Al Fonzi is an independent opinion columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email him at atascaderocolumnist@gmail.com.

Holidays can be joyous times with lifelong memories or marred by tragedy. For far too many, the latter best describes their recollections, be it a personal tragedy, disappointment, or some outside event that just takes the joy out of the holiday. That has happened all too often of late as whatever the circumstances, the approach of a major holiday and its raised expectations or hopes of a “perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas” leads to disappointment.

This year once again, we’ve witnessed a senseless act by a career criminal as he careened through a Christmas parade, killing and injuring over 50 people. I don’t have any explanations for this other than evil exists and never sleeps. As a Christian, I’m as susceptible as any other as to why a loving God would allow such atrocities to occur but am then reminded that we live in a fallen world for which the God I worship promises redemption and hope but not immunity from the travails of life, at least not in this life. It also teaches me to be grateful for what I have and puts my small problems in proper perspective compared to the enormous loss some have experienced.

As we age, mirrors remind us that there is more life behind than ahead, and the time for putting off major decisions cannot be further delayed. It was with that thought that my wife and I made the decision to act: we have left California for the “land of the free,” Tennessee to be specific. Living in California is sort of like the frog in the pot being slowly boiled with each passing day. It’s not just the cost of living that is spiraling ever-upward but the increasingly oppressive nature of the California government.

Politicians like to promise the world a perfect world, to be exact, if only they just had a little more power and your money to rule your life. Given that humanity excels in imperfection, the historical outcome of civilizations that accept this “paper promise” of Shangri La is almost always tyranny and the persecution of all who dissent. Things that seem small and insignificant are portents of worse to come, such as official pronouncements that the State has primacy over your children, not parents and the State will decide what moral values are acceptable for your children to learn. Inevitably, the State pits children against parents, as happens in all totalitarian societies such as Nazi Germany or communist governments. Western socialist governments have a softer touch but are just as intrusive into families as hard-tyranny government systems.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

What made America special and why so many strive so hard to come here regardless of personal hardship is that America has presented the one government in the world that enshrined in a written constitution the rights of its citizens and the subordination of government to the authority and will of the people. Unfortunately, more and more, that authority is undermined as courts affirm increasing government authority over every aspect of our lives. California leads in this direction, and the future for the State is bleak unless its residents politically rebel and reject one-party political rule.

Once upon a time, the political landscape was fairly balanced in California, but for many reasons, Democrats hold supermajorities throughout the California government. As that political party has been seized by its most radical leftist elements, political reform is almost impossible to obtain except via federal courts, which so far are unsympathetic to those who legally resist further government intrusion into their lives.

For Roberta and I, as we age, we decided that California isn’t a place to grow old unless one is exceptionally wealthy. In contrast to California, a trip to the local gas station affirms that daily: I paid less than $3.00/gallon for gas this week, and the cost of almost everything in Tennessee is about half or less than it was in California. I also noticed that people here are very accepting and friendly. They express their love of country and patriotism openly and are genuinely respectful of veterans.

Tennessee is called “the volunteer state” for a reason: in the Mexican War, Tennessee was asked to provide 2800 militiamen for the war effort; they provided 30,000. They also love Christmas and family/community traditions; living here is like being on a living set of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie with the towns decorated for the season, and the Christmas spirit is real. We were in a store yesterday when Christmas carolers entered the store singing traditional songs of the season. The people here aren’t particularly wealthy as California defines wealth, but they deal with their social problems; I haven’t seen a single transient camping on the streets or in public spaces: the many churches have stepped up to the plate, and law enforcement is supported when required.

There is a drawback; however, Roberta and I will miss all of you, the friends and acquaintances we have known over the years. I will continue to write as long as permitted; we still have close ties and family connections to the community. We wish all a Merry Christmas and a better New Year.