The question I get most frequently in the realm of politics is ‘Where did you come from?’ or rather, why am I the way I am? Don’t worry, this isn’t the beginning of an Eminem song.
Like any person, my direct route from day 1 to present is full of twists and turns. So many experiences mold us into who we are, but for many people, it is difficult to pin point the exact moment in time when they became who they are. I don’t have that problem.
I have always had an argumentative streak and my 11th grade history teacher at Centennial High School, Mr. Porter, did no disservice in allowing me to speak my mind early and often despite his love of Abraham Lincoln and his first edition Toyota Prius. In 2004, I was still the cookie cutter solid suburban (R) who would defend the party until I was blue in the face, and God bless him, he had to deal with me in an election year. It served us both well and prepped me for college and graduate school where I continued to evolve.
But my life changed the day I met Andrew Wordes, the Roswell Chicken man. A man of small stature and a unique voice you could pick out of any crowd, I met Andrew at a campaign event in 2009. He was kind and gracious and wanted to know what, as a young person, drove me to get involved in politics. “It was an accident,” I told him. But he shrugged it off, said that was impossible, and went on to show me pictures of his dog, pigs, and of course, his chicken. I entertained the conversation because I couldn’t believe he had chickens in the ‘burbs.
Over the next few months, I saw Andrew several times and eventually, someone filled me in on his battle against the City of Roswell. I was mortified to learn about his years-long debacle. The man withstood a retroactive vendetta ordinance, lawsuit(s) against him by the City (an unprecedented act in the State of Georgia), the grading of the land around his home by the City without permission and notice, pressure to submit to eminent domain far below FMV, multiple nights in jail due to police harassment, city employees meddling with his mortgage holder, and the poisoning of his animals which caused the death of over half of them, yet some how some way, the man managed to get up every day to see another fight and volunteer to help others.
I was enamored by his lengthy story and asked him if I could document it on my blog. Of course he said yes and we began talking almost daily so he could fill me in on updates between the lawsuits and the police casing his home.
He sometimes appeared angry, but that was mostly out of frustration of people not listening. He wanted to be heard. He was often characterized as ‘crazy’ but that was purely because he was unwavering and was doing things no one had ever done. He had compassion and showed complete devastation when his animals were poisoned and dying – he held them and nurtured them in their suffering. He was never short on emotion and I adored that about him.
He was a man of controversy because he challenged his government, bucked the system, mouthed off, often stood alone, and never gave up. He ultimately took his own life under pressures many of us will be lucky enough to never face. He made some mistakes and he wasn’t always the most eloquent man, but he was a man of conviction and principle. He loved his freedom, his country, and his God.
Tomorrow, March 26th, marks the 3 year anniversary of the death of my sweet friend Andrew Wordes. I still have a page on my blog dedicated to highlighting his stories. Three years and I can’t take it down, despite that fact that it highlights my reel of immature and unrefined elementary writing skills. I still have a voicemail on an old phone from Sunday, March 25th, 2012 from Andrew. He told me things were “good” and he was expecting things to turn around. He said we would talk tomorrow so we could plan our next course of action to keep fighting. Session was in and he wanted to go down and talk to his State Senator who wouldn’t take his calls.
He died the next day but left a fire in us all that reminds us we can’t just fight our own battles and we can’t always choose the big “flashy” battles. He left behind an inspired and an enraged league of Liberty-lovers who don’t forget to mention his story. He didn’t win his battle, but he’s winning the war because every day someone, somewhere inches closer to awakening on an issue and someone new gets involved. He taught others to further this and to do so with conviction and emotion – so as never to come across as disingenuous.
I don’t believe in coincidences. It was no accident that I met Andrew on my very first campaign at the very first event. It’s no accident that Andrew’s story was one of the first controversial blogs I ever penned – an extreme illustration of government overreach that went largely unnoticed by the media – two things I stomp and raise a ruckus about now. It’s no coincidence that –right or wrong- even the drama surrounding the incident of Andrew taking his own life was a political statement that continues the conversation.
I have no doubt that I documented Andrew’s story on my own blog, not for his benefit, but for mine. So that when I felt like giving up, I would have a written journal of what he encountered and a shiny mirror of reflection illuminating the fact that he never relented. A staunch reminder that I was taught to stand tall and loud even when I’m alone and to never withhold my emotion and passion from a cause – no matter how small.