I was born and raised in the small town of Hickory, NC (pop. 50,000) – at least until the start of 7th grade when my mother remarried and the family moved to Savannah – and I found myself returning here to live in 1999, after 20 years away, when my wife and I decided it would be a good place to raise our two children. There are a lot of good reasons to live in such a quaint community, but if you happen to be artistic and creative, progressive and irreligious, it can be frustrating and stifling as well. Typically finding myself in the minority with my views, I find myself questioning the validity of my own thoughts, which after a while causes me to wonder whether I have a voice at all. It’s not like I expect everyone to think and act the same – after all, that would be boring as hell, wouldn’t it? – but I do expect a little more consideration and respect for viewpoints that go against the majority thinking, particularly when that thinking determines and shapes policy that impacts us all, whether we agree with that policy or not. As Sherwin Nuland, National Book Award-winning author of How We Die and How We Live, puts it, “You know what everybody needs? You want to put it in a single word? Everybody needs to be understood. And out of that comes every form of love.”

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