Sam Burnham, Curator
The polls closed in Georgia at 7pm on Tuesday night. There were a few extensions due to irregularities, Spalding County specifically. But for the most part, all ballots were cast by 7.
The the votes started being counted and sent in to the office of the Secretary of State. Out in the far reaches. Among the peanut fields, the pecan orchards, and in every valley in the state, the totals came in.
New England, Georgia is in northern Dade County. Like the rest of Dade, New England is cut off from the rest of the state by Lookout Mountain. It is a relatively remote place. There’s. No grocery stores or restaurants in New England. It’s a quaint place with some good people but it ain’t fancy or modern.
But their votes are in.
St. George, Georgia sits in the “Georgia bend” of the St. Marys River down in southern Charlton County. It’s cut off from the rest of the state by the Okefenokee Swamp. I’m not sure you can get a good cell signal there. My understanding is that broadband internet isn’t available there. They are surrounded on three sides by Florida.
But their votes are sitting at the state capitol waiting to be certified.
I could go on and on about these towns and counties, Parrott, Santa Claus, Talking Rock, Rising Fawn, Dixie, Willacoochee, all have their votes in. Echols County has not one single incorporated municipality in the whole county but you know what they do have? Yep, they have their votes in.
in 96% white and reliably red Walker County and 62% black and reliably blue Randolph County, the votes are in. Black votes, white votes, Hispanic votes, male votes, female votes, and even votes by immigrants from Burkina Faso have all been sent in.
So all of these places that bougie folks in Atlanta look down upon have their votes in. You know who doesn’t have their votes in? Fulton and Dekalb counties. The two closest counties to the state capitol are still trying to get things together. Sure, the population is high but that hasn’t stopped Cobb, Gwinnett, Muscogee, Chatham, or Bibb counties. The state has a high tech system to streamline things. Those “yokels” out in Taliaferro didn’t have any glitches. But the home of the Fernbank Museum and the Centers for Disease Control might have their votes in by Friday.
So I ask the question. Who are the backwards folks here? Who are the rednecks, the hillbillies, the hayseeds? If Echols County were to build a planetarium would they suddenly lose all competence in running an election? Would a busted pipe in a storage room cause cause a three day delay in vote counting in Butts County if they converted the prison into a private university?
For now the rest of the country waits for Fulton and Dekalb counties to get their act together. Among those waiting...the other 157 counties of Georgia.
Sam Burnham, Curator
So I had this dream the other night. I’m not sure which part is the weirdest but I think I found a message in it. Let me tell the story, don’t try to get too partisan in the analysis until we get to the message part. Just enjoy the weird story.
I’m sitting in an airport terminal. I’m pretty sure it was in Atlanta but I’m not sure. It was far nicer than Philadelphia but not as cool as Denver. It could have been anywhere else, I guess. Let’s just say Atlanta. Don’t get distracted.
Anyway, I’m sitting there with one of my sons. I’m not sure why it was just the two of us waiting to board a plane for Hawaii. There’s really no reason for the two of us to be going to Hawaii without any other family members. Hey, you’re getting distracted again. Pay attention here because it’s about to get weirder.
So I’m looking out the window at the vacant jetway waiting for the plane to arrive. Of all people, Barrack Obama walks up and sits down next to me. We just start talking. No introductions, no greetings. We’ve known each other for years, so it seems. In reality I don’t know him from Adam and he sure doesn’t know me. We agree on almost nothing politically but he’s a cool enough guy and were just shooting the breeze. We’re talking about simple stuff, regular people conversation stuff, common ground stuff. Don’t get distracted by specifics.
Then it hits me. My old pal Barry here grew up in Hawaii. It’s like home to him. He’s not going to Hawaii. He’s just sitting here hanging out with my son and I while we wait on our plane. He’s got nothing better to do and his Secret Service detail can get him through the TSA checkpoint. So I ask if he wants me to bring him something back. Yes, I know he’s got a lot more money than me and if he wants something from Hawaii he can jump on a plane and go get it. That’s not the point. I’m going. He ain’t. If he wants a fresh pineapple or one of those dancing hula girls that you sit on your dashboard, I’ll bring him one.
The dream trailed off as he chuckled humbly the way you do when you’re declining an offer to bring back a gift that you really want. I’ll find him something. It’ll be nice but it won’t be Hula Bowl tickets. Maybe a tiki head penny bank.
Anyway, that’s the story. So here’s the message. The outcome of this election is political. Our everyday lives shouldn’t be. If we can’t carry on conversations and even friendships with people we disagree with politically, then we need to take some emotional and intellectual inventory. We need to think about the weight we put on things. Politics should absolutely divide us ideologically. Politics should never divide us personally. If I can bring Barrack Obama back an ashtray shaped like Diamond Head, you can be civil to folks across the aisle from you.
Take the election outcomes for what they are. Live your life regardless of them. It’s ok to be a decent human if your candidate loses. This is my 7th presidential election. The candidate I voted for has won twice so far. I have yet to resort to violence over it. It’s not the end of the world. We don’t have to become savages. We can watch Magnum P.I. Reruns and pretend we’re in Hawaii souvenir shopping. We can talk to old friends. We can make new friends. They can disagree with us. We can disagree with them.
Oh, and Aloha, y’all.
Sam Burnham, Curator
A weathered old barn sits across a field. The structure is easily visible from the highway. Despite the impact from decades of soaking rain and blistering sun, “See Rock City Today” is still visible on the tin roof. The locals pass by with hardly a thought of it. To them it’s just part of the landscape that is home, no different than anything else along a barely changing roadside.
But this scene is becoming more rare. In places where shopping centers and subdivisions have replaced family farms this scene seems either idyllic or obsolete. It all depends on who you ask.
For those embracing the idea that progress means development the field and barn offer opportunity, potential, and an open door to the future. Land has a monetary value and the right plans can maximize the return on investment. The numbers shift with considerations for commercial, industrial, or residential development. Under the right circumstances a landowner could become a multimillionaire overnight. That’s a hard offer to pass up in exchange for an old farmhouse, a weathered barn, and some odd acres of dirt.
That’s how developments like Gwinnett Place and Town Center forever changed the culture of their respective communities. Skyrocketing real estate prices and encroaching development caused small homesteads and farms to fall like dominoes. The land became much more economically productive. Thousands of jobs were created in shopping centers and freestanding stores, restaurants, and bars. A single family home or a stand of trees would be foolish on such valuable land. There’s a lesson there on the power of markets but that’s for another day.
Back at the barn we have that hint of nostalgia. Oh to return to a time when barns were plentiful! But the barn wasn’t built for aesthetics. It had a purpose. Perhaps it still serves its purpose. Barns house livestock, feed, equipment...it all depends on the farmer, the farm, and the barn. Such a versatile structure added some more income when Garnet Carter paid for advertising space on it and Clark Byers covered them in messages.
The ad campaign combined with a love of the past and fond memories make these particular barns more than ordinary. Really, any old wooden barn will bring those emotions. The Rock City (or Ruby Falls, Sequoyah Caverns, etc) barns seem to carry an extra punch.
The imagery broadcasts to our emotions. We think of human scale, simpler times, dirty hands, clean money, rugged individualism, self-sufficiency. Those are the qualities that built the aesthetic. We see a surviving barn and we think of it as loyal, reliable, industrious, thrifty - all good characteristics. They are the traits we hope to see in ourselves. But are we really looking for those traits? Has the aesthetic become so strong that it’s enough to admire the barn without expecting to live up to the traits themselves?
I’m asking these questions as on a clipboard rather than a chalkboard. I ask as a learner rather than a teacher. Over the past few months I’ve asked myself many of these questions. 2020 has given perspective. I want to grow from that. It’s a chance to build an aesthetic like the barns have. If we really believe in the principles, embracing them fully should be a natural reaction.
What drives the aesthetic? How do we get there ourselves? Will this help us preserve the people, places, things, and ideas that we love?
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire