Culture Wars

Daniel Oliver writing in The Federalist has a question for us. Where has all the culture gone? Where indeed. Let’s see what he’s on about, shall we?

From the New York island to the Redwood forest, Western Civilization continues to collapse, gradually now, but soon, maybe, suddenly. For now, only a relatively small band of traditionalists are manning the gates against the cultural nihilists. And, of course, manning is the right word. Once upon a time, hand-to-hand combat was not thought to be women’s work: if the women were killed in battle, who would take care of the children?

Assuming there are any children. About 800,000 babies are aborted each year in the US. Given that about 39 percent of those babies are black but that blacks are only 12 percent of the population, why isn’t abortion seen as racist? Whatever happened to disparate impact?

How can Democrats, who are the primary advocates for abortion, say with a straight face that their pro-abortion stance isn’t a dog whistle for racists? Can Democrats say they know no one who favors abortion who has not also at least once said, or perhaps “opined,” that a complementary effect of abortion is that it helps keep down the poor black population?

If Ralph (not his real name) were to beat a black man to death in the forest while yelling racial insults, but The New York Times didn’t cover the attack, would it be a racist act?

Just recently the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, indicated that he would not oppose an “abortion” even after a baby was born. Most people were scandalized by his remarks, but the only remarkable aspect of them was that he said them out loud, not that had thought them. That he, and thousands of others, had thought them is really unremarkable, because of Burnham’s Second law: “Who says A must say B.” (James Burnham was a philosopher and a founding editor of National Review; he wrote many books, including his seminal work, The Managerial Revolution.)

Burnham’s Second Law makes the point that taking one position can require taking a subsequent position. If you murder Duncan, you must also kill Banquo.

A baby in the womb either is or is not a person. The abortionists say “it” is not (they have to say that because it is still not quite acceptable to kill “people” — unless perhaps they are really old or sick and, you know, like, really not enjoying life), but the abortionists refuse to say when “it” does become a person. In theory they might say “when it is born,” but that is now transparently only terminological.

Even a fool can tell that there’s no substantive difference between the personhood of a “baby” in the womb on December 24 and that same baby born on December 25. But where are the fools when we need them?

Yeah, he’s right, without question, and you should read the rest. But the culture ain’t just abortion, and the question is a lot broader. Where’s popular music that is music? That died about 1980, maybe earlier. Now we simply have noise, and not because I’m an old fogey, I thought so in the 80s, and quit listening. Now, I listen to a 60s station from London on the internet, mostly, because even the classical stations have caught the infection.

Think that irrelevant? It’s not, culture pervades and includes all facets of life. If you listen to Handel and Bach (or even Elvis and the early Beatles, let alone Pet Clark and Frank Sinatra, it’s not something that wants to make you go kill babies. Now, I wonder.

What do you think when you see a US Soldier on the street? For me, and many of us, they are the heirs of the Continental Army, both sides in the Civil War, and the men that fought off Hitler’s and Tojo’s minions, thus saving the world. If you see anything else, well the culture is declining and quickly.

So many things like that, and it all goes into the death of our culture. If we don’t resuscitate if soon, it, and we, will die.

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Slaughtering the Innocents

Matthew writes:

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

We call this The Slaughter of the Innocents, and those Innocents are the first Saints of our church. That is as it should be. But we in the United States, have butchered over 61 million children even younger than that since 1973. We will kill another 840 today. That is the entire population of the town I grew up in – every day.

Why? The excuses are legion, and few of them amount to anything more than a woman’s convenience. That seems to be enough reason to butcher a child using methods that would cause a packing house to be shut down in horror.

But even this isn’t enough, the left thinks a woman should be able to kill her baby even after it is born, or as it is being born, that is what the new New York law allows, as does the one the Virginia Senate defeated last week. Virginia’s governor proudly proclaimed that it would allow the killing of an infant after it was born.

Georgi Boorman writing in The Federalist reminds us. I quote little of it, read it all, it’s exceptionally well done.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who just made deeply troubling comments on abortion, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who just signed the country’s most radical abortion law, have been the subject of intense ire in recent days. The outrage is coming not just coming from “radical” pro-lifers, but people from across the political spectrum.

Why? Because virtually no one but the far left believes it is morally acceptable to allow infants to be murdered seconds before birth, or to be left to die after delivery at the behest of the mother.

Yet the nation has been shocked by radical left’s boldness in their mission to define preborn human beings as disposable non-persons. Where is this evil coming from, and how do we stop it?

The Slaughter of the Young and the Elderly

Abortion and infanticide have historically been common practices. In the first century AD, infanticide was a common and culturally accepted practice across the world. The murder of infants was a regular occurrence in Europe into the Middle Ages and beyond, despite being condemned by both church and state.

The practice was not confined to the desperate, illiterate, impoverished masses, as if “enlightened” thinkers knew better. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law, admired by Cicero, contains the command that, “A dreadfully deformed child shall be quickly killed.”

Likewise, the wealthy first century Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote, “We doom scabby sheep to the knife, lest they should infect our flocks. We destroy monstrous births, and we also drown our children if they are born weakly or unnaturally formed; to separate what is useless from what is sound is an act, not of anger, but of reason.” This from a Stoic, who supposedly believed virtue to be the highest good. Notably, Seneca was Nero’s tutor.

Infanticide was an acknowledged option for any child who was deformed, sickly, of uncertain paternity, the wrong sex, or simply unnecessary to the household. Aristotle, revered by many a university professor, wrote that, “As to exposing or rearing the children born, let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared,” and “if any people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention of these regulations, abortion must be practiced on it before it has developed sensation and life.”

The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans all practiced child sacrifice to appease their gods. The Chimú civilization, located in what is now Peru, sacrificed more than 140 children at one time some 550 years ago. The children’s chests were slashed open, presumably to remove their hearts.

The citizens of the powerful ancient city Carthage in Phoenicia ritually sacrificed their infants. Archaeologists believe the preferred age of sacrificial infants was less than three months old. According to the writing of early AD Greek biographer Plutarch, “But with full knowledge and understanding [the Carthaginians] offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds.”

The residents of the broader region of Canaan (late second millennium B.C.) were condemned numerous times by the ancient prophets of Israel for their child sacrifice. The prophet Jeremiah, in his judgment against apostate Israel, foretold that the valley of Hinnom, where the Israelites were sacrificing children to Baal, would be called “the valley of Slaughter” (Jeremiah 19:5-6).

Evidence for both ritualistic and utilitarian murder can be gathered from around the globe. In times of famine, the Inuit would abandon the elderly (both with and without consent) or dispense of them by quicker means. The Bactrians of ancient Persia were reported to have fed their sick and elderly to dogs trained especially for this purpose. Nearby cultures were supposed to have had similar senicidal customs. Among the Massagetae, Herodotus wrote that, “Human life does not come to its natural close with this people,” but that the people sacrificed their elderly, boiled their flesh, and ate it.

Not every single community on earth had such evil practices, but the embrace of death as the first solution to a family or tribe’s problems has been wickedly banal, historically speaking.

This ended as Christianity spread its influence until most of us are horrified reading such accounts, but as Christianity starts to recede these practices come back. Infanticide (including what we euphemize as abortion) leads the way, but killing the elderly and infirm lurks not far behind. In fact, they too have made their appearance, especially in government-run healthcare, such as the British NHS.

 Tertullian, an early church father, wrote in “Apologia”: “In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the foetus in the womb…To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed.”

Somehow it’s always those who think they are our betters, like the Democrats (and a fair number of Republicans as well, although fewer than they used to be). It seems to be a mark of the elites, to murder those they deem less exalted. Like Herod, and like Governor Northam. I see no difference between them.

The System IS the Scam

I grew up watching Chicago television, and the obvious and ongoing corruption was not so much normal as a cost of doing business, like the flames shooting out of the blast furnaces at US Steel. It just was, always had been, and likely always would. As somebody at Second City Cop said recently, the last time Chicago Aldercreatures were honest was sometime before early 1837. But it was honest corruption, in a sense. You could get things done, it just cost a ridiculous amount, and often wasn’t done all that well. But not too many people died, and the pols got rich, so…

But, this, even by that standard is ridiculous. From The American Spectator.

The best rackets are legitimate.

A century ago, the people accepted flagrant public corruption. Dim cynicism the popular spirit, it’s likely they’d still be so disposed today. But the politicians and their swarms of supplicants have acquired subtlety and subterfuge. Why press their luck?

We still have the graft and boodle that Lincoln Steffens chronicled in The Shame of the Cities, but now it’s all above-board. The best schemes are almost indistinguishable from the regular function of government. Almost. In the back rooms, somebody puts in a word for somebody, somebody threatens somebody, but that’s the part we don’t hear about.

It’s the bad luck of Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton barnacle-turned-Democratic governor of Virginia and a rumored presidential candidate in 2020, that his wheedling and arm-twisting inside the federal bureaucracy is now a matter of public record. He got sued last week, along with Hillary Clinton’s brother Anthony Rodham, accused of running “a $120 million scam” to defraud Chinese immigrants.

Did McAuliffe break the law? That’s almost beside the point. The essence of modern graft is crony capitalism — you don’t break the law, you make the law work for you.

The game: set up an obstacle, then offer a way past it for a price. We usually think of crony capitalism as tilting the field in favor of one company or one industry through preferential regulation, but McAuliffe’s arrangement was an even purer form. After all, what is the nature of government? It is to forbid, to restrict, to alter affairs from their natural course. Government creates problems and then pretends to offer a solution.

The EB-5 investor visa program is one long chain of government-created problems and solutions.

Foreign direct investment is of course an unalloyed good for the U.S. economy, but immigration law stands in the way of many potential investors. The laissez-faire thing to do would be to make visas freely available and get out of the way, but that would be too simple.

Much better to complicate it with all sorts of rules and red tape, that can’t all be complied with so the only solution is to buy yourself some interest (otherwise known as pull).

McAuliffe was one of the guys who ran GreenTech, a company whose business model was designed to fit even more government regulations and incentives: GreenTech made electric cars, little Neighborhood Electric Vehicles that go 25 mph, and cost $16,000. You’ll notice I said “made,” and not “sold,” as there has been zero consumer interest in a pricey golf cart that can’t even hold golf clubs. […]

That had a lot to do with why the state of Virginia had refused to get involved with the project, despite McAuliffe’s pull there. In 2009, the state’s veteran economic development director told colleagues, “(I) still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications.”

When an economic development official, whose business is crony capitalism, finds your model suspect, I think you’re due some congratulations. That’s like making Louis C.K. blush.

Eventually, McAuliffe set up shop in Mississippi, thanks to $8 million in land, grants, and other incentives. The state is now in litigation to claw back $6.4 million from the company.

It’s true when the influence peddlers think your scheme is too blatant a fraud, well maybe your scheme is, uh fraudulent.

The real problem, the more general problem, is that the government is in any position to be assessing the viability of a commercial venture, one that’s bent out of shape from the start thanks to political dictates.

If we’re going to do investor visas, they ought to be straightforward, and useful for any type of legitimate investment in American business. Allowing unapproved start-ups, of course, could open the door to different sorts of scams — a fake business goes belly-up and slips the cash back to its “investors.”

But that is a different problem, one with reasonably straightforward solutions, if one wants to solve problems, rather than create new ones to solve, for a price. Usually a very high price.

The Racist Attacks on America and Trump

Sometimes we need to have the blindingly obvious put before our face because the noise level has overpowered it. This is one of those times, and it is preventing us from seeing real solutions. David Horowitz sorts that out for us here, and he is correct.

Let’s start by noticing the obvious. The biggest hate group in America – by a wide margin – is the anti-Trump chorus, which has advanced from calling him “unfit to be president” to accusing him (in the words of CNN’s Ana Navarro) of being “unfit to be human.” In between are malignant accusations that he is a “neo-Nazi,” a “white nationalist” and a “white supremacist” – all revelations about Trump’s character that somehow remained hidden during the thirty years he was a public figure and before he ran against Hillary Clinton. Nor is the hate confined to Trump alone but includes his aides and supporters. Congressman Jerrold Nadler and other House Democrats have even attacked Trump’s policy adviser Stephen Miller as a “white supremacist” for defending a merit-based immigration reform. The attacks from the anti-Trump left also include the charge that America itself is a “white supremacist” country.

In a nation which for eight years was headed by a black president, had two chief law enforcement officers who were black, has recently had two black secretaries of state and three black national security advisers, and has elected more than 10,000 black government officials; in a nation that has been governed for fifty years by statutes that outlaw discrimination by race and whose national culture is saturated with non-white heroes and icons – in such a nation, people who refer to America as “white supremacist” would normally be dismissed as an oddball fringe, members of a fraternity that includes people who think Elvis is still alive and on the moon. Unfortunately, we live in times that are not normal.

Recent events have turned out crowds in the tens of thousands denouncing “neo-Nazis” and “white supremacists” both real and imagined, who number in the hundreds, if that. Yet the outpouring of righteous rage in a veritable orgy of virtue signaling has extended across both ends of the political spectrum, as though Nazism hadn’t been defeated more than seventy years ago, or racial discrimination outlawed for sixty. The ranks of actual neo-Nazis and white supremacists are so minuscule that besides the universally despised David Duke and Richard Spencer there are no figures on this “alt-right” that even informed observers could actually name.

In contrast to the trivial representatives of organized Nazism, there are – to take one obvious example – tens of thousands of members of the American Communist Party, also a defeated totalitarian foe. Yet no one seems alarmed. There have been “Million Man” marches led by black racists Farrakhan and Sharpton, while “white nationalists,” and Klan members can’t attract a sufficient number of supporters to even constitute a “march.” Black Lives Matter is an overtly racist and violent group that is led by avowed communists and has allied itself with Hamas terrorists. It is an organization officially endorsed by the Democratic Party and lavishly funded by tens of millions of dollars contributed by Democratic donors like George Soros. But the self-congratulating denouncers of Nazism and white racism find nothing wrong with them.

On any rational assessment, “white supremacy” as a descriptor of American society or American institutions or a significant segment of the American right is loony toons paranoia. Yet on the political left it is now an article of faith, and also a convenient weapon for disposing political opponents. Its power as a weapon is actually a tribute to America’s success in institutionalizing the principles of diversity and tolerance. It is because America is a truly inclusive society that makes the mere accusation of intolerance is so effective. […]

Do read the link, and think about who would benefit from portraying any significant portion of America as racist, when it is demonstrably not. You will find it is not ethnic minorities, such as blacks and Asians, who will benefit from the same things that benefit their white compatriots. As far as I can see, the only ones to benefit from such a misconceptions are leftist/progressive politicians, their coat-holders, and perhaps Islamists and yes there is much redundancy in that statement. Progress will be made only when we secure the rights of the smallest majority, the individual, no matter his race, creed, or color. You know, like the Rev Dr. ML King said, ‘The content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

Why the South Is Rising Again

Robert Stacy McCain posted an article Monday, that is I think, pretty close to required reading. It’s pretty close to the best (if it isn’t) exposition of the differences between those of us trying to make a living and those trying to make a living off us. It’s a bit long, but you’re a fearless bunch, so get going.

“These Democrats will do whatever they have to stop the president.”
“Now they’re making a big deal about statues? Who cares about statues!”

That exchange between two guys in a diner in Long Island, N.Y., was overheard by a former Democratic congressman, Steve Israel, who is no fan of Donald Trump, but who is smart enough to understand why the Charlottesville riot didn’t hurt Trump’s support among his voter base. Rep. Israel said Trump has been “diabolically brilliant” in appealing to the sentiments of working-class whites who elected him.

If two guys eating breakfast in a New York diner get it, and if even a Democrat like Steve Israel gets it, why don’t the media get it?

Ask yourself a few questions: Does the typical “swing” voter who made the difference for Trump in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin consider monuments to Robert E. Lee a major social problem? Whoever you might be, or wherever you live, try imagining yourself as a white working-class resident of suburban Pittsburgh, Detroit or Milwaukee. Is such a person “racist”? Well, if judged by the standards of the elite media, perhaps so, but this doesn’t mean the Trump voter thinks of himself that way; he just doesn’t buy into the liberal elite’s interpretation of the nature and causes of racial problems in America. That white guy in Michigan who lives near the bankrupt crime-plagued disaster of Detroit isn’t likely to believe racism is the universal explanation for every problem facing the black community. No, that white guy in Michigan watches the local TV news out of Detroit, and then he sees the national news about protests over Confederate memorials, and he has the same common-sense reaction as the two old guys in that Long Island diner: “Now they’re making a big deal about statues? Who cares about statues!”

Save your Confederate money, because the South is rising again: “The latest wave of polling shows that the president’s overall job-approval rating has inched upwards since the controversy, that a sizable majority of Americans support maintaining Confederate memorials instead of tearing them down, and that a notable minority agree with the president’s use of ‘both sides’ language during Tuesday’s press conference.”

What we have witnessed since Charlottesville is an “elite Mass Hysteria Bubble,” Professor Glenn Reynolds says. This madness originated in academia, and the news that the University of Texas at Austin has taken down statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate figures shows how widespread this elite hysteria has become. My immediate reaction was to wonder if Texas A&M will now remove the statue of Gen. Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross, a much-beloved campus landmark. And what will become of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas?

The panicky reaction to Charlottesville among certain Republican politicians reflects a deficient understanding of the political landscape. At times of crisis, when the liberal media are trying to gin up a phony controversy to smear Republicans, it would behoove GOP leaders to consult Vox Day’s wise advice in SJWs Always Lie: “Do not try to reason with them” and “Do not apologize.” If you are not a Nazi sympathizer, why panic in response to ludicrous accusations that you are responsible for the actions of a random idiot at a white supremacist rally?

Furthermore, who are you, Mr. Republican Senator, to dismiss the grievances that might cause some misguided people to think that joining a bunch of nutjobs like Vanguard America is a smart thing to do? The liberal media expected Americans to sympathize with Black Lives Matters mobs, while Democrats made excuses for rioters in Ferguson, Baltimore and Charlotte, and yet President Trump was supposed to ignore “antifa” thuggery? Certainly, no Republican politician can endorse Jew-hating or race-baiting, but isn’t it possible that the so-called “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville signified something other than racial hatred?

Pardon me for caring about “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,”without regard to whether I believe their grievances are legitimate, or whether I approve of the “redress” they might seek. If the AFL-CIO convention demands an increase in the minimum wage — which they do, year after year — my advice would be to ignore them. While I might sit here at my computer and blog about why raising the minimum wage is a bad idea, I’m certainly not going to assemble a frantic mob of libertarians and try to storm the AFL-CIO convention hall. Likewise, when neo-Nazis gather to blame an international Zionist conspiracy for everything wrong in the world — which they do, year after year — my advice is to ignore them. Maybe I would write a blog post urging the neo-Nazis to go storm the AFL-CIO convention, although I’d only suggest this as a joke. On the other hand, wouldn’t a massive brawl between Nazi thugs and union goons be an amusing spectacle to watch? But I digress . . .

When President Trump said “both sides” engaged in violence at Charlottesville, he was simply stating a fact, and “facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams famously said, as an attorney arguing in defense of British soldiers accused of killing civilians in the Boston Massacre.

See what I mean? Continue reading here.

Defending the Dream

Monument to the 1st Minnesota Infantry at Gett...

Monument to the 1st Minnesota Infantry at Gettysburg National Battlefield, Gettysburg, PA, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is 30 May, the traditional date for Decoration Day, by order of General Logan, commanding the Grand Army of the Republic, as noted here yesterday. When Congress decided we needed a three day weekend more than we needed to remember our traditions, I think they made a mistake, not that we don’t need that three day weekend!

You know, as do I, that America has never been a pile of rocks and dirt between the oceans. Whether your ancestors came over the Bering land bridge time out of memory ago, came on the Mayflower, came to escape starvation in Ireland to see the sign “No Irish need Apply”, came from old Mexico to work at a meat-packing plant, or got off a 777 last night; You are here because of a dream. Bevin Alexander said it as well as anybody.

Imagine, if you will, the sense of awe that seized the first settlers at Jamestown in Virginia, in 1607, at Plymouth in Massachusetts, and at the other landings along the coast of North America in the early decades of the seventeenth century. Here were little English communities hacking out perch sites on the very edge of an unknown land. … But when they finally reached the great chain of mountains called the Appalachians and gazed out from its heights, they were utterly confounded-before them an even more boundless, more astonishing land stretched out to seeming infinity toward the setting sun.

This was the moment when the American character was formed. Whatever limits of class and status the settlers had brought with them from Britain would fall away to insignificance in this prodigious land. When astute individuals looked toward the limitless frontier that they now knew would beckon continuously on the western horizon, they realized that no king, no aristocracy, could crush them. At any time they could cross this frontier and put all of Europe’s restraints behind them. This had immense and overwhelming effects throughout the colonies. Americans, whether they crossed the frontier or not, were destined to be forever free.

But to make dreams come true is hard work. And there are people around whose dreams would preclude yours. So dreams have to be defended. So it is with the American Dream. From that day to this, the dream has demanded that men, ordinary men, defend it. But the defending of dreams creates extraordinary men, and so it has been here.

On 19 April 1775, a shot was fired in Lexington, MA, no one knows by whom. That shot has echoed down the corridors of time for 242 years, and its reverberations continue. For that shot was a warning that God meant men to be free, and with God’s help, men, and women would be free. A few weeks before, a member of the House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry, in Virginia said this:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

And so was the lamp lit in that fabled city on the hill that John Winthrop had spoken of all the way back in 1630.

…for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going:…

And so it came to pass that America would be free. It would not be perfect, ever, for America is a dream of man, not a work of God. But it would continually try to be, and it would improve. And it would come to pass that the lamp lighted in that city upon a hill would become a beacon to the world so that today the world itself is far more free than on that blustery March day when Mr. Henry spoke.

But in the middle of the 19th century, the dream nearly foundered on the rocks of two different interpretations of that freedom.

That conflict has often been said to have been about slavery but, deep down it wasn’t. Very few Southerners defended slavery on moral grounds, they did on economic grounds but, in truth, they had little choice. A very high percentage of their capital was tied up in slaves, and that is why, even then, the South was lagging behind the North in industrialization. For it would be true that southern planters owned slaves, it is equally true that the slaves own their masters. As Frederick Douglass said, “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.

On the other side, there were some abolitionists, it is true but, they were fewer than one would think. In truth, Abraham Lincoln himself said that while he would not countenance the extension of slavery he saw no method of abolishing it either. So what was left was Union or secession. That is what motivated the Armies, the proper road for the dream.

Those armies of America, The Army of Northern Virginia, The Army of the Potomac, The Army of the Tennessee, have become part of the soul of America, the dusty columns still march in our hearts. And the battles they fought: 1st & 2d Manassas, the Seven Days, Champions Hill, The artillery hell of Antietam, the burning wounded in the Wilderness, the misery of the Mule Shoe, and Cold Harbor. The taking of Missionary Ridge without orders because the enlisted men decided to do it, and finally that heart-wrenching scene at Wilmer McLean’s house (where he had moved to get away from the armies at Bull Run) where General Grant met General Lee and Lee surrendered that most romantic of American Armies, the Army of Northern Virginia, under terms inspired by Lincoln’s advice to Grant to “Let ’em up easy”. And so the Army not so much surrendered as passed directly into legend for all Americans. An Army that fought until it was living on acorns, knowing it couldn’t win, but fighting for its beliefs.

Who amongst us can forget the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, on the second day of Gettysburg (from the inscription on the monument.

On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 Sickles’ Third Corps, having advanced from this line to the Emmitsburg Road, eight companies of the First Minnesota Regiment, numbering 262 men were sent to this place to support a battery upon Sickles repulse.

As his men were passing here in confused retreat, two Confederate brigades in pursuit were crossing the swale. To gain time to bring up the reserves & save this position, Gen Hancock in person ordered the eight companies to charge the rapidly advancing enemy.

The order was instantly repeated by Col Wm Colvill. And the charge as instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrated fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy’s front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground there the remnant of the eight companies, nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time & till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved this position & probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed & wounded. More than 83% percent. 47 men were still in line & no man missing. In self sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war. Among the severely wounded were Col Wm Colvill, Lt Col Chas P Adams & Maj Mark W. Downie. Among the killed Capt Joseph Periam, Capt Louis Muller & Lt Waldo Farrar. The next day the regiment participated in repelling Pickett’s charge losing 17 more men killed & wounded.

The very next day, for the very last time, was displayed the grim majesty and pomp of war in the old style, as the center of the Army of Northern Virginia attacked in close order under General Pickett, and was repulsed, the high tide bringing General Armistead to die with his hand on a Union gun.

There are many other actions that we could tell of equal bravery on either side. This was merely 150 years ago, and yet, many have not heard of the glory of these men who were willing to suffer more than 83% casualties in battle and were in line the next day to receive the most famous of American charges.

These were the men that Decoration Day was instituted to honor. Do we still honor them?

Also note that during the Seven Days battles in Virginia it was not possible to fire the volleys requisite to military funerals, a tradition going back to the Roman Legions shouting “Vale” three times in burying their comrades. A substitute had to be found, it was, Colonel Dan Butterfield wrote a new call for his buglers to sound. It has been sounded millions of times since to mark the end of the day and the burial of the soldier. This is it of course.

And so today, as you travel around the world, wherever you find Americans buried, at Cambridge in England, at Omaha Beach and Chateau Thierry in France, in Luxembourg, in Italy, in Australia, in the Philippines, at Arlington, at Lexington, at Gettysburg, at Fort MacPherson, Nebraska, and Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and so many others, and in nearly every graveyard in America, you will see graves strewn with flowers, and with a small American flag placed in front of the headstone. For these men, and women as well, one day raised their right hand and took an oath to defend “We, the People”, from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And these the “Gardens of Stone” are the only land that America still holds in the world.

We can note with pride the success of the mission has been such that when the BBC asked an elderly Dutch woman long after World War Two about how she knew the liberators of her town were Americans, she could reply, “I knew they were Americans because they walked like free men.”

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