There are a couple things everyone assumes about the people they meet here in the town of Eastman, Georgia; you probably vote Republican, and you probably self identify as a Christian; whether or not there is any evidence of that identification in your life. Eastman is your typical small town in the deep South, complete with a history of dirty politics – a long one, a ratio of people to churches that makes Vatican City look secular, and a general fear of progressive values which keeps our economy lagging behind larger cities (Like Blue laws which prevent bars and fine dining establishments from opening).
These things aside, I actually like my town – it’s generally quiet and I feel safe here. I like most of the people here and I have a growing business that I’m proud of with a client base ranging from the most affluent individuals and businesses to those individuals you would consider the most in need. I’m well known, both as a business owner and as an outspoken atheist activist that stands up for what he believes in – and despite the latter, I gather that I’m actually fairly well liked. Most of the people here are nice, and even in the things we disagree about they are well meaning in their endeavors and beliefs and most people here aren’t your stereotypical mouth breathing “rednecks” who can’t put together a coherent sentence to save their life. We have incredible teachers in our schools who are dedicated and who break their necks to educate with the resources they have who I believe lend to the “Yankee’s” surprise when they hear us use complex language and ideas.
Regardless of what I believe I’ve always found myself at odds, in some ways, with my community. Some of my rebellious nature has waned as I’ve aged and matured, but I’ve always felt a need to stand as a representative for some form of social justice and of rightness in the ways that I can – even if those ways were misguided in the past, I’ve never been afraid to say unpopular things in sometimes unpopular ways, though I believe I’ve progressed in the way I present myself over the years and honed my approach toward my community, which has helped me build more good relationships than bad ones.
The question still remains – why, would I ever become such an outspoken atheist activist in the Deep South knowing full well that it might prevent me from ever finding another job, expanding my business, or becoming any more than a social pariah? Why would I take such a risk.