So here’s a question: Why do you live here?
That’s not a rhetorical question by the way. I’m serious - why do you live here? There’s got to be a reason even if it is just as simple as family and familiarity.
I remember doing long-range patrols in Afghanistan in part to do what we called “village assessments.” Basically, we would try to get a snapshot of life in remote villages in part to find out if they had any interaction with the Taliban or Al Qaeda holdouts in our area, to gather up what is often known as passive intel that gives us a clearer picture of the area of operations. But the secondary purpose was to see if there was something we could do to better the lives of the villagers. I remember talking to a village elder somewhere in the middle of nowhere and when I got past the get-to-know-you-I’m-not-going-to-shoot-you phase, he began to tell me how horrible everything was: "the Taliban blew up the school building … the mosque needs a new roof … it has not rained in many months so the crops won’t grow … the bombs were dropped on our fields and killed many goats … the well has run dry … " and on and on and on. It came to the point that I finally held up my hand to stop him and asked him through my interpreter, ”why do you live here?” He could not believe that I would ask such a question. It was his home. It was where his father and grandfather had lived.
If you love a place and call it home, great! I find no fault with choosing to stay where you love even if it's not the best of the best. But I swear, every once in a while, I read what some of the pundits around Alabama have to say and I wonder: why do you live here? If it's that bad, go to California. But you know the opposite is really what’s happening. You heard me. More people are moving to red states like Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. If you recall, everyone was surprised by the census numbers because it was thought that Alabama would drop in population and lose a seat in Congress. No sir, quite the opposite. In fact, it was California and New York that wound up losing seats in DC because of declining populations.
I have a friend that I was talking with the other day. She and her husband moved here in the last few years from sunny San Diego. I asked what made her move from a place that they had lived in for so many years. She said it was two things: ”Freedom and Cost of Living.” She said that when the realization came that she and her husband had reached the ability to retire, they recognized that the level of restriction and taxation on life in California was such that they could pay their bills, but they wouldn’t really be able to enjoy their hard-earned retirement. So, they loaded up the truck, hitched up the boat, filled up the cars with gas and headed to Alabama. She said that they really thought about putting a sign on the back of the U-Haul that read "leaving Commiefornia!..."
They’re not alone. Another couple in my church moved here under similar circumstances, and as an attorney, I did a closing a few months ago for a man who was moving his entire business here from California. He bought a multimillion-dollar home with cash, so you know that he had resources. But he literally said, "I’ve got to get out of there. That state is taxing me into the ground."
Well, ya’ll … Welcome to Alabama, where your rights still mean something, the property taxes are the lowest in the nation, and freedom is more than just a word.
I’ve lived all over the world and there’s no place I’d rather be. My family has deep roots in Alabama but the military had us travel quite a bit. I’ve lived in Germany, England, Kansas, DC, Mississippi; and here in Alabama I’ve lived in Huntsville, Mobile, Gadsden and worked in Montgomery. I’ve served and visited multiple other countries and come to appreciate what’s here. Growing up with my father in the Army meant some flux but every other tour saw us back in Huntsville to work at Redstone Arsenal. My grandparents were here. I graduated from high school at Grissom in Huntsville, went to college at South Alabama and got my law degree in Birmingham. I met my wife here and my kids were born here.
If someone came along and said, “Hey! We want to take Rightside Radio nationwide and we’ll pay you a Sean Hannity salary!” The first thing I’d ask is, “can I broadcast from Alabama?”
I love the way the seasons change in north Alabama, the way the beaches stay white on our coast, and how everywhere you go there’s a church steeple in the distance. In most towns, folks still see their neighbors at the grocery store, are proud of what they do for a living, and willingly buy magazine subscriptions from their neighbor’s kids for a school fundraiser. I can order sweet tea at any restaurant in this state and get it cold. We have the finest research facilities, medical innovations, manufacturing and small businesses anywhere. Our entire state is green and I don’t mean in the liberal sense! (I dare you to show me a city in this state that doesn’t have trees and plants.) And the veteran community here is stronger than most, with a higher per capita level of our citizens having served in the military than the majority of states, and we thank them for their service all year round.
Is it possible for Alabama to be better? Yes! 100% yes! But we’ve got a stronger base to work with than most. I get frustrated at the politics and the politicians and I was one! But I am also glad that we are in the position of trying to become “more conservative” as opposed to just desperately trying to find “any” conservatives.
All said and done, I know why I live here. Yes, it's partly for proximity to family and the sense of familiarity that I have in Alabama. But it is also because I’ve seen so much of the rest of the world and our nation, and I know what we’ve got. I also know what we can be.
So, why do you live here? Real question.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].