Topics for 2am

Refined thoughts of the unrefined

Memory, Persuasion and the Double Lesson of Learning

The title of this post is descriptive but deceptively lacking in helpful context. As I’ve thought over or simply tried to catalyze my rambling ideas on the three topics listed, I have come to accept that they each need their own separate space. This short piece then, serves only as a preface. Over the next few days, I hope to write on each of these and their particular importance to me in the last year. At the base level they will all deal with the simultaneous discipline, plague, and power of self-assessment and awareness. Memory will paint the picture of how I, and I assume most of us, view our past. Both major events and the minutia of single day. How triggers take us back to places and reanimate people. Persuasion will tackle what has been the most troubling topic for me recently. Is persuasion ultimately a net positive or negative action? What forces bring about the changing of the mind? How should I or anyone feel when someone tells them they can be convincing? Undoubtedly we all would likely prefer to have the advantage of mental manipulation but does this ultimately leave a person with a feeling of uncertainty as to what has actually taken place and who is to be credited and with what? The Double Lesson of Learning is of special interest to me now. As someone thoroughly enthralled in the study of human history, I cannot help but be drawn into the study of how myself and others gain the knowledge we have. At one point we all were children without any preconceived thoughts of substance. At some point this changed. These original beliefs are not bulletproof and given time they are apt to change. At that moment of evolution or sometimes revolution, we as individuals have a window of time in which to identify what the prior opinion had been and most crucially, how it came to be. This will be the crux of the discussion. As always any and all back and forth will be appreciated. To be continued……

Selfish: An unsettling realization

A few things eat at my mind more than others and don’t quit with less than a serious period of prolonged thought as satisfactory fulfillment. The problem I will cover today is perhaps chief among them. It’s seed has been with me for years and as I think back, well into my childhood. Only recently have I had the capacity and I suppose breadth of experience to even be able to formulate my thoughts on it. It concerns motivation, desire and the basic way we evaluate good and evil intentions. A favorite comedian of mine named Ralphie May once said that his goal wasn’t to be politically or socially correct, just correct. Whether or not you think he, myself or anyone for that matter is correct it is a worthy goal to strive for. As I have tried at length to flesh out my thoughts this was at the forefront. To avoid conventional wisdom for its own sake only and survey reality with the capacity to be persuaded. Here is my attempt.

From the first remembrances a child has, the rule has been hammered home. Don’t be selfish!! Selfishness, in its uglier forms, is very much frowned upon by polite society. We even have individuals we laud for their lack of selfishness: Disaster relief workers, Mother Teresa, good parents. The line of thinking goes like this: these people have forgone their own desires, their own good for the benefit of others. This can be attested to in a moment, a child declining a toy for their own enjoyment to give it to one less fortunate. Or over a lifetime, a family living in a foreign country as missionaries perhaps. I see two problems at the surface of this: 1. When we laud some people for their choices, assumption being they are hard choices, we claim the power to apply values to choices. If Mother Teresa had ‘chosen’ to live her life in Miami Beach as a spiritual consultant to the rich and famous she most certainly would not be seen as the selfless embodiment of the chaste life. The content of her choices have on their own decided the content of her character for the large majority of the world. This is like saying that someone who chooses to eat only lettuce and beats is clearly not hungry. Hunger motivates the eater. The food eaten is of no consequence. The object of the decision made does not effect qualities in the decider. Now before you retort that I am only half right and that the qualities of the decider do determine the choices I will point out something. The reason I choose to equate motivations, in this case selfish or unselfish ones, to the act of eating (hunger being one of the most elemental human motivators) is that the most kind-hearted, others-focused person any of us have ever known has one large thing in common with the most depraved of hardened criminals. They are all, we are all, selfish! Violently, relentlessly so! Selfish is defined as an adjective “(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure”. Definitions are really important and I reference them as often as is practical. In comparing the conduit for two completely opposite groups of people’s actions and choices I do so that we can set the record straight and I hope, move forward with a better understanding of ourselves and how we can face our problems. Selfishness isn’t a bad quality, it is one of the many things it means to be human. I’ll use a quote here from Pascal that I’ve used before, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” I couldn’t agree more. Think of the last time you did something you chose not to…. You can’t think of one because it has never happened. Now, to this you may say, “of course I’ve done things that I didn’t want to. And you can give me a hundred examples. But the truth about every single one of those examples is that you wanted to make the choice you did! Wanted to make it more than the alternatives.  You wanted to go work on Monday because you didn’t want to lose your job. Wanted to work more than you wanted to take an island vacation? Of course not. But an island vacation wasn’t an option. Losing your job was. You could have left it all and gone fishing but you didn’t want the consequences. Given the choices you wanted to work.  At all times, without fail the actions of every human being everywhere are at their core, directed by the desires of that particular human. From the best of actions to the worst, they all have been decided upon because the actor wanted to act them out. Take a ‘good’ example: A parent decides to miss a viewing of their favorite tv show to spend time with their child at his or her game. A cursory glance would labor this as good parenting and while maybe not the exalted example of unselfishness, certainly not selfishness. I beg to differ. What has gone into the decision this parent made? Clearly they value the feeling of satisfaction they get from A. Watching their child perform B. The sweetly innocent reciprocation of love their child gives them in return for their obvious prioritizing of their interests C. The lack of disappointment their child would have felt had they missed the game. Now please don’t hear me saying that this parent was choosing between two morally equal things or that they made the wrong choice. I do not in any we feel that. They made the absolute right choice and the one with far more positive outcomes. But in that is exactly my point. We shouldn’t feel the need to not label that selfish. This parent chose what they desired most, they were selfish. Our gut reaction is to feel angry at this claim. How you could label the selfless act of parenting as selfish?! I can because it is as all other choices in life have been and always will be, made at the behest of our own desires. Weighed out on the scales of value based decision-making and then made. Not to mention that once you’ve become a parent, you’ve forfeited the ability to call it a selfless act. At that point only the type of selfishness you display is in play. If you’re thinking about leaving me, just give me a moment, I’ll do more to distinguish good and evil than to simply say the outcome is different.

A Christ-Centered Perspective

As a Christian and one that has grown up around the church I wrestled with more layers of this than I may have otherwise. Selfish people were seen negatively in broad culture but in the church it was downright condemned. Christ was said to be an example of a selfless life and death. Someone, indeed God, who pushed his own desires to the side for the good of others. On the surface there is some good in this. But as can happen with many things and most tragically when we discuss and learn about God, if we settle only for some good we forfeit so much more! Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross”. This is a clear statement of motivation from the greatest act a human has ever committed. Jesus, the God-man was motivated by joy! Joy of all things. Humans, made in the image of God, image many of his attributes. Though, due to the fall into sin, all of those attributes have been corrupted in their human form. Desires and motivations among them. But among the ruins of our once pristine reflection is hope. Hope that what has been corrupted can be replaced with the incorruptible. This is the goal of hope in the Gospel, that restoration can occur. If we were left only to realize our  terrible condition it would be a cruel fate. Now to examine the goal of redeemed selfishness. Theologians have over time asked the question, “did Christ die for God or for man?” and they have answered yes. This answer doesn’t choose but recognizes the nature of redeemed selfishness. Christ does everything (and with the utmost justification) simply because he(God) wants to. God’s desire in and of itself is merit enough for any thing he wishes to happen. But the supernatural miracle of it is that with no need in himself at all, God has chosen to include the good of others. Namely those chosen for salvation, to be included in his supreme pleasure. This is where we see the perfect picture we as humans once had the capacity to reflect. In the very next verse, Hebrews 12:3 it says “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”  2 Corinthians 5:21-22 is like it, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I recognize that many more verses exist to lay out the case I am making and I advise anyone willing to look into it. I didn’t intend this to be an exhaustive study, simply a jumping off point for something you may have not thought through in this way. To conclude I propose my basic thesis. We as humans are called by God not to unselfishness, this is impossible and goes against the very fiber of everything that exists, God included. We are called instead to a redeemed selfishness that in the way of Christ, includes the greatest good for the maximal amount of people in it. The desires and decisions of the heart should not be condemned because we desire them. Rather we should seek out holy desires. This is the struggle. And only God can win(Has won) the fight.

Why I Was Not In Gettysburg for the 150th

1063936_512680902131513_765064993_oI’ve been to Gettysburg once. The visit was unforgettable and quickly left me planning a return trip. So as the 150th anniversary of the largest battle in the recorded history of the North American Continent unfolded this past week with grand reenactments and countless special events, it may strike those who know me as  somewhat more than strange that I am happily 2.5 hours away. My fixation on the War to Preserve the Union runs deep and I’ve made a special point to make it to as many of the sesquicentennial celebrations as I can. Gettysburg is the one glaring exception. I’ll give you two reasons why:

Rear View Mirror History

Gettysburg has many distinctive qualities. As I mentioned above it is the largest battle ever fought on this Continent. It is the farthest north the Army of Northern Virginia ever penetrated. It chronologically marks the mid-point of the war. It is the most monument laden battlefield. For all these distinctions there is one myth that rises above them all. That Gettysburg was the turning point of the war, the ‘high water mark of the Confederacy’ (in terms of momentum not geography). This type of perspective on Gettysburg can only be reached with a 21st Century perspective. Or by looking at history through the rear view mirror. Those commenting on Gettysburg soon after its’ conclusion, both North and South, put remarkably less stock in its’ outcome (and a disputed one at that) than we generally do today. This overemphasis along with its northern location have led to its’ disproportionately perceived importance. This in itself is no reason not to go, but inflated importance usually brings inflated crowds. Large groups of people are great in certain places, sporting events for example. They tend to ruin the very personal battlefield experience. The most indelible moments I’ve had on battlefields have been completely solitary. That doesn’t always happen, but at Gettysburg this past week it would have been impossible.

Reproducing War?..

Civil War reenactors play a key role in generating interest in and increasing knowledge of the war. They are fiercely dedicated group who do their jobs incredibly well. Their work has brought and will bring a love for the study of the war to future generations. My interest in their craft ends at that. I have for as long as I can recollect coherent thoughts believed that war is impossible to reproduce. And a part of me feels it a bit disrespectful to even try. The men who fought the battles 150 years ago did so knowing their next engagement could be their last. In a few select cases they even had a high level of certainty. This can never be brought out by the organization of men in battle lines. There is something to be aesthetically appreciated in the visual of men congregating as they would have in actual battle. But beyond that I have no use for reenactments. I visit battle sites to walk the ground they walked, to contemplate the reasons they fought. It is an interactive endeavor. No spectating required.

That’s all I have. I hate crowds at battlefields and reenactments don’t do it for me.

Why I Love the Supreme Court

Type ‘Supreme Court’ into your browser and you’re guaranteed to see a few things. At the top the most recent controversial decisions followed by the Wikipedia link and a few more startling headlines. After those come the deluge of independent posts, much like this one. What you almost certainly won’t find is a ringing endorsement of the Court, or even an overall positive feeling about its’ place in the American system of government. It seems today that if the Court’s majority decision doesn’t line up with your personal view then it must hold that Court is a  Liberal/Conservative special interest group bent on shoving its’ agenda down the country’s throat. Disagreement, or at least respectful disagreement, is a laughable prospect. The degenerative nature of politics and of any governmental system underscores the growing importance of the Court in our time. The Court remains as the final vestige of civilized discourse and differing viewpoints. This in short is why I love the Supreme Court and am thankful for it.

What We Should Be

In our modern world of social media and information overload it has been duly noted that traditional ways of communicating(and thereby agreeing and disagreeing) have degraded to a critical point. Forums to speak and be heard abound more than ever, and that I am glad of. But the social skill of tactfully massaging a topic and your listeners has been largely lost. Twitter has developed a few more witty wordsmiths but not nearly enough to back up its’ loaded premise. Sadly, far more often than not, it simply functions as a public square of stupidity and depravity. (If you doubt the last point just take a glance at 50 Cent’s profile). How does this further my elevated view of the Court? Here’s how. By procedure and by precedent the Court hears cases and delivers decisions by a simple majority rule. Of special interest to me is the written decision. Oftentimes more than one Justice takes the time to record the reason for his vote. This is done thoughtfully and with the highest professional standards of reason. Think about this for a second. The nine most prominent legal minds in our country often disagree with one another and do so vigorously. That alone is a weighty thought, but when you realize that they do this while also remaining remarkably close personally the example brightens further. Stories of the affectionate relations among Justices on the Court are not difficult to find. Justices as politically opposed as Scalia and Bader Ginsburg have even been known to vacation together.  (A wonderful resource on this is Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Nine.) They in essence are what we as individual Americans should strive to be: Passionately convinced of our reasons for holding a certain thing to be true while being equally passionate to preserve cordial relations with all those we disagree with. Our civilization could stand to become more civil. Let’s start by reading a few of their opinions, and hopefully refining some of your own.

Civil War Road Trip #3 (Museum of the Confederacy and Petersburg)

Sometimes I just can’t resist the pull. The possibilities are too tantalizing to say no. For my third Civil War road trip during the Sesquicentennial I didn’t need much prodding to make the trek. I had a Thursday off from work and decided to head back down to VA. I left Jersey late Wednesday night and stopped over at my family’s house in DC for the night. I started early the next day(early for me is 9 am) for my points of interest. My plan was to make it to Richmond, then Petersburg, and finally back up to Richmond before heading home that night. In Richmond I would visit the Museum of the Confederacy, which boasts the largest collection of Confederate artifacts anywhere as well as the distinction of being the original museum commemorating the Southern cause. In Petersburg I had one goal in mind, find the battle of the Crater and specifically the crater itself. To finish up the day I would drive back to Richmond for a free lecture on British involvement in the war at the University of Richmond. If all went as planned I would drive the 5 hours back home, arriving at 2 am. My recounting of the day is below.

The Museum of the Confederacy

The initial catalyst for my trip was a recommendation from my favorite Professor regarding this museum. I came with high expectations and left satisfied. The museum has more than a few exhibits of particular distinction. The museum is nestled within the city of Richmond and requires some skill to find. The nearby hospital looms above it and really adds to the feeling of nostalgia you feel as you enter the museum. This place is a shrine to a previous time, and that time is slowly being swallowed up by the future. I was shocked to discover that the parking lot attendant whom I encountered couldn’t even tell me where the museum was. It turned out to be around the next corner. This guy works a few hundred yards from this magnificent place and he doesn’t even know it exists?? I still laugh about that. Upon entering I began my tour. The highlights were numerous. The museum houses many personal items from Lee, Jeb Stuart, Jonathan Jackson as well as many others. It’s pure fascination to look at and in some cases touch the items used by these iconic and legendary figures. A favorite item of mine were the field glasses of General Nathan Forrest. The glasses themselves aren’t that famous, but the eyes that looked through were. As with any eyewitness, artifacts on their own merit have little to no intrinsic value. They are valued for what they testify to and to what they have seen. Along with personal effects, the museum also displays large amounts of personal letters. The majority of these writings are attributed to privates and other average men who fought and died. Reading their thoughts and feelings is an enrapturing discipline to undertake. I found myself tearing up on more than occasion while reading the last goodbyes of dying soldiers to their loved ones back home. The content ranged from the heartbreaking to the comical. My favorite was one diary entry by a New York soldier. He lamented the long period of time since he had last been in the company of a young woman. He theorized that he may not even know what to do if he were to meet one in the future. He finished the thought with, “though I think I could manage”. That barely begins to cover the immense collection of artifacts in the MOC. They also house a large number of Confederate flags, both state and individual unit. I nice way to end a visit is with a trip to the lower level of the building. Here they keep their collection of Confederate art. A large painting of Lee and Jackson conferencing before the battle of Chancellorsville is difficult to miss.

The White House of the Confederacy

If you need some convincing to make the trip to Richmond, let this be my pitch. The MOC is absolutely worth the trip, but if that alone won’t do it then this will. Located a few steps from the MOC,  The White House of the Confederacy is worth every minute you spend in it and a few more as well. It’s counterpart in Washington DC has it beat in popularity and recognition as well it should. That in no way diminishes the luster of this American treasure. As the name belies this home was the headquarters as well as living quarters of the Confederacy’s first family the Davis’s. Jefferson Davis lived in it until the final days of the Confederacy when the government abandoned and burned Richmond. The home remains intact and is approximately fifty percent original. It’s first official postwar purpose was the one now held by the building it adjoins. The Museum of the Confederacy was originally housed in the White House of the Confederacy. Each room in the house was dedicated to an individual Southern state. Early in the 20th Century this was situation was changed to its’ present arrangement to better maintain the home, as well as restore those parts that had deteriorated. Our tour guide through the home (tickets are required to view the home, and photography is strictly prohibited) was terrific. On an interesting side note he was also black. That alone was amazing to think about as we walked through the home were colored people had been enslaved only 150 years before. Luckily the home has a number of original items remaining. The Davis family dinner table is original. A few mirrors in the home are as well. The mirrors… I nearly fell into a trance looking into them. The reflecting glass was the same one that Jefferson and Verina Davis looked to in preparing themselves everyday. Like I said, Crazy to think about. The couch that Robert E. Lee sat on while visiting the President remains. I can’t adequately describe the experience so that means one thing or maybe two. My writing skills are limited and you need to visit for yourself. That seems to be a convenient confluence and I’m sticking to it.


The Battle of the Crater was only one in a long series of engagements in Grant’s siege of Petersburg. But for me it is the one that held and still holds the most intrigue. I arrived at the field late on an absolutely breathtaking fall afternoon. If I had left with only a few photos of the setting sun I think I would have left content. Thankfully a few more highlights were left to be found. The park that encompasses the battle was completely empty when I arrived and remained so until I left. There is something eerie about walking a deserted battlefield. You try to imagine the sounds that filled the area, both of elation and agony, of anger and inquiry. Your imagination is alone at work, disturbed only by the birds and the distant sound of the wind through trees. The landscape is wide and sprawling. I parked and began walking down a trail with a marker that confirmed “the crater” would appear ahead. I first encountered the beginning of the Union mine that would prove successful in planting the explosives destined to create the crater in the Southern line. The mine has begun to cave in over time and makes it easy to identify. From there I walked up a small incline towards the crater itself. The path gave close up views of the Confederate counter mines that attempted to find the source of the mine they were sure the Union was building. Their attempts unsuccessful by only a few feet. The crater itself rises 7 feet around its’ perimeter to obscure the area beyond. The spot is true to its’ name. The massive explosion that proved disastrous not for the Confederates around it but for the Union soldiers ordered to attack it appears as a giant bowl from the top rim. The area is remarkably peaceful. For any historian or interested party this presents a fascinating mental juxtaposition. I was saddened by the realization that to make my lecture I would need to wrap it up at the Crater and move on.

Final Thoughts

My final stop back in Richmond was a great way to end the day. The Annual Bottimore lecture series hosted by the University of Richmond was presented by Amanda Foreman. Her book relates the individual stories of British citizens and their involvement in the War. It was a relaxed evening and a cool anecdotal history. On a larger note I was thrilled that I was able to complete the trip in a single day with time left to sleep in my own bed that night. I’ll be back on the road again soon if I can help it.  SPOILER ALERT: (Chancellorsville has its’ 150th  anniversary in May with Gettysburg’s in July)…. Goodbye for now.

Civil War Road Trip #2 (Gettysburg, Antietam, Harper’s Ferry)

After the great success of the my first Civil War Road Trip I was itching to get back on the road and visit the numerous sites I had yet to see. The end of August provided an ideal opportunity. The rough plan for this trip included driving to Gettysburg on Saturday afternoon, staying over Saturday night and visiting the battlefield all day Sunday. We would then drive to Sharpsburg, Maryland and stay there Sunday night. Monday would be spent at the Antietam battlefield with a possible quick trip to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. An ambitious weekend trip while still getting home for work on Tuesday. So  myself and two friends, Jack and Andy, packed up my car and headed down to Gettysburg from an eastern PA camp we had been staying at. The drive was just under two hours and with beautiful  weather and no traffic we were in Gettysburg by Saturday afternoon. Now for the specific  accounts.


The first thing we learned about Gettysburg wasn’t some unknown historical tidbit or interesting fact. It turns out that Gettysburg is the New York City of Civil War cities. From the dedication of the national cemetery capped by President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address in 1863, the battlefield in Southern Pennsylvania has been the best marked (state, brigade, and regimental monuments) battlefield of the war. It’s fame has also been garrisoned by it’s location as the northernmost major battle of the conflict. With this attention and the large number of tourists Gettysburg attracts each year, the prices in and around the city tend to run a little higher than in your average country town. If I remember correctly, we paid $30 for a campsite on the battlefield in Gettysburg that included nothing more than a tent site and a fire pit. In comparison, the following night on the banks of Potomac river in Maryland, we paid $10 for a very similar setup. Needless to say we spent as little money as possible. Our optimized expenditures included 89 cent water from Wal-Mart along with pop tarts for breakfast and granola bars for lunch. When we weren’t eating from the King’s table we were busy avoiding the other mainstay of downtown Gettysburg. Ghost hunters and Ghost labs are more numerous than Harold Camping end times predictions. If they do nothing else they’re a great diversion for those in town who could care less about the history of the place. Something for everyone I suppose. Our campsite was offering free tickets to a local diorama (of course the other option was the wildly popular Ghost lab). So after checking in at the camp we drove into town. The diorama was really a very impressive structure. The show was designed to show the action over the three days of battle. The show ended  at 8:30 and we opted out of the camp pig roast and called it a night. Based on the looks we received on the way in we had legitimate doubts as to our safety in the camp. Despite our fears we survived the night and began our tour the following morning.

We picked up a free guided tour map at the visitor center and began the extensive trek. I’ll try to mention all of the highlights.

The Virginia Monument. A massive likeness of Robert Lee towers over you as you walk to the base of the monument. He is mounted on his horse traveller, surveying the Longstreet/Pickett/Pettigrew assault on the Union center on day 3. He looms over the field, much as Lee’s aura has overshadowed much of our modern war memory.

The Longstreet Monument and Assault Start Point. The placement and size of the Longstreet monument are quite ironic. They’re situated behind Lee’s imposing frame and are significantly smaller. They parallel Longstreet’s real life situation. His reputation is tied irrevocably to Lee. His successes the result of Lee’s wise placement and management and Lee’s failures are loudly placed at the feet of Longstreet, the near traitorous subordinate. Or so goes the myth of the lost cause. Lee himself would have refuted this interpretation. On another note as you stand were Pickett’s and Pettigrew’s divisions stood to begin their assault on the union line, it is difficult to imagine the mindset of these men. Men marching to their near certain death. Yet march they did.

Little and Big Round Top. Most of our time was spent at Little Round Top in a driving rain. We scaled the rocky front of Little Round Top and surveyed the position of Joshua Chamberlain’s famous 20th Maine Regiment. The fighting at this point must have been ferocious. Below is the view from Little Round Top looking down towards Devil’s Den.

Devil’s Den. A group of large boulders and the natural crevices around them makes up the infamous fighting ground of Devil’s Den. We waited for the rain to slow down before ventured out onto the rocks. Below is the view from the high point on Devil’s Den looking up towards Little Round Top. 

This is the position of what was probably a Confederate sharpshooter.

The Copse of Trees. This was the location the attack aimed for. It was located at the center of the Union line, a line the Confederates were desperate to break.

One other highlight from Gettysburg was a group of New England reenactors who were on their yearly trip to Gettysburg. They demonstrated training techniques and described the duties of the various officers. After this thirty minute demonstration and we moved on to the rest of the tour and finished with the National Cemetery. This concluded our time in Gettysburg and we began the trip to Antietam.


The battle of Antietam is named for Antietam creek which runs through the battlefield. The battle was known as Sharpsburg on the Confederate. This name deriving from the town adjacent to the famous battle. Sharpsburg sits in the western part of Maryland not far from either of the Virginias. The area is populated thinly by farms and small communities. We spent the night at a pay as you stay campsite on the banks of the Potomac river. I highly recommend this experience. The river is incredibly peaceful and the campsite is very remote. You feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere partly because you are. After a solid eight hours  and another hearty breakfast of pop tarts and water we set off for the battlefield. We arrived at the visitor’s center, acquired all the necessary informative brochures, and were on our way. Most every high profile civil war battlefield has a helpful set of self guided tours that always enhance the sightseeing experience. This specific tour began at the Dunker (Dunkard?) church. The church which was famously shot up during the battle had been destroyed in a storm after the war but appears rebuilt today. We left the church and headed into the west woods where some early fighting took place. Next came the cornfield. This ground was made famous by Hood’s Texas brigade and the ferocious fighting that felled the tall stalks of corn along with agonizing numbers of the young men fighting among them. Stops after the cornfield consisted mostly of memorial markers and monuments. The next major highlight came at the observation tower overlooking the bloody lane. The lane was an old farmer’s road used mostly for hauling goods. On the afternoon of September 17, 1862 the sunken road would fill with the blood and lifeless bodies of the men fighting over it. Images of the dead in the bloody lane would be the centerpiece of the photographer Matthew Brady’s New York exhibit that shocked the American public. We experienced our own sense of awe, standing hundreds of feet above the Maryland ground, looking down at a peaceful, beautiful landscape. There is a feeling nearly impossible to describe that you feel as you stand on ground where scores of men once died in horrific fashion. You survey the field and take a deep breath. You try to imagine what those men felt as they awaited near certain death, or charged toward it. Eventually you leave with some kind of understanding. Wholly incomplete but satisfactory enough that you feel incredibly close and at the same time very far away from it all. This was for me the highlight of the Antietam trip. We then moved on to the other side of the battle and Burnside bridge. The location of the bridge made it a nightmare to attack when even marginally well defended. Burnside’s men found that out quickly and spent much time and blood in taking it. After a drive to the final fight of the battle, we finished up the trip with a long walk through the National Cemetery. Antietam’s cemetery is, like Gettysburg’s, a very special experience. It was a fitting end.

Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry was left to the tail end of the road trip and deserved a full day. With that in mind we decided upon arrival that we would need to save that day for another trip. One takeaway: The area is simply stunning. The mountains (or perhaps very tall hills) separate and the town is found at the base of them. The Potomac again divides the land masses here. John Brown made the U.S. military depot famous and the garrison would remain important throughout the war. Maybe on my trip back to Cedar Creek I’ll revisit HP.

Until the next one…

The War of the Rebellion at 150: Road Trip #1

A few weeks ago I got to experience something that I’ve had on my mental to do list for quite some time. I realized that due to a convenient occasion I would be in the DC/VA area on a Sunday night followed by a Monday off day. Following my Sunday night commitment me and my dad stayed the night with family on the outskirts of Washington and made plans to hit up a few Civil War battlefields the next day. Being enthralled by history as I am and especially American history within driving distance of the Northeast (and there is an amazing amount!), I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. We mapped out an ambitious trip that would allow us an hour at each location and including travel time have us home back in NJ by 9pm or so. The plan was as follows: Leave DC by 9am and drive to stop #1 Manassas. Manassas being the first major conflict of the war this was a perfect beginning. From there we would be on our way to stop #2 Fredericksburg. The suicidal Union attack at this town along the Rappahannock River in Virginia would become the most lopsided victory of the war on either side and was one of the saddest displays of stubbornly hardheaded generalship. We would make the short drive from Fredericksburg to stop #3, Spotsylvania or Spotsylvania Courthouse. Here was the scene of some of the worst and most savage fighting ever seen on the North American continent. On May 12, 1864, at a converging bend in the Confederate line known forever as the “bloody angle”, fighting raged for 18 hours in the rain as trench warfare had reached its’ peak. This field would be our midway point and would be followed by a 90 minute drive to the western part of the state and stop #4, Cedar Creek. This battle was one of significance and a certain notoriety though not as well known as some others. The interest here was that I had been assigned and had given a presentation on this particular battle for a Civil War class. A trip like this wouldn’t be complete without passing the mountain from which the Confederates surveyed Union lines in preparation for a daring nighttime march around their flank. I’ll spare any hopes and honestly say we didn’t make it to stops #5, Harper’s Ferry, or stop #6, Antietam. The day just wasn’t long enough and these two Civil War giants deserved more than a simple highway glance. They will wait until the next trip. That finishes the overview. We covered these 4 locations in 7 hours. Here’s a small sampling of each.


Located a short car ride from Washington DC, Manassas was where romantic dreams of the glories of war came to die. Up until this point both North and South expected a quick end to the war with their side prevailing. These hopes quickly turned to vapor after the stunning Confederate victory at Manassas, or First Bull Run. The Manassas battlefield today sits off an inconspicuous exit next to an overcrowded strip mall with sub-par food. Once you leave the rest area you’re on the battlefield itself. Parts have been preserved and others have not. The field where Thomas Jackson was given his famous nickname stands preserved and nestled between two commercial roads. The rolling hills of Manassas really bring out the grandeur the battle must have promised before quickly disintegrating into, well, battle. An original house still stands as well as my highlight of the battlefield, an 1864 monument erected by survivors of the battle. The battlefield offers free self-guided tours and should be given upwards of two hours to soak in. 


Ambrose Burnside had recently been put in charge of the army of the Potomac, the most prestigious command in all the Union Army, despite his appeals against the post. He argued that he was not up to the task. To his credit or discredit, he was right, barely. His original plan was well thought out. He would quickly move troops from the area surrounding Washington not towards the Confederate capitol at Richmond, the sexy choice,  but towards Fredericksburg, the more feasible choice. His plan was to move his troops into position on Marye’s Heights, a high ground position befitting its name, just beyond the town. This would involve crossing the Rappahannock on pontoon bridges and waiting for Lee to make his move. The plan was executed beautifully, except one important detail. Someone forgot to tell the Army Corps of Engineers the Pontoon bridges didn’t make the trip. While Burnside waited for the bridges to arrive, Lee quickly moved his troops into position on the heights. This left Burnside with a decision: Attack the heights with the probability of monumental casualties and almost certain defeat, or regroup and plan a strategy for drawing Lee into open battle. He chose action. He doubtlessly feared the scorn of a Northern public hungry for a victory and felt the heat from the Commander in Chief. Although these were considerations, Burnside knew as a military man that this assault was suicidal at best and downright murderous at worst. What the men who saw those heights prepared to endure was exactly what they received. The Confederate men shooting down at the advancing Union troops were nearly stunned stiff at the incredible sight that met them: Men charging up the heights with virtually no chance of taking them. A suicide mission indeed. As we rounded a bend in the road on our way to the Fredericksburg battlefield visitor’s center I noticed a significantly angled hill to my left. It was simply breathtaking, and that was before I realized nearly a second later these were the heights those men had charged 148 years ago in frigid winter. Walking up them on a cool early summer day was tiring; I couldn’t imagine doing so with bullets flying past my head and into those of my comrades. The hopelessness of this charge was supremely evident and weighty. The entire area surrounding and encompassing the heights was terrifically supported by placards and original landmarks telling the story of the battles it hosted. This was my favorite stop on the trip. It is certainly worth a trip of its’ own. 

Spotsylvania (Courthouse):

A fifteen minute drive from Fredericksburg lands you in the heavily forested battlefield of Spotsylvania, Virginia. Our particular end point was the aforementioned “bloody angle”. You come upon it after a short drive through heavy tree cover. It jumps out quite noticeably. The sight is still being completed in terms of its’ ability to support a self-guided tour, but that certainly didn’t stop us. The first thing we noticed upon walking out to the field was the pronounced nature of the Confederate breastworks. Nearly 150 years later you can still easily detect the trenches that housed so much death! Today the bloody angle is a serenely beautiful space that gives no real indication of its’ hellish past. In his tremendous 1 volume Civil War work Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson describes the battle like this, “blood flowed copiously as the rain, turning trench floors into a slimy ooze where dead and wounded were trampled down by men fighting for their lives” (McPherson 730). One Union officer recounted in a tone that still resonates with me, “I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of the horrors of Spotsylvania, because I should be loath to believe it myself were the case reversed”. The fighting were we stood was so ferocious that a two foot thick oak tree beyond the lines was cut in half by the mini ball fire. How are men to survive such combat, let alone the mental strain? 

Cedar Creek:

The longest leg of the trip took us to Cedar Creek and my particular interest. Set at the base of a beautiful portion of the Shenandoah Valley, Cedar Creek was the arena for the last meaningful engagement of the valley campaign. The Union victory here effectively removed all Confederate presence from the valley and hastened the South’s demise. Confederate General Jubal Early decided upon one last desperation attempt and knocking Union General Sheridan’s army from the valley. The Union presence was the cause of great fear and trepidation on the part of the Confederacy. Sheridan’s army could, if unhindered, aide Grant in ousting Lee from Petersburg and perhaps end the war. Early had to move quickly and decisively. His plan was to move over Cedar Creek by nighttime march and catch the Union troops situated in the town of Middletown by complete surprise the next morning. On the morning of October 19, 1864 Early’s men struck early (sorry) at 5 am. The attack worked and Sheridan’s men were routed from the field to a bluff on the other end of the town. Upon hearing the “cannonading” as he called it, Sheridan, who was himself 10 miles away in the town of Winchester road immediately to the field. Upon arriving he saw the vast majority of his men in full fledged retreat. He hastily regrouped them and led a decisive counterattack that not only won back the lost position but drove the Confederate’s twenty miles down the road and off the field completely. Sheridan’s ride as it has come to be called has gone down as one of the greatest of wartime heroics in modern times. His horse, Rienzi, was renamed Winchester after the town from which he rode and is now stuffed and on display in a Washington D.C. museum. I was a bit giddy to finally see and feel the place I had read so much about. Unfortunately our late arrival found the visitor’s center closed for the day. That just meant we would have to do a little more of the now customary self-guided touring. A marker along the quaint small town road that framed the battlefield showed us the point where Sheridan’s ride came to an end. The amazing thing about this stop, aside from my personal interest, was the underwhelming nature of it. It could have been any other small town in Virginia and you would never know the difference. Small residential houses lined the road Sheridan traveled, their front row seat to history unnoticed perhaps. This stop would mark the end of our trip as rain and darkness moved in. We began the 4 hour ride back home.

The minute we pulled away from Cedar Creek I had made up my mind. This would be only the first of many Civil War road trips. The aura enveloping the battlefields we walked was addictive. This was only heightened by the far off nature of the war and that special time in history. In 21st century America, only those who have seen combat in our own modern wars can even come close to feeling the plethora of emotions that raged in the hearts of Americans all those years ago. Difficult though it may be I cannot escape the riptide like affect that our not so distant history possesses. Millions of Americans gave their lives on land not so far from many of us for things they believed were right. Whether those were institutions both defended and fought against, or the very right to question the authority of those who set up institutions. Our ancestors gave everything for a multitude of reasons. It could be walking a battlefield or just taking the time to Google the battle of Vicksburg, either way I believe we have the deepest of responsibilities to wonder why. To ask, for whom and for what? 

Public Enemy: The Duty of Due Diligence

The 2012 Presidential election is more than five months away and already the public is being galvanized by the squawk of political pundits and the battle cries of special interest groups. If you listen to a small segment of those giving their take you’re sure to be told that this election is the most important one. If Obama wins, or doesn’t win, the world will surely hang in the balance. Let me calm your fears: Both sides are full of crap! No one election will make or break this country. It’s fate, in one sense, has already been decided. The task at this point is to make the ascension or descension as peaceful as possible. Fear has always been a tool in the belt of those who desire ready and quickly made followers. While it can be effective it never actually solves the problem, the problem that actually brought us to this point. The point is, that if America fails or doesn’t it’s not Barack Obama’s, or George Bush’s or Bill Clinton’s or any other one President’s fault, it is the by-product of many years of marination and meltdown. Have our leaders failed us? Perhaps, but not nearly as grievously as we have failed them.

A Republic If You Can Keep It

The obvious paradox of a Republic is that the very thing the system is designed to theoretically produce is that which it seems so intolerant to. A republic is based on the idea that the masses select the best among them to rule over them as a type of self-imposed watchdog group. In the American system this is most clearly embodied in the office of President. Growing up I, perhaps foolishly, saw the President as having a Batman-like role. In one of my favorite scenes from the Dark Knight  Bruce Wayne asks his all-wise butler Alfred what he should do in the face of unpredictable evil. Alfred’s response perfectly captures the ideal of the Presidency: Wayne – “People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?” Alfred – “Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman. He can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make — the right choice.” Is this not what the President should be? He should not be bound by the fickle desires of the public, he should make the choice that must be made. The hard choice. So many politicians today are, instead of looking to do what must be done, are spending their time and money to hone their electability. Instead of being adept at ruling they are professional campaigners; always on the campaign trail and never in the commander’s chair. Now I can’t and won’t defend an unreasonable ideal of  ruling that neglects the need to campaign and prove mettle over time. I do believe though, that this is where the American people have so profoundly failed. Somewhere past prosperity America stopped doing things, as John Kennedy put it, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. We stopped caring enough to produce better leaders. Because as much as we would like to blame leaders we don’t like on other people or socialist schemes to take over America we need to look no further than our own door. Bad President’s are like disappointing children, yes they reflect their own failings but what they really reflect are the shortcomings of the parents as well as previous generations. If the public deserved a better, more fully flushed vision for America’s future they would have it. They have been cursed by what they have become.

We The Apathetic

The present dismal state of political participation in America can be summed up in one phrase, uninformed apathy. Americans in large part don’t care enough to vote, even using my opening reasoning as justification. But is this very attitude that has in the position we’re in. The oft lauded American public, who politicians continue to insist aren’t stupid, are like that kid in little league who belongs on a baseball field like Newt Gingrich belongs at a golden anniversary. The parents yell out encouragements that are clearly not helping and will do nothing to change the fact the poor guy is not meant to strike fear in the hearts of pitchers everywhere. The point is that someone who isn’t stupid doesn’t need to be told so, just like an author doesn’t need to start a book by informing his readership that they are indeed reading. Only the ignorant must be massaged into thinking they are enlightened. With this knowledge in hand, any politician worth his weight in political savvy will take advantage of this and tell the voter what he wants to hear. The politician is certainly to held accountable for his deceptions and manipulations but the citizen is just as responsible if he allows himself to be deceived and manipulated. But we have decided that it is more enjoyable to be catered to, to be wooed and won by those who will take from us the very thing they promise to give. It would a more lamentable thing if it were not so predictable. A nation of sober-minded caretakers of freedom would never have fallen this far. Not stupid? Convince me if you can.

The Enemy Within

Over the course of America’s history her enemies have usually been easy to identify: Great Britain (sort of?), Barbary Coast pirates, rebels, Germany and the axis powers, Communism, and more recently global terrorism. But her most deadly enemy is not one with a foreign zip code. It is housed instead in the spirit of many of her residents, that enemy is indifference. That enemy is the apathetic, uninformed, uninterested American public despite all claims to the contrary. No politician can take, really take, what you have not given them. There are many individual examples of this but I have set out to simply introduce the observation. Examine for yourself. Don’t believe it because I or anyone else said it. Do your own research, that is, assuming you want to know the truth.

The Grand Experiment’s Endgame Theory, or, the American Dream in Requiem

The American Dream, unique in its’ definition, or perhaps its’ ability to be continually redefined, is if nothing else an amazing anomaly on the stage of human history. A constant companion of civilized culture since the beginning of time has been a clear and unquestioned acceptance of one’s place. From the ruling nobility to the slave, generations came and went without moving more than 10 miles from their place of birth. Many factors contributed to this including literacy levels, wealth, and the class system itself. This reality held true until the seventeenth century and the beginnings of the permanent settlement of America by Europeans. To identify this point in time is not to say the American Dream was performing at full capacity at this time, there were still many obstacles to upward economic mobility. Though only a humble beginning, what began as a grand experiment soon gave way to what is now popularly referred to as the American Dream. The following will be a simple layout of its’ origins and a more focused examination on what may be its’ downfall. The sometimes happy but often sad part to dreams is that in the end, everyone wakes up.

One could argue that the dream began with the first knowledge of an unclaimed land. The vision of the first explorers, once they discovered that their trek was not in fact to the Indies, was something of a great unknown. The possibility of great success or of great failure, must have held some appeal to men tiring of intercontinental war. The prospect of raising one’s social status through untested venture was one they deemed worthy. For that reason I sit on this specific location (North America) writing this and except for a few, you sit reading it.

The dream began to take on a more recognizable form after the British colonization. Indentured servants would sell themselves to a master and sign a seven year labor contract in exchange for passage to the colonies and the chance at a new beginning. This version still fell short as the reality for many servants became either death (many died within a few months or a year of arriving) or a renege  of their original agreement. As painful an outcome as these two options were, they were nonetheless another furthering of the idea that hope resided in America. Yes you could fail, but at least you had a chance.

With the revolution of Britain’s American colonies came a new version of the dream. The relatively small minority of wealthy landowners in favor of rebellion saw America as their chance to break free from the mother country and to maximize their potential in a self-sustaining  system. Less than one hundred years later the War of the Rebellion would bring one of the final additions as slavery was slowly eradicated from the American economy. At this point in time people, at least in theory, were free to make of themselves whatever they could manage and were not bound by law. Up until that time whether it was slavery of blacks or voting restrictions on everyone except wealthy land owning white males, the law had clearly restricted who could improve their lot and who could not. That had begun to change. Around the turn of the twentieth century America became widely recognized as the destination for oppressed and disenfranchised people everywhere. Immigrants flooded America in hope of a future with no limit. Virtually all of them came not for their own betterment, but for their children’s and grandchildren’s. They came knowing the hard, demanding work they would be required to do. This attitude of delayed gratification, of unselfish sacrifice for the next generation, came to define the American Dream. If it wasn’t a dream of personal prosperity, it was a dream that your children would one day live  a better life than you did. This type of Mosaic fortitude, seeing the promised but never actually entering, is the very basis of the American middle class. Ironically it is also comparable to Moses’ Israel in its’ disappointing outcome.

Behind the beautiful and commendable nature of the American Dream is one simple problem: What happens when the dream is realized? Generation X succeeds in giving generation Y a better life than they themselves knew. This is all well and good until the quality of life after successive improvements reaches a level that doesn’t seem to need improving. The saying, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” seems pertinent. Why work hard to improve yourself when you’re happy where you are? Or at the very least feel like you’ve been given it. Motivation, not universally but for a large number, disappears when quality of life reaches a certain point. I’ll use my generation (18-30) as an example. We, again for the most part, have not fought in a war or been forced to do so. We have grown up with cable tv and the internet being if not mainstays, seemingly absolute necessities in daily life. We have never gone hungry and felt the need to ration our intake. We have been given the luxury of questioning everything and being accountable for nothing. We are the entitlement generation. This certainly has multiple causes, but the fact that so much has been handed to us has played a large role in the absence of initiative and goals. It is perhaps, the latter portion of a blessing and a curse. Now after saying all this I certainly don’t mean to say that initiative is dead. The world continues to produce leaders, both good and bad, and in any civilization there are those continually seek to improve. But by and large, we as a people have lost something of what made America great. And I’m unconvinced it will ever be seen again. Every civilization has its’ end, it’s simply a matter of when and why. Given our unprecedented rise, perhaps our fall will mirror it. I hope this is not the case but in order to avoid mass disintegration some vital steps must be taken. Parents MUST pass on a deep seated work ethic. Without an appreciation for work a society collapses. Parents must pass on an appreciation of history. Another post should and will be devoted to this because it cannot be overstated. Second only to a lost work ethic and an entitlement mentality in destructive nature, is ignorance. An uninformed, and I’ll add non-discerning, electorate is at the very heart of a failing society. To beat a horse I already killed, willful ignorance is complacent evil! I’ll conclude with a quote from the late George Carlin. George was, like most comedians, wiser than anyone cared to admit.

“Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks.” – George Carlin.

To agree with him is not to give up. This type of wake up call should re-ignite a lost flame. Will our generation be held to account for our flagrant violation  and mishandling of all we’ve been entrusted with? Lets resolve to make that final judgment not a condemnation but a commendation.

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Things worth considering before procreating

“Childbearing is hereditary. If your parents didn’t have any children, chances are you won’t either.” That simple yet strangely profound statement from Jughead, Archie Andrews loyal friend with a bottomless pit, was my first introduction to the philosophy of procreation (if such a thing even exists). Now at the age of 7 my rhetoric on issues as distant as family planning wasn’t as sharp as it is now, but it was nearly as complete. Very simply stated I have yet in my 21 years to feel that innate human desire to make a mini me. Frankly the idea of a small, impressionable human being in my care, scares the heck out of me. I know the things I think about. I’m still working through the justification of bringing another person unwillingly into my influence. It seems a bit harsh. That and a general dislike of dealing with kids not my own has given me my reputation as a bit of Scrooge when it comes to kids. I like to say I’m just balancing out the scales seeing as how I’m in a small minority  of non-population replenishers. A compelling case to be made for my position is that people like me are typically harmless. If a person with no children goes off the deep end you avoid them. If a parent is diabolically evil they ruin not only their own lives but possibly their children’s as well. If you disagree with me and your assessment is correct, have no fear, I can guarantee my preferences will follow me to the grave. You cannot say the same for a person with children. Now I certainly am aware of the opposite, positive possibilities and I must say I’m hardly as morbid as I seem. I hope to discharge my duty well if I ever have children.  Below I’ll lay out some of the things I believe people should consider before having kids. Now let’s make like a Duggar and jump right in…

1. You’re creating another human life. Consider the magnitude of that. This child won’t merely be another manifestation of (ideally) the love between you and your spouse. They will  be their own person. Consider what you will be signing them up for: Joy, pain, love, hate, and a litany of other things encompassing the human experience.

2. You’re life is not your own. When a person decides to bring another life into the world they instantly and forever forfeit the right to consider themselves first (This is part of the reason I’m anti-abortion but that is another post and another time). Suddenly you are not number one. Another living, breathing person is completely and utterly dependent on you for everything. And considering how they had no choice in the matter, you have the deepest of responsibilities to validate the power given you. The power to direct the course of  a life. No longer does your personal wants and desires take precedent. Your every resource is to be exhausted in the advance of another. Unconditional love is suddenly an obvious, tangible thing.

3. Everything they know about existence itself will be filtered through you. A child can recognize its’ mother’s voice while still in the womb. Allow your mind to wander through that statement. If voice recognition is happening pre-birth, think of the impact you will have on their young years outside the womb. The slightest argument or exclamation of joy will subconsciously affect their character. Your tone when discussing important and trivial things will be taken on a roller coaster trip by their brain and let loose in the garden of imagination. Plan this trip well as you may never revisit it. What and how you teach them will set the ground work for their future potential and expectations of others. Rocket science has nothing on parenting. When you raise children you take the reigns of something more complex and more awe-inspiring than all the technology and artistry in all the world, the human mind and soul. You are essentially their guide to everything that is and nothing less.

4. Consider your convictions. What you think and believe about things matters deeply. Not only for you but for your children. Time spent deciding your position on a matte of importance is never time wasted. Even if to you it seems frivolous, it could have lasting consequences. I can attest to this from personal experience. As a child, how my parents felt about things mattered to me. Sometimes they communicated this directly through words, other times it was small inferences and nearly imperceptible distinctions. The time they would spend on a topic told me something essential about its importance. Or at the very least its’ importance to them. Thinking back now, they spent most of their time or dare I say almost all of it , on me and my sisters. I feel indebted to their dedication. One not as blessed as myself may have a difficult time imagining the inexpressible ballast this was in my life. I knew and still know, often times when even I don’t perceive it, that two people will always be there. Cheesy? Yes. But also true. The foundation my parents laid was without question my first view of God. It will remain unique even after they are gone. A well laid foundation last for a very long time. Back to the point: If something matters to you, you will no doubt want to pass it on to your children. Well, simply telling them what you think will not be sufficient. No one tells a new resident of their town to meet them at a certain place without first telling them how to get there. A parents job is to not only tell their child where they are but also to help them arrive safely. For at least one moment in time, you are the most important chauffeur your child will ever know.

5. Consider your resources. Do you have the funds to support another life? Will a child make an already difficult situation that much harder? Do you need to adjust some aspects of your life so as to be at least somewhat more capable of rendering helpful insight to your child.

6. Consider your motives. Why do you want to have this child? I’ll avoid listing possibilities here. I simply wish to say, examine why. Make your why a solid rock of conviction. In the fairly common situation in which why is said more as a plea than a plan, make your “what do we do now?” rock solid. With God, even legitimate accidents never are.

This list is by no means whatsoever exhaustive. The preceding list is just a small sampling of the things that have sobered me into contemplative caution when it comes to kids. I hope it can help you do the same.

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