Monday, January 21, 2008

A Few Words About This Presidential Thing

I am totally disaffected with so-called conservatives; none of them stand for what I believe in. The alternative is a horror show too awful to conceive, but we're going to screw around and lose this year. My traditional $100 election bet on the good sense of the American people is going to the USO, where it may do some good.

The pundits say we're split between the national security camp, the economic camp, and the social/moral values camp. Lincoln said it best: a house divided cannot stand.

I played with an interactive quiz on Dish™ the other day. It said that I am best aligned with Duncan Hunter. Well, he's out of the race, and my guy Fred is about pooped out. He'll be dropping out any day now. McCain is an honorable man, but I like him better as a Senator, and don't want him for my president. He has a terrible temper; not that there's anything wrong with that. . . I have a vicious temper, but I'm not running for anything. My first instinct is to put a smart bomb through someone's bedroom window; this isn't the best way to conduct foreign policy.

No problem with Romney; I guess he's the economics guy. I can even stomach Giuliani. The thought of the She-Devil or Osama Bamalama creeping into 1600 Pennsylvania is too much to bear. I want Big Bill to keep exactly on course, and keep opening his fat mouth. He is the perfect representative of liberal ideology.

What I'm probably going to do is vote my conscience, and vote for the Libertarian. That party, too, has strayed far away from what they're supposed to stand for. I'm an old-school Libertarian; I believe in what Ayn Rand stood for, not what the party became after her death in 1985. One of these days, we will change things.

Until we do, we'll have the two-party system. Liberals who want to give away everything of value to America, and so-called conservatives who want to do the same thing, but only if they make a profit off the deal. When I was young and stupid and thought I had politics all figured out, I used to say there isn't a nickle's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats.

The Democrats want to take your money and give it to people who don't deserve it, and the Republicans want to take your money and keep it.
That's what I said thirty years ago, and I swear, getting older isn't changing my mind. There is no one running for office today who fits my pistol, as John Wayne once said. I'm going back to my fringe group roots.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sadly, Meredith is found

Unfortunately, Meredith Emerson has been found. She’s dead, and it’s no accident. Gary Michael Hilton led law enforcement officers to her body. There is no official statement as to the cause of death, but it’s pretty obvious she didn’t just fall off the trail and freeze to death.

Mr. Hilton will get his day in court, but his lawyer has a lot to overcome in mounting a defense. Hilton was caught red-handed cleaning his van at a convenience-store car wash. Blood-soaked clothing and other articles belonging to Miss Emerson were found in close proximity to where—apparently—Hilton was attempting to dispose of evidence. Meredith’s dog, Ella, was cut loose in a suburb of Atlanta, miles from where Emerson was the last person seen talking to Meredith. Hilton finally caved under the pressure of questioning, and led the police straight to the body; it’s no accident that he knew exactly where it was.

I was somewhat surprised that the execrable Greta Van Susteren didn’t show up here during the search, but I suppose a visit to the mountains in winter has less appeal than traipsing around Aruba on the beach looking for Natalee Holloway. I have an intense dislike for Van Susteren; she presents herself as a tireless victim’s advocate, but when I asked for help in reopening my father’s murder case, she blew me off literally with a “Gee whiz! What a story!” Thanks, Greta. We know how important those ratings are.

It sounds pretentious, but I have begun to introduce myself to law enforcement officials as “a victim’s rights advocate”. Like many things in life, you have to make it up as you go along, but kiss my grits if cops don’t respond and talk to me. I am the only one who speaks for my father and the other three victims of that particular serial killer, and for whatever my words may be worth, I will speak for others in whatever forum I can enter. There are plenty of misguided people who will start hollering about the rights of killers, but the victims seem to get double-dealt and forgotten. People accused of murder are certainly entitled to their day in court, with a fair trial and a vigorous defense, but who speaks for the dead?

Meredith Emerson’s family will never get over this. Pop psychologists like to use the “C” word: “closure”. There is no such entity. We, the living, continue with our lives because it is all we know how do to, and because there is the knowledge that the departed would want it thus. Some of us may even find it in our hearts to forgive the malefactors, albeit with conditions, like “Tell me why you did it.” One thing that no murder victim’s family ever does is forget what happened to their loved one. The knowledge of what happened is always right there on the edge of your mind, and the most innocuous stimulus can trigger a torrent of tears. I still have trouble talking to people face-to-face about my father after 23 years without choking up and wanting to leave the room to cry privately. There is no “closure” on murder, even if the perpetrator is caught and convicted.

I have put forth my defense of “hillbillies” in a previous post, and it appears I’m correct. What we apparently have is a monster from the big city of Atlanta, who made the two-hour drive to a county that is 60% national forest. I know enough about evil to know that it can happen anywhere, but the notion that some fiend was using our quiet community as a happy hunting ground is almost inconceivable. Before this, Union County had two murders in the past five years. Both were blunt-force traumas; what we might characterize as "crimes of passion". In both cases, someone got beaten to death in the heat of anger. Despite the presence of firearms in almost every household, it’s been a long, long time since anyone was shot and killed in Union County.

When Hilton comes to trial, UPI will be there to cover it. I have zero tolerance for murder, and deep-seated anger that some predator will invade my community to commit wanton, cold-blooded homicide. A call to the Union County Sheriff’s Office minutes ago yielded nothing new; they are still playing everything close to the vest, as is proper.

To offset this terrible loss, please join me in thanking God for the lives of those lost snowmobilers along the New Mexico/Colorado state line. I had the good fortune to be tuned in this morning when a true “TV moment” occurred. FOX News’s Meghan Kelly was talking live to the father of one of the missing adventurers, when a local sheriff called in on another line to tell the world that those folks had been found alive and well, and rescue was on the way. There was no video of the lucky father, but his reaction over the phone sounded a lot like crying with relief. I cried, too. God’s inscrutable, and I long ago gave up trying to discern His purposes, but we thank Him for life where He gives it.

Mr. Hilton had best pray for a trial in DeKalb County, where he was arrested. It would be extremely difficult to seat a fair-minded jury in Blairsville; our sense of shock and outrage is too great.

Let us now pray that Meredith’s family will find some small solace of peace as they get on with their lives. It will never go away, but unlike my father’s unsolved murder, there may be a sense of finality about this.

Updates will be posted when appropriate.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A sad ending

The search for Meredith Emerson—the missing hiker in my mountains—is not ending well. The “person of interest” was picked up in DeKalb County [Atlanta]. He is undergoing questioning. News reports are scanty, but there is chatter about bloody clothing, and Gary Hilton has been charged with kidnapping. (I’ll use his name now, because everyone else in the media is naming him.)

I am compelled to reiterate that this is not a “hillbilly thing”. Without rushing to judgment, Hilton is a flatlander from Atlanta. 60% of Union County is national forest; thus it can be a prime hunting area for big-city fiends who care to make the two hour drive.

Sadly, the search for Meredith has shifted from a “rescue effort” to a daylight “recovery effort”. That’s the polite way law enforcement has of saying that they’re looking for a body, not a live person. Meredith’s dog was recovered sans leash at a Kroger grocery store some distance from where she is thought to have disappeared. Like Nichole Simpson’s dog, if only they could talk, what volumes they might tell us.

Much has been made of Ms. Emerson’s prowess in martial arts. There are comments on the previous post about this. A determined male attacker with a weapon will trump a 5’4” woman every time. To believe otherwise is to believe that everything you see in the movies is true.

The weather in Georgia was brutal last week. Even if this was a case of simple “misadventure”, there are long odds that it would be ending badly. Hypothermia can set in at less-than-freezing temperatures, especially if one is injured and immobile in the forest.

There has been some chatter about other deaths along the trails in Vogel state park. I have a direct line to the Union County Sheriff’s Department, but they are playing their information close to the vest, and referring all calls to local and national news coverage. No one is commenting on the man in “the yellow jacket”, so we’ll have to see how that shakes out.

Gary Michael Hilton may be guilty of nothing more than chatting up an attractive woman. I’d like to think this is the case. Too much time in the real world, and an unwanted familiarity with serial murder leads me to think otherwise, especially when the bloodstained clothing shows up.

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and I’ll continue to pray for Meredith. I urge you to do the same. Greater miracles have happened.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Looking for Meredith

I was planning to write something fairly comprehensive—by my muddy standards—about the Iowa caucuses. Instead, a national story right in my reasonably obscure back yard has led my return from holiday hiatus to a different news perspective.

I have complained for years about the movie “Deliverance”. The novel Deliverance was written by James Dickey, the former poet laureate of North Carolina, and a man who was not without understanding of mountain folks. I won’t ascribe malice to his portrayal of mountain people in his first novel, but the image he put over was unflattering, to say the least.

Shortly after the novel was published in the late 1960s, the movie rights were snapped up by Hollyweird. Noted director John Boorman brought home a cinematic masterpiece starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox.

I love this movie, and I hate it. I love it because it was filmed where I live, and I revel in the scenery and Boorman’s acknowledgement that nature in this area is unforgiving if you get crossways with it. I hate it, because it set the reputation of mountain people in general back by about 30 years.

I won’t give spoilers, because if you are too young or culturally deprived to have never seen this movie, you need to go rent the DVD, and not wait for the next rotation on Turner Movie Classics, where it earns four stars. However, instrumental to the rest of this article, I must say that the core of the movie is an exceedingly brutal attack on what we call “flatlanders” by some particularly ugly, unsavory hillbillies.

I give James Dickey a pass because I’ll assume he was going for some poetic symbolism or commentary on the human spirit and will to triumph, and nasty hillbillies just happened to be his tool of antithesis… or whatever. I’ll even give Boorman a pass, although he presented Dickey’s novel with an unrelenting realism that presaged the less-than-romantic movies of the ‘70s. Less than total, gritty realism would have made the whole movie ludicrous, and thus not a masterpiece, but a hack job.

As recently as 1998, I invited someone to come visit me in north Georgia. The reply was astonishing: “I’m not coming up there! They attack people off in those woods!”

I am not making this up.

I know some genuine “hillbillies”. They are people from the school of hard knocks, and unlike myself, they are not educated beyond their intelligence. (A favorite observation of hillbillies about pretentious flatlanders who move here and deign to tell us how to live.) I have known some inbred hillbillies, and I know plenty of hillbillies who can play the banjo. When CBS floated their nasty idea of a “New Beverly Hillbillies” “reality” show exploiting some mountain family, I led the troops storming the gates to stop that manure. (They cancelled the idea and left off interviews in the area.) We live quietly, we ask nothing, and some of us have been to college, and even graduated.

I have traveled the world, and so haven’t lived my entire life in the mountains, but this is my home, inhabited by my people. I have never, in my 5+ decades on this earth, known of a hillbilly who actually attacked a flatlander for any reason. Perhaps Mr. Dickey—who played the sheriff in the movie version of his novel—had some personal or apocryphal example of a murderous hillbilly in his poetic/novelistic vision, but the reality falls far short. As far as I know, there is not a single incidence of a hillbilly attacking a flatlander as far back as I can research the subject.

All of this comes into play because of the disappearance of a young woman named Meredith Emerson. On or about New Year’s Day, she and her dog drove up here from Buford, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. A native of Colorado, she was seeking what passes for mountains in this region, and set off along a trail in Vogel State Park, over by Blood Mountain.

Meredith Emerson is now missing. If I was ambulatory, instead of bound to this damned wheelchair, I’d be on a horse freezing my ass off looking for her.

It would not be the first time I looked for MIAs in deep woods, although those days are past for me. There is a “person of interest” in this case, which makes my cynical self wince. I am forbidden by lawyers from naming my father’s murderers online; likewise, I’ll let the mainstream media crucify the last person seen talking to Meredith Emerson. I’ll give him a pass to one degree: turn in and talk about it. She’s an attractive woman; I’d hit on her and talk to her…if that’s all it is, talk to our local cops about it. If you don’t, then some of us victim’s rights people are going to take a dim view of you.

I need to defend “hillbillies” here. The “person of interest” is from DeKalb County. That is adjacent to Fulton County, and an integral part of Atlanta. In short, he ain’t from around here.

One other thing the media isn’t reporting; a footnote:

Blood Mountain is so named because a nasty battle was fought there between Native Americans and settlers eager to get at the Dahlonega gold fields (which preceded the 1849 California strike). It set the stage for the Trail of Tears, another proud chapter in our history. (Sarcasm intended…I am an honorary Cherokee by virtue of doing some legal work for them in the 1970s; I blush, but the “Ward Churchill” membership card makes me as much of an Injun as he will ever be.)

We need to pray for this girl, Meredith Emerson. I’d be out looking for her if there was any way I could. We have competent search teams who know this wilderness.

If the worst case scenario turns out to be true, this is not a hillbilly thing. Someone came up here to do this. We are scary when we pop out of the woods with our green teeth and smelly bodies, but we don’t hurt people. We don’t attack flatlanders; as I write this, there are dozens of “hillbillies” combing the worst wilderness on the East Coast looking for a woman we’re hoping is nothing more than lost and injured.

It sounds cruel, but I am hoping that this is what the coroners used to call “misadventure”. She fell off a trail—and those in Vogel are steep—and broke something. My dogs would stick by me in such a circumstance, but they would respond to searchers. The weather has been brutal by Georgia standards, but there is always a chance. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Meredith Emerson is a flatlander; she came up here from Buford, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. The “person of interest” is from Dekalb County, also a suburb of Atlanta.

Hundreds of “Deliverance” hillbillies are out searching every stream and backwater to find this woman. I hope this explains my love/hate relationship with this movie.

Back in the real world, please join me in praying that there is a positive outcome to this family’s nightmare.