Month: August 2017

America, how should we remember this soldier?

Elijah Morrison had a small farm in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, outside the rural community of Talking Rock, Georgia. It was beautiful country. Good soil, clean water, and the woods were heavy with game. It was the type of place a man would fight to stay, not leave to fight. But by the winter of 1862 the war had drained most of the young men from the county and calls for more volunteers came daily. “To Arms! To Arms!” read the recruiting posters. “Rally Young Men! To War!” Elijah was hesitant. At 36, he was older than most who initially joined, and he was bound to the land, a poor farmer who worked it alone, and food was becoming scarce. He would have to leave his wife, Esther, to run the farm alone with their three children – 12-year old Julia, 11-year old Emma, and his son, 7-year old Montgomery. Politicians said the war would be over by then, anyway. But it was now nearing its 20th month and the newspapers told of horrific battles in places like Shiloh, Manassas, and Sharpsburg. The death toll kept rising and the call to arms kept sounding. Many of his friends had already answered, and the Union Army kept marching closer, ever closer, to Georgia. So finally, on his 37th birthday – December 1, 1862 – Elijah bid a sad farewell to Esther and his children and walked off to enlist in the 36th Regiment, Georgia Infantry. If it’s any…

We should still honor Civil War soldiers, both blue and gray

My father was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and my mother was president of her local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. General Robert E. Lee’s portrait hung over our fireplace mantle, and the Confederate battle flag could be found throughout our little house – on hats, coffee cups, plates, clocks, and bedspreads, even chessboards. And of course, our dogs were named Rebel and Dixie. But my children and I will never join those organizations, the battle flag is nowhere to be found in my home, and our pets are named after a dragon (Smaug) and coffee drinks (Mocha and Frappé). Times have changed. But what hasn’t changed is the respect I have for my ancestors who left their farms in Baldwin County to fight, and die, in the war, even though I don’t respect “The Lost Cause” for which they fought nor many of the politicians and generals who led them. Some may not recognize the distinction between the “cause” and the soldier, between the politician and the soldier, or even between the general and the soldier, but there does exist a difference. The reason the Southern states rebelled was to maintain the institution of slavery. It was an unjust cause, it’s rightfully condemned, and it doesn’t deserve to be venerated in our public spaces. But the main reason many Southern men volunteered to fight was their sense of duty, however misplaced. Then, as now, and in every culture, there’s something within young men that compels them to answer…

Conservatism favors variety in all things

Henry Ford once said people could buy a Model T in any color ... as long as it was black. That assembly-line standardization proved efficient and effective for a few years, but if Ford hadn’t eventually yielded to other colors would his company have survived long enough to crowd our highways with all of these F-150s? No, because the automobile market thrives on variety, as do all markets, be they comprised of goods or services ... or even of people, their lifestyles, and especially their ideas. Conservatives have long known this, and we have seen this principle of variety successfully at work in the economy – from finance to industry to agriculture – and in education, the arts, certainly in politics, and even in war. The late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote that because of our adherance to the principle of variety, conservatives remain “cognizant that proliferating variety is the mark of a healthful society.” This is the essence of diversity. Progressives, however, often see the condition of variety as inherently unfair, unjust, perhaps immoral, because with variety comes inequality; someone will always have a good or service – and definitely an idea – that’s better or worse than what someone else has. On that last point, conservative thinker Russell Kirk agreed. “For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality” Kirk wrote, adding that the only true equality comes before a just court…