. We made this country, in every sense of the word, and plowed the farmlands of Kentucky before it even existed.
Which is why I plan on being here long after it’s gone.
There are those I know that have made a calculated decision to leave these shores due to an increasingly oppressive political atmosphere sprouting up like ants at a picnic. I cannot blame them, and the benefits they’ll gain from joining other societies or continents as refugees are very real: better healthcare, cheaper living, and a much needed repose from the violent, chaotic existence we call American living.
Let me preface all this by saying I do not look down upon those who relocate. For many the risks are too great, the rewards too good, and the history not worth saving.
Who could argue? A cursory view of the United States leaves the eye wondering just what should be spared from the torch.
But there will be plenty of beautiful words and vibrant essays written for those on the way out and those soon to join them. As my kin did in 1650 so shall theirs, and their names will be perhaps whispered in tones of wonder. How brave were these immigrants, to leave all they knew in the hopes for a better life? New songs, new words, fresh fashion. There will be, if the migration is ever large enough, entirely new cultures born from the communities of these immigrants just like the colonists of old.
Further may I say these words are not a song of praise or hope for the tottering giant we call the United States, a nostalgic look at the Stars and Stripes that once spread across two oceans and threatened the world with nuclear apocalypse. Unlike my forebears I view these relics of civic religion with nothing but disdain, symbols of a sport I never liked and never planned to play.
But I’d like to take the time and perhaps share my feelings on the matter, for my own peace and those like me who either stay by choice or by gravest necessity.
My people didn’t just hold anchor in Kentucky because they were fond of hills and good green earth. Until the end of WW2 rapid relocations to far-away places, while fashionable, were not widespread. My Grandfather relates a tale from his time owning a car dealership in Florida.
“I was heading out with these two guys from Lakeland to Sarasota to check out some cars, and the whole time they were just looking around like they were in another country. I thought it was the damnedest thing. Eventually I asked them what the hell they were looking at and they ended up telling me they’d never been out of Lakeland. Ever. Can you believe that? Sarasota is just 60 miles away and they had never been. Families lived their whole lives that way.”
When my wife and I ended up making the pilgrimage to the Ancestral burying ground we encountered the same thing, folks that had never seen a mixed person let alone anyone quite like ourselves. We were aliens, creatures from some distant planet, and spoke in foreign dialects that immediately marked us as outsiders. Many people, due to economic neccessity, cannot go anywhere. They must stay because where there are is all they have. Generation after generation may remain in the same town, content to see the starlight pour through the same trees it did one hundred years ago.
When I think about all my Dead up in those hills, and that it was only in the last 60 years our blood ever meandered outward it boggles the mind. In a way I’m an immigrant too.
My Grandfather’s schooling as a Louisville lawyer certainly rubbed off on me, but my soul sprouted up out of the barren sands of Boynton, not blue grass; my spirit jumps much quicker at the sight of swampland then any sign of elevation. I love oppressive, Jurassic heat and consider anything below 60 to be the most vile of torments. Mushroom Teachers have revealed to me Florida is the land my body was designed for. I am as much a part of the natural environment as a gator or garfish.
Even if I one day were to magically become independently wealthy it is this sense of place, this kinship with the land, that will always keep me here.
Sense of Place, something far removed from modern Leftist thinking. If I followed the theories currently in fashion I’d dispense with every piece of me deemed “provincial” to be like the others, to better fit in with the collective. But why? Stirner notes “In uniqueness [Einzigkeit] the contradiction is solved; the national is my quality. But I am not swallowed up in my quality — as the human too is my quality, but I give to man his existence first through my uniqueness.” To deny the ecosystem that defines my magic and erase the history that flowers on my Ancestral altar is to dispense with a part of me, a part of my Unique. I can revel in it and not be bound by it, no more threatening than my preference for biscuits over cornbread.
I can’t pretend I’m not tied to this continent like kudzu vines on oaks in Ocala. So I won’t. Because I like me and I like here.
I like the sound of gun fire and how it makes my hands shake, I like the strum of a blues guitar made to whine with a broken bottle neck, I like the smell of pork jowl cooking with greens, and I damn sure love the taste of alligator tail served with fresh swamp cabbage. I like the climate, the wilderness, and the spirits that whisper between them. I like the bright color of the sun as it hits the top of the pine trees over the plains of the State’s interior and I like the darkness of a thunderstorm straight from the sea as it swallows the skyline like an angry fist.
Everything about this Land I love, just as my people have since before it was the United States. My magic weaves and flows from the dirt under my feet. That magic will continue to exist long after I and whatever political machine might claim to own me disappears. My family has outlived administrations, watched corpses of neighbors and friends pile up, and even killed for the ability to be here. I do not intend to leave.
Perhaps many of you feel no kinship for the land around you, but remain out of necessity. Maybe a tree is a tree to you. But for those of you that must stay I invite you to take another look. Go down to your nearest forest and smell it, take in the plants that grow there and feel them in your hands. Just like you they share a unique existence, a spirit all their own. Softly ask to get to know them and in your quiet places you will hear them speak.
Attune yourself to the passage of the seasons, the dance of the clouds and rains as it pertains to your locale. Consider what food you enjoy that might be alien somewhere else and summon up energetic memories locked tightly in the cells of your lungs.
Breathe the land around you, take it in, and feel it’s spirit come alive.
That Spirit has existed before this country and will continue to do so long after we are all dead.
Look into the histories of your Ancestors and drop whatever colonist narrative you might have been told to adopt. Consider for a moment most of these people came here fleeing something, the same thing your brethren now wish to do. Touch the tears on your grandmother’s table, drink the words of your grandfather written in ball point pen on the back of a photograph. Look onto your past as a living river coursing the landscape. How did these interactions shape them, you, and whatever future actions you might undertake? If you can’t move away I advise you to become acquainted with the natural neighbor you may have never bothered to meet, the silent friend who watched your family grow for generations.
What trees heard your grandmother sing, what waters put fish on the table when all else failed?
All this is to be surrendered because of one man, one threat, even one ideology?
The future is indeed as bleak as it is uncertain, and easy answers are as difficult to come by as home-grown apples in Miami. There is health, family, and a host of other issues to consider and many of us would not wake up on this continent if some distant forebear hadn’t made the same decision many will make today.
I have no movement, no leader, and speak only for myself. I am a Florida Conjurer who has not yet traversed the globe or sat under redwoods on star-lit Pacific nights. I cannot claim to have seen it all, done it all, or even so much as touched all of what I aimed to say with these words.
But for me and my family the United States, though large, is but a slice of our history; Florida too will have existed under the Spanish flag, one of six, longer than the American colors until 2050. My family’s roots run deep and are imbued with spirit, each person a byway and gateway of past and present, potential and probability, pecans and persimmons on trees of living memory that have bloomed for generations.
Astra inclinant, sed non obligant: the stars incline us, but they do not bind us. You may have all these things and still walk away.
But not I. No, not for all the money or safety the world could provide. It is here I will make my stand, here I will wage my war.
Not for any country but the dirt of my graveyards.
Not for any flag but the spanish moss waving gently in the breeze.