Don’t ignore warning signs.

 

Why do people so often ignore blatant warning signs, either metaphorical ones or real ones?

Consider, for example, the Dexter Underpass:

Image Source: Historic Bridges

“The bridge over Dexter-Pinckney Road was designed in 1890 by Frederick Blackburn Pelham, the first African American to graduate from the University of Michigan in engineering. But it might never have been built if Warner’s cow hadn’t calved on Sunday morning, March 20, 1887.

When Warner didn’t show up for church, his parents, Dennis and Martha Warner, became concerned. That afternoon they walked from their house in the village toward Charles’s farm, which he had taken over from them years before. As they began to cross the tracks, the Michigan Central’s Limited Express roared around the curve at forty-five miles per hour. Dennis Warner made it across, but his wife did not. “Mrs. Warner evidently became slightly confused, hesitated an instant, and just as she stepped from the track was struck by the pilot of the locomotive, throwing her head against the cylinder, crushing her skull and killing her instantly,” reported the Dexter Leader […]

The accident cast a “pall of gloom over the entire community,” reported the Leader. After the funeral, held at the Congregational church on Fifth Street, townsfolk began petitioning the railroad to build a bridge at the crossing. At the time the Michigan Central was making improvements all along the line, and the railroad assigned Pelham, a young civil engineer whose specialty was bridge building, to design new bridges over the road and over Mill Creek. Both elegant stone structures are still there, the latter behind the fire station at the end of Warrior Park.

[…]The Dexter underpass was the most unusual of the twenty bridges that Pelham designed in Michigan because of its skew arch, a design used when bridges are not perpendicular to crossings. Before putting in the stone arch, the workers dug under the rail bed and put in a temporary wooden frame…Stone bridges were the best available at the time for durability, strength, and easy maintenance, but only wealthier railroads could afford them.”

As you drive toward the bridge from either side, about a mile out you see a sign warning you that there is a low bridge ahead. Then, half a mile out you see another sign warning you about the low bridge ahead. Then, as you approach the bridge…well, here is the picture I took from my minivan earlier this evening:

Dexter Bridge

Image source: The Sunshine Thiry Blog, 03-06-15

 

 

That’s right, there’s a third warning sign, and the height of the bridge is prominently displayed on the underpass as well. Nevertheless, driving home from a church event last Saturday, we came upon this:

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Image source: The Sunshine Thiry Blog, 02-28-2015

 

That’s a semi truck wedged under the bridge, with an enormous tow truck backing up to it. The fire department was out there, too; my youngest daughter wanted to know why the firemen couldn’t spray soapy water on it or spread peanut butter around it like you do when you get gum stuck in your long hair.

Lest you think this is a one-off occurrence, here are pictures of a few other recent similar events at the Dexter Underpass:

2012.  Image source: The Ann Arbor News

 

 

2014. Image source: MLive

Warning signs are there to help you avoid catastrophe, not to be a wet blanket on your super fun life.  But it’s like people just refuse to listen to warning signs on principle now.

“I’m offended you’d even suggest that I might want to take another route around that low bridge! Low bridges are a constraint on my freedom! I shall plow right through, mind over matter! I just gotta be free to be me and do what I do, and I’m a high-overpass kind of a person!”

It never ends well; man-(or woman)-versus-reality contests usually don’t.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Tapping my first sugar maple tree.

I finally had a chance to tap one of our sugar maple trees today; ideally this would have been done a week or two ago because, according to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, tree tapping should be done in mid-February in lower Michigan and the first week of March in the Upper Peninsula.  According to Tap My Trees:

Sap flows when daytime temperatures rise above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit / 0 Celsius) and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. The rising temperature creates pressure in the tree generating the sap flow. This is basically a transfer of the sap from the tree above the ground and the root system below the ground. The sap generally flows for 4 to 6 weeks, with the best sap produced early on in the sap-flowing season.

Usually we are seeing daytime temperatures above freezing by now, but this year has been record-breakingly cold, so I’m hoping March 1st isn’t too late to tap, given how cold the weather has been here.  It’s been so cold that despite leaving one bubbler on in our pond, it has nevertheless frozen all the way over:

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My husband will have to cut through the ice in a few places so that the fish won’t suffocate.

To tap my first tree, here is what I did.

1. Get a 7/16-inch drill bit.

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2. Measure 2.5 inches from the drill tip and mark it with a little piece of tape; you want the hole you drill in the tree to be 2-3 inches deep.image

3. Get a spile and hook (I bought mine at Family Farm and Home):

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4.Slide the hook’s ring over the spile so that the hook faces out:

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5. Drill a hole on the south side of your maple tree, about three feet off the ground and either over a large root or under a large branch.  Angle your drill so that the hole you drill slants slightly upwards:

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6. Insert the stile into the hole, tapping it firmly into place with a hammer. Hang the bucket on the hook:

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7. Slide the lid’s bar through the holes in the spile:

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8. Empty sap bucket as needed; the sap should stay good for about a week as long as you keep it cold, after which you’ll need to boil it down into syrup:

The sap should be stored at a temperature of 38 degrees F or colder, used within 7 days of collection and boiled prior to use to eliminate any possible bacteria growth. If there is still snow on the ground, you may keep the storage containers outside, located in the shade, and packed with snow. You can also store the sap in your refrigerator, or for longer term storage, in your freezer. Remember that sap is like milk, it will spoil quickly if not kept cold.

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A maple tree of this size should yield around ten gallons of sap, which can be boiled down into one quart of maple syrup.  If the sap is flowing, I’ll collect it all week and then make maple syrup next weekend.

The theory of feminist devolution, BBC edition.

We’ve already discussed how feminists have pretty much corned the market in vagina-based art. Now they’re bringing that feminist je ne sais quoi to the highbrow stage of the BBC for a concert of feminist music.

Oh no! you are surely thinking. Not singing vaginas!

Well, no, but that wouldn’t have been much worse:

Ah, I needed a laugh tonight after the day I had and predictably, feminists were good for providing that laugh. (H/T MarcusD at Dalrock’s)

You know, now seems like a good time to repost with minor edits something I posted a little over a year ago on a now-private blog. From The Theory of Feminist Devolution:

I read this Soda Head quote at the Thinking Housewife recently:

…leftism is in and of itself a form of decay. It’s what happens not just to television shows but to nations, churches and universities as the energy given off by the big bang of their inception slowly ebbs away. Rather than expend vitality in originality and creation they become obsessed with introspection, popularity and lethargy. Leftism is entropy of the spirit and intellect.

In other words, leftism is devolution.  I’m using devolution in the sense of something that evolved (changed) over time to become great and then decays away, but let us also consider the bonobos.  From Wikipedia:

Along with the common chimpanzee, the bonobo is the closest extant relative to humans.

Personally?  I believe in the Bible, so I’m mostly a creationist (and don’t hassle me about the “mostly” part, fellow Christians. I studied under both Richard Alexander and Barbara Smuts, so I’ve had a long way to come in getting over my darwinist roots).  But let’s say that we were created by God in similar genetic groups and one of the non-human animals most similar to humans is the bonobo.  What do we know about bonobos?

The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior. Sex functions in conflict appeasement, affection, social status, excitement, and stress reduction. It occurs in virtually all partner combinations and in a variety of positions. This is a factor in the lower levels of aggression seen in the bonobo when compared to the common chimpanzee and other apes. Bonobos are perceived to be matriarchal and a male’s rank in the social hierarchy is often determined by his mother’s rank.

Bear that in mind as we consider how feminism has influenced women, both religious and secular.

Recently a reader who had been raised Mormon sent me a link to this article: Mormon women laid bare: Powerful nude photo series protests religious system that enforces strict modesty.  From the article:

With the goal of ‘normalizing nudity,’ a new photography project featuring naked Mormon women hopes to shed light on the religion’s strict codes of modesty.

Salt Lake City photographer Katrina Barker Anderson, who is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, launched Mormon Women Bare in July 2013 and has so far had more than 30 Mormon women volunteer to be photographed.

‘I know that images can be very powerful tools for change,’ the 30-year-old told MailOnline. ‘For the women who chose to be photographed, this act of artistic expression helps them reclaim their bodies while protesting a system that has told them they must remain covered and careful.’

I clicked over to Mormon Women Bare, to which I will not be linking, and read the following from the creator:

Mormon Women Bare is about reclaiming. It is about women reclaiming our bodies from a culture that teaches us that we belong to men, to God, to the society that objectifies us. It is about reclaiming the female body as more than just an object of lust or resistance. Through images and personal stories, this project breaks taboos by unabashedly showing what is supposed to be covered- our female form- while also exposing  the often not talked about price of a culture that places a woman’s ultimate value on her so-called “virtue”.

My reader, though now Catholic, was nonetheless very angry and wrote:

They aren’t faithful Mormons. They remain Mormon only because of the culture and are openly not “true believers” as they put it. They want to change a religion they don’t even have faith in. And as is evident in some of the images many of the women photographed in that series are either formally Mormon or not in good standing (because they have tattoos and piercing). Parading these women as Mormon is false and damaging. It’s also degrading to actual faithful women and the church and culture. These women are fakes! How dare they act as if they are the real deal representing the church and her people.

I would say they don’t just want to change it; they want to destroy it by devolving it.  I’ve noticed the same tendency in Christian women who try to break (or have broken) into the pastorate.  It isn’t about religious convictions; it’s about seeking power for themselves in order to destroy the institution.

This desire to destroy by devolution isn’t limited to the spiritual realm.  Consider this article from Salon:

Meet the world’s most famous vaginal knitter: Performance artist Casey Jenkins talks to Salon about her decision to knit with yarn inserted into her own vagina

Casey Jenkins didn’t realize more than 2.5 million people would see her vagina. But that’s what happened after a segment she shot for Australian broadcast network SBS was uploaded to YouTube last week. In the video, the feminist performance artist is shown knitting from a ball of yarn she’d inserted in her vagina. Pulling out a thread, the wool having been wound in such a way that allowed it to unravel from the center, she then proceeds to knit one long, unbroken scarf.

She’s talking via telephone from a laundromat in her hometown of Melbourne. It’s the first free moment she’s had to wash her clothes since returning from Darwin where she performed her now viral piece, “Casting Off My Womb,” at the Darwin Visual Arts Association. In it, Jenkins spent 28 days in a gallery knitting from the skeins she’d placed inside herself. She explains that the project wouldn’t have had the resonance it did if she’d paused when she began menstruating, but concedes it made the process more difficult “because the wool is wet and you have to kinda yank at it.”

At the Darwin Visual Arts Association…how fitting.  Women’s Art, under the influence of feminists, has devolved from this:

Catinou-Knitting-Anna-Elizabeth-Klumpke

Catinou Knitting 1887, Anna Elizabeth Klumpke.

To this:

Bonobo inspired art, circa 2013

Her motivation, she says…was a response to the societal expectations heaped upon women of childbearing age — a weight that increases in intensity as the years tick by, which can result in a building sense of panic. “There are a lot of very extreme and loud and clambering responses whenever you try and talk about menstruation or the vulva, or what a body like mine can and should do. I wanted to quiet down all that noise or move away from it to a point where I could spend some time contemplating what I want to do with my own body,” said the 34-year-old.

Oh dear, she’s in her mid-thirties and childless.  Could this explain her desperate need to call public attention to her barren womb? Is this just a bonobo-like attempt at a mating call?

The other reason for the piece is a bit more far-reaching. Jenkins’ work has long been concerned with questioning and subverting the conversation around the vagina and its place in society, as well as what constitutes women’s activities — in this case, knitting — which has led to the kind of sexist responses one might expect from armchair critics. While “Casting Off My Womb” was well received when Jenkins performed it in Darwin (“The people there, they call a spade a spade and a cunt a cunt”), it has raised the hackles of many an Internet denizen; the deafening roar of disgust and disbelief lead SBS to disable the comment field of the YouTube video. “I think that there are misogynistic attitudes toward the vulva, and there’s widespread repulsion in my audacity to show it. And then there are also misogynistic attitudes toward knitting, as it’s associated with something that women do,” she explained. “There is a dissonance between the two. They’re both constructs, patriarchal constructs … and people don’t know what to do when they walk together.”

Yes, she is partially correct in that last bit there; patriarchal constructs do include the elevation of feminine virtue and modesty and revulsion at women who behave like bonobos.

Genesis 3:19 says

…till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Darwinists might have their own religious-like way of putting it:

till  you return to the bonobos, for out of them you were taken; for you were bonobos, and to bonobos you shall return.

As for me, all this has led me to conclude something we might call the Theory of Feminist Devolution:

Feminism causes women to devolve, as evidenced by their art, into a bonobo-like state.

 

Blizzards and Brunch.

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The snow’s coming down pretty hard, nearly everything is cancelled for today and we can’t go anywhere…which means a long and leisurely brunch chez Thiry.

imageHomemade chocolate chip pancakes are the perfect blizzard brunch comfort food. I’ve posted my pancake mix recipe elsewhere before, but I thought I’d post it again now in case you too are stuck at home today and need a brunch suggestion. Heck, chocolate chip pancakes are even perfectly acceptable for dinner, in my opinion.

Sunshine’s Whole Wheat Pancake Mix

  • 6 c whole wheat flour (use white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour if desired)
  • 3/4 c sugar (but I use a little less)
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1 T baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  1. Combine ingredients in a large bowl; mix very thoroughly.
  2. Store in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator.
  3. To make pancakes: whisk together 1 cup of mix, 3/4 milk, and 1 egg.  Heat griddle to 375 degrees F.  Use 1/3 c batter.   Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips or drop in some blueberries if desired. Makes about 5 pancakes.

Not everyone needs all those carbohydrates, though. Personally, I’m skipping the pancakes and having a slice of frittata instead:

Oven Frittata

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 T half-and-half
  • 1 c grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese (really any cheese will work), divided
  • 3-4 slices cooked, crumbled bacon
  • 1/4 c sliced fresh green onion
  • 1/2 c garden salsa (homemade is nice, but Pace or some other brand is fine too)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat eggs and half-and-half with a wire whisk in medium bowl. Stir in salsa, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the crumbled bacon and the green onion.
  2. Pour into greased 9-inch pie plate; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  3. Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Sunshine's oven frittata

Sunshine’s oven frittata

 

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Sensible precautions for single young men and women who want to protect their futures.

Just recently I gave some advice to young women which can be summarized as follows:

Young women:

  1. Don’t have more than one drink.
  2. Don’t go back to a young man’s room with him. That’s not just slutty; it’s also dangerous.

Now a recent news story from my alma mater prompts me to repeat that advice to young women and offer the following advice to young men:

Young men:

  1. Don’t have more than one drink.
  2. Don’t take a young woman back to your room with you. That’s not just caddish; it’s also dangerous.

 

Three young people, all with ruined futures. Nevermind about the he-said-she-said. Nevermind about feminists and men’s rights activists. These two young men and one young woman were young, they were foolish, they were just doing what everyone else was doing, and now their lives are trashed.

Don’t take that chance, young men and women. There is no fleeting pleasure in a drunken hook up that makes it worth the risk of potentially being raped or having a false rape allegation brought against you.

Biblical sexual morality: it’s not just right and holy. It’s also sensible and safe for both women and men.

Winter daydreaming about spring planting.

We’re in the winter doldrums here in Michigan, where by 8:00 in the morning the sky has lightened to a dull grey and by 4:30 in the afternoon, the dim light is fading into dark once more. Snow blankets the land, the trees are brown, the fields appear lifeless, and nature rests.

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Today’s view from the edge of our woods with our neighbor’s farm in the distance.

Being a person who loves solitude, I am unbothered by being home mostly alone today while the children are off at various activities (and bless my husband’s name for volunteering to take eldest daughter to her volleyball tournament today).  The flour and sugar and chocolate chips are out on the counter just waiting for the obstinate butter to soften so they can be turned into cookies. The laundry is caught up and the pond ice rink is shoveled, which means I will spend this grey afternoon daydreaming about one of the things I love most to do – gardening.

I love every aspect of it – composting, digging, pulling weeds, starting seeds, making containers and beds, growing flowers and fruit and herbs and vegetables. Previously all I was limited by was space, and that limitation has now been lifted, allowing my imagination to run wild. This is the one thing I really use my Pinterest boards for, which is where I found a lot of the daydream images I will post here.

Sunshine’s garden daydreams:

1. Build stairs down the back hill

Our home is built into the back of a hill, which makes for a really nice walkout basement but doesn’t make for easy landscaping. The hill down from the front of our house to the back is just lots of oak trees and some grass that is growing poorly and allowing erosion to occur.

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Standing next to the garage, looking down the back hill.

As soon as we moved in I began planting hostas that I divided from the overgrown front garden and some lemon thread cypresses that I got on clearance for $5 at Lowe’s at the end of the season:

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These lemon thread cypresses I planted should eventually grow to be about five feet tall.

 

lemon thread cypress

Example of a full-grown lemon thread cypress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When spring comes, I will build steps down the back of our hill similar to these ones I found on Pinterest:

What I will do is buy composite decking boards and cut them to about 32 inches in length. I will use 16″ aluminum flashing  that I’ll bury half way to form the border edges of the walkway and then bury the cut composite deck boards half way and fill in each “step” with pea gravel. I’ll probably line the walkway with rocks I find in our woods and plant ferns among the rocks to give it a natural, woodsy feel and to help control erosion.

2. Plant a raised herb and fruit bed.

I will use cinder blocks, as they are very cheap to buy and also easy to find for free.

Directions for mosaic cinder block can be found at Delicate Construction.

To make the mosaics, I’ll use liquid nails and stone tiles which the previous owner had left over from retiling the kitchen floor and left for us:image

I’ll construct the raised bed by lying the cinder blocks on their sides so the pretty mosaic faces out and the holes face up, allowing me to plant strawberries in them.

 

 

 

 

 

3. I will turn the garden shed into a secret hideout in the woods, sort of like this one but less shack-like:

What garden shed in the woods? you may be thinking. Well, that is actually a funny story…

The people we bought this house from did a lot of great work inside the house, which truly looks beautiful, but they really didn’t keep up with the grounds very well. You see, when you build your house in the middle of the woods, the forest is always trying to reclaim it. You are in a very real battle to keep the wilds of entropy from reasserting their dominance over your temporary cultivation. When we bought this house, everything outside was very overgrown, and we dove right in to cutting it all back, pruning and weeding (including my husband “weeding with a chainsaw”) and bringing back a sense of order, much to the chagrin of all the little woodland snakes that had gotten used to a peaceful existence on every walkway and in every overgrown garden.

Now, the woods along the driveway were so thick that you couldn’t even see into them, but as the leaves began to fall in October, we started to get a glimpse in. One day my husband was hacking back some scrub while I was mowing when I caught sight of a flash of brown and white deep in the woods, down a little hill, off to one side of the driveway.  I turned off the mower and tried to get a look.

“Phil,” I called, “there’s something in the woods down here!” He looked up with concern, wondering what the “something” was – we’ve got coyotes on our land and, astonishingly, saw a bobcat once – and if he should run up to the house for his shotgun.

He walked down to where I was and began using his implements of order to chop into the brush.  I didn’t get pictures of it then, but here is the view today from where I was standing:

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Can you spot the shed in the distance?

 

In the middle of the woods we found this utterly charming little shed, its existence apparently forgotten by the previous owner, who never mentioned it to us:image

Inside it has a window in the back and a loft up under the pointed roof. It’s sort of useless as a garden shed since it’s a bit of a hike down a hill and through the forest to get to it, but as a secret hideout for reading, drawing, and daydreaming, its potential is unparalleled.

Philip cleared a temporary path, and I began building a pallet walkway to it, like this one:

I ran out of pallets and then the weather turned bad, but I’ll resume working on it in the spring. Pallets, which have a nearly unlimited number of ways that they can be upcycled, can usually be had for free if you go to hardware or home improvement stores and offer to haul away the old pallets stacked up behind their business.

These are just a few of my many garden daydreams. In the spring, I’ll begin documenting here which daydreams I turn into reality. Now I’ll leave you with a few more daydream images:

 

When it comes to urban farming and renewal, “left” and “right” are mostly useless political terms.

Recently I attended a lunch hour talk given by Drew Philp, a young man who is a fellow University of Michigan alum, a journalist, a home renovator, a teacher, and an all-around renaissance millennial man. His talk was based on an article he wrote last year which was published on BuzzFeed entitled Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500:

After college, as my friends left Michigan for better opportunities, I was determined to help fix this broken, chaotic city by building my own home in the middle of it. I was 23 years old.

Being the young, idealistic, U of M educated sort, I’d say Mr. Philp probably considers himself fairly liberal, whereas I consider myself an orthospherian sort of reactionary. Nevertheless, I found much to admire in this young man and had a brief, interesting chat with him about urban farming after his talk. He told me that Detroiters he knows have had their goats taken away due to Michigan’s recently-passed (and signed by our Republican governor) regulations denying Right-to-Farm protections to small scale farming in urban and suburban areas (i.e. your backyard chickens are no longer protected by Right-to-Farm laws; also, see this interesting article: Right to Farm protection denied for Michigan farmer’s goats, greenhouse).

He also wrote about an incident that exemplifies something I too have noticed:

One of the [United States Social Forum] events I did see was a march staged by professional protest coordinators who had come in from California opposing Detroit’s trash incinerator, the largest in the United States. It’s located in Poletown. We have an asthma hospitalization rate three times the national average. If you would like an inside look at Detroit’s Third-World level of corruption, a good place to start is the incinerator. You can safely say there is a culture of corruption in your city when the top two politicians, including a former mayor and city council president pro tem, have been, or are currently in, prison for corruption, racketeering, and the like. One former city councilwoman allegedly requested a bribe including 17 pounds of sausages.

The protest would march down Detroit’s main thoroughfare and past the incinerator, presumably raising holy hell and sticking it to the man. They needed a place to stage the making of the props — hundreds of spray-painted sunflower pickets, miniature incinerators, signs. One of my well-meaning neighbors offered The Yes Farm, an abandoned apothecary where we occasionally staged art and music shows.

I guess no one saw the irony in cutting down real pine trees to make fake sunflowers. Or that a protest to demand clean air would use so much aerosol spray paint. But the real irony came when the Social Forum was over and it was time for the out-of-towners to leave for the next protest.

“What are you going to do with all this stuff?” we asked.

“Why don’t you just recycle it?” they said.

“Where?”

They left it all in The Yes Farm and split, leaving it for us to deal with. Now we had another pile of trash to clean up and nowhere for it to go. So while they were gallivanting off to the next good deed, that shit went into the incinerator and into our lungs.

Gee, annoying liberal white people, thanks for adding to the pollution of Detroit’s air. Image source

Our Republican governor had no problem removing Right to Farm protection from small scale urban farmers, and Democrats and other leftists have no common sense and are not only useless but actively make things worse, as Drew’s protest march anecdote demonstrates.

I don’t know the answer, but there’s got to be another way. The left and right – conservative and liberal – ideologies in this country are not serving us well. Conservatives have sold their souls to capitalism and liberals have sold their souls to debauchery and destruction, but both sides seem to love the rebellion against kith and kin that democracy always seems to bring wherever it lands.

What I admire about young men like Drew Philps is that they have become relatively apolitical; they no longer seem to trust that the government will necessarily make wise decisions, and they aren’t waiting around for government and capitalism to solve everyone’s problems. Drew told us at the talk that most of them try to stay off local government radar because it just ends up causing headaches and they just want to get stuff done. They don’t want to govern, they don’t want to march, they don’t want to protest.  They want to work, they want to build and rebuild, they want to plant and grow.