Happy Independence Day: In the land of the free, we still must choose to be free

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Fairhope, Alabama — I am blessed to have Bella docked just down the bluff. If I am sitting in my study contemplating the cosmos, it takes just 10 minutes to drive down the hill, park right to Bella (no mooring balls or harbor master needed), jump aboard, fire up Bella’s inboard, set lights and radios, cast off lines, navigate the channel, and cut the engine, and start hoisting sails. I’ve rushed and made it in less time.

Tonight’s 2022 fireworks display was cancelled due to threatening weather until just 15 minutes before scheduled showtime. When the weather cleared and the show become a “go,” I still had time to make a last-minute decision to go out to enjoy the show on Bella.

Firework displays are plentiful around Mobile Bay and so bursts of light play out across the horizon. Fairhope fires its display from a pier and the shells may literally burst above the boat so that ash rains down\

It’s also spectacular because our little town puts on a big city show. The quality of the fireworks display is second only to the every-changing flower displays about town in determining the success of a mayor’s term in office.

We have none of the deep problems that plague urbanity, and we are rural enough to enjoy fresh locally grown food and seafood (especially crab and shrimp) harvested and sold by local fleets.

People don’t lock their doors, crime is nearly non-existent, the polo fields are green and lush, and the children are all above average (well, at least all the children in the local International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

People are exceptionally polite. This is partly due to culture and partly due to the fact that people are well armed. We have only peaceful protests. Any mob would be quickly dispatched by citizens used to keeping the peace after storms We fund our police here and are quick to help them. People are respectful and appreciative of their first responders. They are fellow citizens and treat others as such.

Children and teens still say. “Yes, Sir” and “No Ma’am” to strangers.

The women can be spectacular. They hold leadership positions (the last two mayors have been women) and minorities — found in all socio-economic classes — are fully integrated into the fabric of the culture and community. It’s not perfect, of course. There’s still work to do, but our minorities are cherished as part of our gumbo culture.

Art and music play an important part of that culture. Well know authors and other artists abound. We also nurture local artists. On the 4th, for example, the town hosts our local Baldwin Pops orchestra, set up on the bluff to play the 1812 Overture (sorry, no virtue signaling at the expense of Tchaikovsky here).

Today’s tropical weather is an exception to our normally spectacular weather. Except for August,  or when tropical systems threaten, the weather is fine for year-round sailing and for walking on long sugar-white sand beaches. If you know where to go, those beaches and dunes are also deserted.  I can talk walks on the beach and not see another soul.  We have four seasons if you squint a bit at what we call winter. The air and water circulation patterns keep us substantially cooler and less humid than other places on the Gulf Coast (and much cooler and drier than New Orleans). We get a couple weeks where flowers must be protected from frost and freezes, and we get the occasional dusting of snow.

Hurricanes?  We endure, and then clean up and carry on. They can be both destructive and function to strengthen community cohesion.  We take care of ourselves, but also look out for our neighbors.

Frequently named as one of the South’s best places to live, our only challenge is growth. We have mini-rush hour now where rural roads can get crowded. Parking downtown (no meters of course) can get sparse at times.

This is not an accident. People must choose to live free. They can choose to see America is a glass half full and filling or they can be destructive and divisive to themselves and others by dwelling on America’s flaws and scars.

Fairhope is in a deeply red state and county, but the town is an artist refuge and writer’s community known for being purple. A former New York Times editor-in-chief lives here. Fairhope has even voted for a Democrat in a recent senatorial election.

Like undisciplined children. people can whine about their rights, or perceived entitlements, or they can roll up their sleeves and pitch in to construct instead of merely deconstruct society.

Why do people choose to live in crowed places, live in places hostile to freedom, live without individual capacity, and responsibility, live where places where anger is a persistent form of impotent virtue signaling, or live where they are manifestly neither safe nor able to protect their families and interests?

I have traveled the world several times over and I have lived in wonderful cities like Boston and Paris, and yet the answer to my question eludes me.

Yes, I know the standard answers. Education, work, opportunities. All of that is fair, and a part of life. People don’t always end up in their ideal spot. Ultimately, however, we must choose where and how we want to live.

I am thankful life led me here and that I made good decisions about where to raise a family so that they might enjoy all the richness of life.

May God bless our men and women who guard American freedoms, and may God bless those who work to make America a more perfect union striving to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity!

[Author’s note. With a good bit of the local fleet of sailboats and powerboats out on the water — some anchored, some maneuvering about — it was too dangerous to turn my attention away from the helm to film this year. Accordingly, I am posting a clip from last year.]

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