A farewell, and a challenge to conservatives

Last week I published my final regular column for AL.com and its newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville. It’s been an honor to write the column for more than four-years, advocating and defending conservative principles every week. I will now devote whatever time and talent I have to other projects supporting our political movement. But, never short on words, I want to pass along a few more before leaving. (more…)

How a silver bracelet changed my life

A silver bracelet changed my life. It was the fall of 1993. I had just turned 19-years old and was a freshly minted airman undergoing advanced training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. My days were monotonous so I joined the honor guard to break the routine (that, and I got out of afternoon P.T. twice a week). I didn’t expect much, but the first day of practice is now stamped in my memory as a life-changer. Not for what I learned about swords or rifles or precision marching, but for what I learned about life itself. I was assigned to a new team when I first showed up for practice. As we formed up, one of the more experienced airmen began teaching us new guys the basics of the saber – how to march with the sword, flip it around and salute with the blade drawn. My memory of that airman is surprisingly clear, seeing how I only spent maybe 30-minutes with him nearly a quarter-century ago. He was about 20-years old, blonde with a fair complexion, slim, polite and confident. He was deft with the saber and, despite the short training session, passed along a good bit of skill. The sergeant in charge of the teams hollered “Listen up! Take 15-minutes then meet me on the parade field ready to drill.” Most of us made our way over to the break area and I remember lighting up a Marlboro Red and leaning against the table…

The day they said my child had a chromosomal abnormality

My last post about how it’s monstrous to abort unborn babies because they have Down syndrome elicited some equally monstrous yet sadly predictable responses from the far left. “They’re too much of a burden,” sums them up. That only strengthens my analogy to Nazi eugenics, I told them, but one reader asked a question that I feel compelled to answer publicly. “Do you know how it feels,” she asked, “to be told your baby would be born severely disabled?” Yes, I do, and that’s partially why it grieves me that so many parents are choosing abortion after those prenatal screenings. It was mid-August of 2006 and my wife and I were expecting our second child. I was sitting at my desk in the Pentagon when the phone rang. It was my wife, and she was sobbing uncontrollably. “What happened?” I asked, standing so abruptly that I sent my office chair flying backward and crashing into the wall. The telephone receiver shook in my hands as I imagined the worst. “Something’s wrong with the baby,” she managed to say between tears. “The doctor’s office called. Something’s wrong with the baby.” I rushed home and found my wife lying on the bed, still crying. I sat beside her and took her tightly into my arms until she could explain. Her doctor had called and said a routine screening indicated that our child had Trisomy 18, which is a chromosomal abnormality like Down syndrome only much worse and usually fatal. After many tears…

The long-awaited “cure” for Down syndrome has finally arrived

It seems that Iceland has discovered a cure for chromosomal abnormalities. Or at least what would have passed for a cure in Nazi Germany. “Iceland is on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome through abortion,” tweeted CBS News last month while promoting a story the network was about to air. That odd choice of words fueled an immediate tweetstorm from the prolife community and families of those with the syndrome. Thousands responded, but it was actress Patricia Heaton who put it best. “Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down syndrome,” she wrote. “They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.” A big difference, indeed. My three-inch thick American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language may be a few decades old but that protects it from all the silly euphemisms that have arisen in our politically-correct culture. I checked, and it says that the “study of hereditary improvement, especially of human improvement by genetic control” is something called “eugenics.” Eugenics, as in the Action T4 mass murder program, and CBS News promotes the story like Iceland has discovered some new method of curing sick babies. Nope. They’re just getting better at an old-fashioned way of killing them. That’s all. “Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women – close to 100-percent – who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy,” the CBS News report noted. “While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed…

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…

Mobile has mo’ in common with Mo Brooks

Conservatives in Mobile and Baldwin counties should seriously consider voting for Mo Brooks in the upcoming Republican Senate primary because they have more in common with the Huntsville congressman than they might think. Sure, Brooks may represent a faraway district known more for moon landings than MoonPies, but when it comes to what Mobile needs most – jobs, jobs, and more jobs – he is the only candidate with a track record of success. Huntsville is bursting at the seams. Good companies offering great jobs have flocked to the area for years, and more seem to announce their plans to expand or move there every month. National magazines and websites often rank the city as a top location for everything from job growth to affordability. It’s a modern day boomtown. So what’s happening in H’ville? Nothing magical. It is, more or less, just like every other medium-sized city in the South … except for one important distinguishing factor that makes Huntsville attractive to companies. In a word, it’s leadership, and Brooks has been a leader here since the boom went bang. Hey folks, I’m from Mobile, too, and my roots run deep there. My family helped settled the area before statehood; I grew up in a middle class neighborhood and attended school, even college, all off Old Shell Road. I only left, somewhat reluctantly, in search of better opportunities, but when I die that’s where I’ll be buried. It’s not just my hometown; it’ll always be my home. Point is,…

Superintendent Sentance deserves better from our state board of education

Some say don't change horses in midstream. Others say if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  One of those idioms will likely describe the conclusion reached by our state board of education during today's controversial meeting to evaluate superintendent Michael Sentance. The only question is, which will it be? Mere months after accepting his own form of mission impossible - trying to improve Alabama's government-run schools - our superintendent found himself on the hot seat. And it hasn't gotten any cooler. Sentance sat through a difficult board meeting last March and received a scolding from members for not keeping them informed about changes he was considering. He had created committees to consider restructuring math, science, and reading standards and instruction, taken over Montgomery's government-run schools, and proposed restructuring the state's reading, math, and science initiatives. Rumors of proposed changes began leaking from the education department and constituents began asking board members questions they couldn't answer. "You don't let your board members be blindsided," said board member Jeff Newman, R-Millport, and Stephanie Bell, R-Montgomery, agreed. "There is an extreme lack of communication," she said. And it went on and on. Sentance promised to do better and control the leaks. In fact, he's managed a few major victories. After the board unanimously voted to ditch the ACT Aspire test, it was Sentance who personally convinced bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Education to grant a waiver for Alabama to use a temporary test while long-term solutions were sought. Without his…

It’s our tradition to value tradition

A survey released last month by the Pew Research Center showed that a steadily increasing majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. What a difference a few years makes. When the firm began asking the question in 2001, our nation was against legalizing same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%. As of this summer, 62% support same-sex marriage while only 32% oppose it, and Gallup reports nearly identical numbers. The trend is visible no matter how one segments the population – by age, gender, race, income, political philosophy, and faith – and it shows no signs of reversing or even stalling. In terms of how we’ve long defined the most significant relationship in society – a marriage – it’s nothing short of an abrupt and wholesale revolution. It took millennia to firmly establish the tradition as being solely between one man and one woman, but it was fundamentally transformed in less than the lifespan of a chimpanzee. That’s why conservatives, regardless of their personal preferences, are justified, perhaps even required, to greet this radical departure with skepticism because of our principle of tradition. This principle basically states that our starting position is to defer to that which has been established by immemorial usage. That doesn’t necessarily mean anyone who holds such a view is close-minded or completely resistant to any change. It simply means that conservatives believe that our ancestors slowly created many of our long-standing traditions, like traditional marriage, because they were eventually found to be the…