An Ode to AAA in Eleven Parts

Photo by Heorhii Heorhiichuk on Pexels.com

I

Someone didn’t secure their load
Partially dissected garbage bag
Glass and metal everywhere
Sharp and pointy

I swerve
I’m lucky
No car in the other lane

A blizzard of carelessness
A cloud of swirling shards and paper strips
Objects tossed around by the whirlwind
Hitting other vehicles

II

Exits 25A–27 1 mile
I move to the right lane
To access the ramp

Ping!

The car’s computer tells me
There’s a problem with the tire pressure

Shit shit shit shit

I exit
U-turn
Park

Kick kick kick kick
Press down with the thumb
Tires seem fine

III

We have history
The tire pressure alarm and I

Last time the alarm went off
One of the tires went flat

Like a pancake

I have 55 miles to drive back home
Should I take a chance?

IV

AAA issues a dispatch
2.34 pm
Tow truck ETA 35 minutes

After an hour
I get a text
AAA won’t deduct the miles on my membership
They didn’t live up to their promise

New ETA 90 minutes

V

I buy two chicken empañadas
And a bottle of water

I take out cash
For the driver
When he comes

VI

A driver calls
You have a problem with the tires?
We need to send you a different truck.

New ETA: 90 minutes

VII

I buy a half grilled chicken with yellow rice and veggies
I finish my water bottle

New ETA: 60 minutes

VIII

A driver calls.
Can you drive the car or is it stuck?
I can drive it.
Can you drive it out of the garage?
Yes.

IX

The driver calls.
I’m ten minutes away. You can move the car now.
Are you on the west side of the garage?
Yes.

X

The best music was in the seventies.
The best concert I ever saw was
Kiss
Rochester, NY
1975.

Wow! That’s hardcore.

I really like Aerosmith too.

I saw Kiss
and Aerosmith
at Madison Square Garden.

Now that would have been a concert!

Yeah, it was great.

XI

All I paid for the fifty-five mile tow
Was the bill
I handed the driver
At 8.30 pm

Thanks to
AAA

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

__________________________________________________________

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5 Financial Tips for Contingent Faculty Who Don’t Want to Die in Poverty (Especially if They Are Women)

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Are you working as contingent faculty at a university in the United States of America? Do you identify as a woman?

Then this post is for you.

On September 1, 2013, Margaret Mary Vojtko passed away from a heart attack, probably caused by the side effects of cancer. 83 years old at the time of her death, Vojtko died destitute and on the brink of losing her home. What people found shocking was the fact that Vojtko had been a university professor, and as such she had worked up until her death, earning a meager $10,000 a year without retirement or health benefits. Meanwhile, the university where she worked–Duquesne University in Pittsburgh–charges between $50,000 and $65,000 per year in tuition depending on how the students enroll.

Part-time faculty hired on a semester-by-semester basis, collectively known as contingent faculty, is the largest employment category among university faculty in the United States, the result of a development that can be traced back to the 1970s. The salary of this employment category is based on what is known as course overload, that is to say, what a tenured professor earns when taking on courses outside of their regular teaching load, or when a professional moonlights as a university teacher in addition to pursuing their career in medicine, law, or what have you. It is very difficult to make a living on these salaries, because they are not intended to be a living wage; they were created as side income. The positions are not intended to be permanent.

The majority of contingent faculty are women and persons of color, groups that on the whole experience equity loss over their lifetimes in comparison to white men. Meanwhile, outdated gender roles and gender expectations discriminate against women regardless of ethnicity or race. Boys are educated in personal finances, girls are not. Men are in charge of family savings, investments, and credits, women are not. Men are advised to invest. Women are advised to save.

When a man dies, he is more likely to leave money behind than is a woman. When a woman dies, she is more likely to end her days in poverty because women make less money, they are denied financial literacy education, and they live longer. In other words, when a man dies he leaves money behind because his life ends before his money runs out. When a woman dies, her money has run out long before she draws her final breath.

Put all of this together and you–a woman working as contingent faculty–are at great risk of ending your life in poverty. Because of Obamacare, chances are you will have access to some kind of health insurance if you get really sick, but what about your pension? How far will your social security check take you if you have spent a lifetime working short-term employment for little pay? And no, your university will not step up and do the right thing. Universities are loyal only unto themselves. They owe you nothing, and university administrators will be the first to tell you.
But don’t despair! There are ways to make sure that you will live out your days safe and secure in your own home.

Put all of this together and you–a woman working as contingent faculty–are at great risk of ending your life in poverty. Because of Obamacare, chances are you will have access to some kind of health insurance if you get really sick, but what about your pension? How far will your social security check take you if you have spent a lifetime working short-term employment for little pay? And no, your university will not step up and do the right thing. Universities are loyal only unto themselves. They owe you nothing, and university administrators will be the first to tell you.

But don’t despair! There are ways to make sure that you will live out your days safe and secure in your own home. (I am aware that depending on your ethnicity or race, banking and investments can be more or less difficult to access. The advise I offer below is to be taken as general advise to be applied to your personal situation.)

Here are 5 financial tips for contingent faculty who don’t want to die in poverty (especially if you are woman).

1. Open a Savings Account
The easiest way to secure your financial future is to open a savings account. But not just any savings account. You need to open a High Yield Interest (HYI) Savings Account. What makes a HYI account different from a regular savings account is that the HYI account pay a much higher interest rate than a regular account.

I used to have my savings in a regular savings account. That account paid a monthly interest of 0.0499%. I then switched to a HYI savings account which at the time paid a monthly interest of 0.9%. After the Federal Reserve has increased its interest rates, my HYI account now pays 2% per month. My old savings account is still paying 0.0499%.

Not all banks offer HYI accounts, so you need to do some research. I have my HYI savings account with Discover. That’s right, the credit card company has an online bank branch.

But how can I talk about savings accounts when contingent faculty barely gets by on the salary we are paid?

First of all, everything that has to do with accumulating money is done over the long term. Money accumulates over time, sometimes over a very long time. In Swedish, we have a saying that many small creeks fill up a whole river (“många bäckar små blir snart en hel å”). Money works the same way.

I save 10% of everything I make, regardless of the source or the amount. That 10% goes straight into my savings account. Add to that the interest paid by the HYI account. On top of that, add the compounded interest, or interest on interest. You will literally see your money add up in front of your eyes. Also: Interest is free money.

2. Invest in the Stock Market.

Wait a minute! Invest in the stock market? Can’t you see what is happening right now?

Yes, I see what is happening on the stock market right now because I have invested in the stock market.

There are two reasons why I am not panicking over the fact that my entire portfolio is in the red. First, in the words of Suze Orman, you haven’t lost or gained anything on the stock market until the moment you sell. I am not selling anything for many years yet.

Second, I am dollar cost averaging. The guiding principle for investments in the stock market is the same as for the HYI savings account. You invest small amounts of money in the same stocks regularly over a long period of time. In stock market speak, this is called dollar cost averaging. By dollar cost averaging over a long period over time, the ups and downs of the stock market will even themselves out. By dollar cost averaging, you can start small and increase your investments incrementally at a pace that feels comfortable for you.

Choose an online platform for your stock market investments. That way you handle all your investments yourself, you don’t have to deal with a broker, and you don’t have to pay that broker commission. I am using TD Ameritrade as my online platform for investing in the stock market. TD Ameritrade is great; however, they don’t offer the service where you can dollar cost average into more expensive stocks by buying slivers of that stock.

Third, I am investing in the stock market because of the dividends, not the profit. Dividends are payments companies make on a regular basis to their shareholders. And just like interest, dividends are free money.

All my stocks are enrolled in what is known as DRIP, or Dividend Reinvestment Plan. When a stock is enrolled in DRIP, the dividend is automatically reinvested in the stock that paid the dividend. It is dollar cost averaging without having to lift a finger using free money.

The goal with this type of long-term investment and reinvestment is to own enough stocks for the dividends to provide for you. Companies pay dividends to their share holders regardless of what state the stock market is in. Right now, my entire portfolio is in the red, but now is also the time of the year when quarterly dividends are paid. In other words, I am buying stocks on the cheap using free money. And I am not selling any stocks for many years to come.

3. Invest in Your Retirement.

Not all universities enroll their contingent faculty in their retirement programs. If your university makes retirement payments on your behalf, check and see if the payments are made into an investment account. If they are paid into an investment account, make sure to invest that money. Here, being familiar with the stock market will help you.

Regardless of whether your university pays into retirement or not, the payments you will get from social security and your employer will not be enough for you to live on, simply because the salaries of contingent faculty are so low. As contingent faculty, a good option for retirement savings is a Roth IRA, which is a retirement investment account where you pay taxes on the investment amount and not on the pay-out after you retire. All major investment firms offer Roth IRAs.

4. Get Your Own Credit Card and Learn to Manipulate Your Credit Score.

A fallacy when it comes to credit cards is that all users of a credit card earn credit for the purchases made on the card. This is not true. Only the credit card holder earns credit. This belief is a major financial trap for women across generations who are in heteronormative relationships and co-users on their husbands’ credit cards. In those situations, all the purchases and payments benefit the husband, and no one else.

If you don’t have your own credit card, you need to get one. There are credit card companies who offer credit cards specifically for people with no credit who need to build credit. That is how I first became a Discover customer; as an immigrant I needed to build credit, and Discover offers one of these cards.

Once you have your credit card, you will start to build your own credit, which results in a credit score. The credit score is an insidious way to keep us all in debt, but unfortunately we are forced to live with it. It is the credit score that determines the interest rates on our mortgages and loans, some employers look at credit scores before they make a hire, utility companies and cable and internet providers look at your credit score before they decide what rate you will be paying for your bundle.

There are ways to manipulate the credit score in ways that benefit us. The easiest way is to pay off your card once a week instead of once a month. Once again, it is the small amounts that add up and become something big. Also, check and see if your credit card allows you to pay off the principal of the debt in addition to paying off the monthly amount which includes the interest.

5. Educate Yourself.

Growing up, boys and girls are treated differently when it comes to handling money and learning about money. Boys are taught early on to be the providers, to make investments, and to handle money. Girls are taught none of that because the girls are supposed to be taken care of by the boys. This attitude towards gender and money hurts women and girls and robs them of agency and control over their own lives. This attitude is why women end their lives in poverty while men die with money left over.

As contingent faculty, we are among the highest educated people in the world. In the global university system you can’t get a higher degree than the PhD, which is the minimum requirement for teaching in many academic disciplines.

Treat your finances as you would a research project and educate yourself. So much amazing financial advice is available for free, but I will narrow down my recommendations to two podcasts.

The first podcast is the Financial Feminist, hosted by Tori Dunlap. Tori Dunlap is a theater major turned millennial financial adviser who is on a mission to dismantle the patriarchy by teaching young women how to become rich. Dunlap’s podcast is filled with life hacks such as how to manipulate your credit score, how to investigate your personal anxieties surrounding money, how the financial sector is stacked against women of color and the LGBTQ community, and so much more. Dunlap has her first book coming out later this year titled Financial Feminist. Overcoming the Patriarchy’s Bullshit to Master Your Money and Build A Life You Love. Needless to say, I will be buying Dunlap’s book.

The second podcast is the Women and Money Podcast, hosted by Suze Orman, a giant and veteran in the field of financial advise. Where Dunlap’s podcast is geared towards young women, Orman speaks to women over 50. Here you will get advise on what to do with your Roth IRA, your social security, questions about real estate, wills and living trusts, what to do if your husband died and left you with nothing, and a lot more. On her website, Suze Orman sells her discounted package of must-have documents, such as power of attorney in cases of medical emergencies, and her book The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+. Buy this book even if you are nowhere near your 50th birthday.

I listen to both Financial Feminist and Women and Money because they speak to the issues women encounter during different parts of our lives. Dunlap teaches me life hacks while Orman teaches me what to do so that I can live out my later years safe and secure.

One final thing…

Securing your financial future takes time, effort, and commitment. But, if there is one personality trait that we as women academics have, it is tenacity. If we can dedicate between five to ten years of our lives working on the same book or dissertation and not give up even though we sometimes despair, then we have the strength, the intelligence, and the wherewithal to become financially secure, especially since we all too often have no one on our side but ourselves.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

____________________________________________________________

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Midsommar. More than Just a Horror Movie.

Every year during the last weekend of the month of June, Sweden celebrates one of its biggest holidays, Midsummer, or “Midsommar.” This year, 2022, Midsommar is celebrated on June 24 and 25. It starts on the evening of June 24 with Midsummer’s Eve, or “Midsommarafton,” and continues with Midsummer’s Day, or “Midsommardagen,” which is a national holiday.

Sweden’s celebration of Midsommar was little known to the world before 2019 when Midsommar, the horror and psychedelic thriller movie by American director Ari Aster went up in the movie theaters. Midsommar is the story about Dani and Christian, a young couple on the verge of a break up who travel to Sweden to attend a once-in-a-century Midsommar celebration in the village of Hårga in the region of Hälsingland.

The location of Hårga is not a coincidence. Hårga is a real place, famous for two things: a legend that involves the Devil and a Swedish piece of traditional folk music called “Hårgalåten.”

First written down in 1785, the Hårga legend tells the story of a dance held outdoors in the summer, which in itself is not unusual; entertainment in the form of formal dances held outdoors is a common thing in Swedish history. But at Hårga, the legend tells us, the music was interrupted when a stranger arrived carrying a fiddler in his case. He began to play and wouldn’t stop until all the couples had danced themselves to death. The stranger with the fiddle was of course the Devil.

“Hårgalåten” is one of the most famous pieces of folk music in Sweden. Artists from all genres have covered and interpreted this piece of music, from musical artists and jazz artists to the death metal band In Flames. Originally an instrumental, “Hårgalåten” is sometimes sung with lyrics telling the story of the Hårga legend.

In Swedish folklore, Midsommar is a night of magic. Research archivist Tommy Kuusela at ISOF (the Swedish Institute for Languages and Folkore), writes on the institute’s blog that Midsummer’s Eve was believed to have been a night of magic because the midsummer solstice marked the transition between spring and summer with summer also being a transition period between sowing and harvest.

Kuusela writes that during this night it was believed the veil is lifted and it becomes possible to look into the future. One way of doing so is to pick seven different types of flowers before going to bed and sleeping with these flowers under the pillow. The flowers will make your dreams predict your future, specifically who you are going to marry. Another way of seeing the future is to fast and not speak during the whole day, and walk the fields at night. The future will then reveal itself to you.

Magic during Midsummer also manifested itself in plants and morning dew. Medicinal plants were believed to be more potent during this night, and the morning dew that fell on Midsummer’s Day was believed to be beneficial to good health and harvests. So, if you stole your neighbors dew and poured it over your own fields, your harvest would be more plentiful than theirs. If you wanted good health for the coming year, it was recommended that you rolled around in the dew. But the dew only works its magic if it touches the skin, so if you want to get a dew miracle cure, you need to roll around on the ground naked.

Midsummer is also a night of evil. The lifting of the veil makes it possible for witches, trolls, and gnomes (“tomte”) to move about. And because the sun doesn’t set, or the night never really gets dark because the sun is below the horizon for only a few hours, when you walk the fields in search of visions of the future or picking flowers to place under your pillow, you are exposing yourself to danger.

All this taken together shows that Midsummer magic is fertility magic. Fertility magic draws on both life and death. For there to be life, there needs to be death. Harvests grow from the soil. The roots of the plants that grow reach into the chthonic realm, that is the realm of the dead, and because of this connection between what is above the surface and what is below, fertility becomes both good and evil.

Seemingly the most obvious example of fertility magic during Midsummer is the Midsummer pole (“Midsommarstång”). The Swedish Midsummer pole looks a phallic symbol. On the day of Midsummer’s Eve, people get together to decorate the pole with leafs and flowers. When it’s done, they raise the pole in an upright position. Then, people dance and sing around the pole.

Raising of the Midsummer pole, Västra Tunhem, Sweden. Film: Erika Harlitz Kern

Because of the look of the pole and the singing and the dancing, Midsummer is sometimes referred to as a pagan ritual that somehow has survived in Sweden into the modern day. The truth of the matter is a bit less enticing. According to ISOF, the Midsummer pole’s origins in Sweden are difficult to trace, but a convincing case can be made for it having been brought to Sweden by German immigrants in the fifteenth century. In other words, the origins of the Midsummer pole in Sweden are neither ancient, pagan, nor native; it’s a medieval import. The tradition to dance around the pole can only be traced as far back as the eighteenth century.

Stories of magic, evil, and the Devil are plentiful in Swedish folklore and are often connected to major holidays such as Midsummer. Daylight is a scarce commodity in a country that divides the year into a winter half and a summer half. Even though Midsummer is a celebration of the light of summer, the Midsummer solstice is also celebrated with the knowledge that winter is coming and that the days will now quickly grow shorter.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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In Remembrance of Forests Past, Or How Aimless Wanderings Will Bring You Back Home

The street where I grew up ends in a dead end where the ground drops off into a ravine. The drop is steep, and as a child it scared me. Other kids in the neighborhood would hurl themselves tobogganing down into the precipice after it snowed, but I always opted for the gentler slope of the footpath next to the ravine, which connects the dead end of my street to the lower parts of another street a few blocks away.

I love to walk to explore. But living in South Florida where everything is built to accommodate cars rather than pedestrians, and where the climate makes parts of the year difficult for outdoors activities, the opportunities for aimless wanderings are limited.

When I went home to visit over the winter holidays, I made up for this by walking for hours, going wherever my feet–or indeed, someone else’s–would take me.

Standing at the dead end, I started down the gentle slope of the path of my childhood’s tobogganing to where it connects to a footpath across the ravine that on the other side meets the embankment of the railroad that runs behind all the houses on our street, ours included.

There was snow on the ground the day I decided to go all the way down to the bottom of the ravine, enough for the ground to be frozen and tracks to be visible, but not too much to make walking difficult. As I traversed the ravine, I discovered that someone wearing thick boots had gone there before me. The path and its tracks wound deeper into the ravine, downwards, always downwards, taking me closer to the railroad, and then further away, until I found myself at the bottom, where a creek gushes forth through the railroad embankment, strong, confident, and with such force that ice could never settle on it.

The name of the creek is Kvarnbäcken, or Mill Creek, and it runs from Lake Botered on the other side of the railroad to Lake Vänern, the third largest lake in Europe after Lakes Ladoga and Onega in Russia, and where town is.

At the bottom of the ravine, I lost track of the boots, but instead I picked up another set of tracks.

A fox’s paw prints.

I couldn’t tell where the fox had come from. Perhaps from the other side of the railroad. Or maybe it had crossed the creek, using the concrete of the embankment’s foundation as a bridge. Nevertheless, I could tell the direction in which it had been headed.

I decided to follow the tracks of the fox to see where they would take me.

The fox must have been a creature of comfort. Instead of blazing its own path through the trees, it followed the footpath as it wound its way through the forest along the banks of the creek. Together we walked, the fox in the past and I in the present, in the same direction as the gushing water. And then we reached an up slope in the ravine.

There was a small rapid here, making the creek jump down a step or two as it bent to accommodate the slope. Across the rapids were narrow planks, covered in snow and ice. The fox had easily trotted across, but I would have to wait for another time when the footing was safer.

Photo: Erika Harlitz Kern

I said goodbye to the fox and climbed up the slope where I found myself in the parking lot of the tenement building at the bottom of the street that connects to my street through the gentle footpath of tobogganing past. Here began a shorter, level street, that moved away from the ravine.

I walked all the way to the end of this street, took a right at the hillock I always thought unremarkable until my Dad showed me that it is a fort from World War II, and found myself at another dead end. I was back at the ravine. Here, the even braver children would go tobogganing on the footpath that hurled itself into the precipice. The challenge was to control your toboggan mid-flight so that you could turn with the footpath and not end up in the creek or break your leg on the ruins of the mill that has given the creek its name.

I started down the hill, remembering the times I had tried to navigate my bicycle up and down it, never succeeding entirely. Downwards, the slope made it too difficult to steer. Upwards, too difficult to pedal. Or the time when it rained so hard that parts of the path washed away and you couldn’t ride a bike at all, and when you walked you had to jump over the furrows as if playing the floor is lava.

Where the footpath turned, the ruin and the creek greeted me. The ruin silent, overgrown and covered in snow, the creek roaring onward, down towards the lake. In the summer, the creek is silent, almost dry. In the winter, not so.

Here were more rapids, larger, steeper, rambunctious, covered in foam. It’s the perfect place for a mill that runs on water power. A neighbor once went to the local archives to learn more about the mill. He traced it to the eighteenth century. Maybe it’s older than that. The hollow road that leads to it through what remains of the forest that once surrounded it bears witness to a time of activity in these now empty woods. The school nearby, where I went, my sister went, my Dad and Uncle went, and for a short while one of my cousins, is expanding. Houses are being built everywhere. The town is expecting more people to move in now that the trains to the city run more often.

I saw the changes from where I stood next to the ruined mill. This used to be old forests, gravel paths, ponds with frogs and salamanders, cow pastures. Now, the trees were gone. The footpath was closed off and had become part of the schoolyard. The pond was overgrown, and the cows grazed elsewhere. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring when the four Hobbits set out for Rivendell, I always imagine in my head that they walk through the pastures and the trees along this footpath, next to the creek and the ruin. I look at the changed landscape before me, and I think of Sam and Frodo and what they felt when Saruman took over the Shire.

I continued down to the banks of the creek where there was another bridge across the rapids. Though this bridge was also covered in ice and snow, it was wider with a railing, so I walked across and climbed the slope on the other side.

At the top of slope, I discovered a lean-to and a fireplace with logs for seats surrounding it. I saw traces in the snow everywhere. Boots from several people. Tire tracks. Coals and ash in the fireplace. But no garbage. From growing up here, I knew that the boots were from teenagers in the area and the tire tracks were from mopeds.

Unsure of what to do next, I saw that someone walked away from this party, through the forest in the direction of the railway. I decided to follow.

My eyes fixed to the snow, I walked together with this new stranger through the trees and up the slope where I once again reached the railroad. To the right in the distance was the creek, the embankment with the fox’s tracks, and beyond that the dead end where it all started.

I listened for the hiss in the metal rails that signal an approaching train. The rails were silent, and so I crossed. On the other side, the tracks continued down the slope, through more trees, and then I walked out onto a field. The tracks continued in a straight line, past the watch tower for the moose hunt, no stopping, no meandering. This person was headed somewhere (home?) and knew how to get there.

At the other end of the field was the highway, the E45 that runs in a north-south direction from the Swedish Arctic to Sicily in Italy. The E45 used to run through town, like roads did before heavy traffic. Since 1991, the E45 by-passes the town and instead, it cuts through here, adding noise to our up-until-then tranquil garden, leveling yet another ravine where I struggled to handle my bicycle, shifting the small gravel road that for centuries had run through the farm from which our neighborhood got its name.

On hot summer days in kindergarten, we used to go swimming in the lake where the creek begins. Sometimes we would drive there in the teachers’ cars, other times we would walk and be pushed in carts. The walk took us through trees and along a gravel road with clover growing along its banks and along fields of oats. Ripening oats smell sweet in the sun; they taste sweet, too.

The highway changed all that. The gravel road disappeared. The oats were replaced by fields of grass. You could no longer drive across the railroad behind our street, and so the neighbors we used to have on that side were no longer our neighbors.

The construction of the highway all those years ago confused my inner geography to such an extent that when I reached the other end of the field and stood at the wildlife fence watching the stranger I had been following walk through the gate in the fence to cross the road, it took me more than one moment to realize what I was looking at.

It was another one of the forts from World War II.

We used to walk past this fort on our way to the lake. Back then, nobody cared about it. It was in the middle of nowhere. The only people passing by were people like us, on our way to go swimming. Or people like the ones who one time had left their empty bottles behind and what looked like a blood-stained shirt.

When the highway was built, I lost track of the fort. I had no idea how to get back to it. And yet, here it was. Suddenly, my inner geography snapped back into place. Standing there by the fence, I knew exactly where I was because I recognized where I once had been. I also realized something else I had never known. Walking to the lake in the summer with the teachers and other children, I had always felt that I was far from home. But standing there next to this fort as this December-day moved towards its rapid, early-afternoon end, I realized that my house was very close.

With the setting sun to my back, I followed the wildlife fence along the highway, following nobody’s tracks but my own. When I reached the steps of the house, I came from the other direction from where I had started. My aimless wanderings had taken me in a circle back home.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

__________________________________________________

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A New Dawn

Today for the first time since August 13, 2017, I have changed the header photo here on The Boomerang. The previous photo showed three concrete pillars from World War II built to stop the advance of Nazi-German tanks. I posted that photo in defiance of the white supremacy march on Charlottesville, VA, the pillars representing indestructibility in the face of totalitarianism. I promised myself that I would keep that header photo until there had been a change of executive power, no matter how long it would take.

Today, that day has come.

The new image is a photo I took of the sunrise from my patio. We have much work to do now and in the future, but today marks a new dawn.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

_____________________________________________________________

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