Friday, August 25, 2006

"These Are MY Sons!"

Charlie Anderson, a widowed father of six sons, was working on his ranch in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley when the Confederate patrol descended on his property. Displaying the reflexive hospitality of a natural gentleman, Charlie happily permitted Lt. Johnson and his soldiers to help themselves to the family well.

Though both his men and their horses were tired and parched, Captain Johnson hadn’t come to the Anderson Ranch simply to relieve their thirst.

“You have six sons, don’t you, Mr. Anderson?” inquired Johnson.

“Well, does the size of my family have some special interest to you?” responded Anderson, his eyes narrowing in suspicious hostility.

“Matter of fact, it does,” replied Johnson, his genial veneer disintegrating. “We need men. Now, two of these men” – he gestured to the bedraggled soldiers under his command – “are no more than 16. It seems strange to quite a few people around here that none of your sons are in the Army.”

“Well, it don’t seem strange to me, with all the work there is to do around here,” said Anderson, squaring off with the Confederate Army officer. All social pretense now abandoned, Johnson became brutally candid.

“I’ll come right to the point,” he said. “I’ve come here to get 'em.” The grim announcement was greeted with contemptuous laughter from Anderson.

“I say something funny?” Johnson inquired, his face contorted in a smile that displayed an emotion generously removed from amusement.

Anderson favored Johnson with an assessing stare.

“You’re town-bred, ain’t you?” he asked.

“What’s that got to do with…” Johnson began.

“I have five hundred acres of good dirt here. As long as the rains come and the Sun shines, it’ll grow anything I’ve a mind to plant. And we pulled every stump, we’ve cleared every field, and we’ve done it ourselves, without the sweat of a single slave.”

“So?” interjected Johnson, who had neared the limits of his patience.

“So – so can you give me one good reason why I should send my family – that took me a lifetime to raise – down that road like a bunch of damn fools to do somebody else’s fighting?”

“Virginia needs all of her sons, Mr. Anderson,” said Johnson, quietly – as if that pious declaration would dissolve any remaining resistance. It had precisely the opposite effect.

“That might be so,” Anderson allowed, his voice assuming the quiet resolve of a patient man approaching the border of righteous lethal violence. “But these are my sons! Mine! They don’t belong to the state! When they were babies, I never saw the state coming around here with a spare tit. We never asked anything of the state, and never expected anything. We do our own living, and thanks to no man for the right. But … seein’ as you’re so worried about it – I’ll tell you, if any of my boys thinks this war is right, and wants to join in – he’s free to do it.”

The Confederate patrol moved on from the Anderson Ranch without securing a single recruit.

About a decade ago, several of my friends asked what I thought of the Mel Gibson (forgive me – is it legal to make a favorable public reference to him, or would that leave me subject to prosecution?) film The Patriot. In each case I replied that I considered it to be a very good movie with an exceptionally good soundtrack, but that I had liked it better in the 1965 version called Shenandoah, starring James “Don't Call Me Jimmy” Stewart in the role of Charlie Anderson.

The two films are set in different wars and are separated by many details of plot and characterization, but the stories they tell are essentially identical: The widowed patriarch of a large southern family, after doing everything he could to protect his children from a war he wanted to avoid, is drawn irresistibly into the conflict after one of his sons is captured. Of the two, I consider Shenandoah the stronger and more poignant version, largely on the strength of its astonishingly perceptive anti-State message.

"When are you going to take this war seriously, Anderson?" inquired Lt. Johnson shortly before the exchange described above.

"Now let me tell you something Johnson, before you get on my wrong side," Anderson replied, the ground beginning to shake in anticipatory tremors of his impending eruption. "My corn I take seriously, because it's mine. And my potatoes and tomatoes and my fence I take note of because they're mine. But this war is not mine and I don't take note of it."

During a visit to the grave of his wife Martha, who -- unlike him -- was a devoted Christian believer, Charlie speaks the unvarnished truth about the State's defining abomination, war:

"I don't even know what to say to you any more, Martha. There's not much I can tell you about this war. It's like all wars, I guess. The undertakers are winning. And the politicians who talk about the glory of it. And the old men who talk about the need of it. And the soldiers, well, they just wanna go home."

Shenandoah came out in 1965, twenty years after the end of the Sacred Crusade To Save the Soviet Union and Create the United Nations, and at about the same time that our country was lied into Vietnam. It was adapted for Broadway ten years later, as the Communists consolidated their hold on Southeast Asia -- the outcome that 500,000 Americans had died for the supposed purpose of preventing.

Last spring the musical version was staged at Ford's Theater in the Imperial Capital with Scott Bakula (last seen as the oddly inept and non-charismatic Captain Jonathan Archer in the drab and forgettable Star Trek: Enterprise) miscast as Charlie Anderson.

And as one would expect of anything offered for public consumption in Washington, the
newest version of Shenandoah was subtly recalibrated to conform to the Imperial Party line.

Witness these comments from a review of the play published last April:

"What is worth fighting for? A way of life? A piece of land? Family safety? This question, as relevant to post-Sept.11 America as it was during the Civil War, is the basis for `Shenandoah'.... This war [the War of Northern Aggression] has nothing to do with them, [Charlie] Anderson says. His interest lies solely with the acres that he has cleared and cultivated. He put the farm together with his own hands; he doesn't owe anybody anything. Let the rest of the world bleed and die. As long as his family is safe, Charlie Anderson will turn his back. Then his youngest son, mistakenly identified as a Confederate soldier, is captured by the Yankees. Now Anderson is involved.... The problem is that Charlie Anderson's concerns are completely selfish. As long as his property is not destroyed or his family hurt, Anderson doesn't care what happens to anybody else. He's not standing on principle; he's just looking out for No. 1."

That assessment is what my kids would call a great big pile of "Number Two."

That reviewer, who has the soul of a Stalin-era Soviet drama critic, juxtaposes Anderson's supposed "selfishness" in refusing to let the Confederate press gang steal his sons (and later, beating with his fists a group of Scalawags who had come to plunder his livestock for the Bluebellies) with "Mr. Civic Responsibility" -- that is, the man Anderson didn't become, a dutiful statist drone willing to accept with docility whatever impositions the Almighty State saw fit to inflict on himself and his family.

In the collectivist lexicon, it is "selfish" for a father to protect his sons when the State seeks to abduct them to kill and die on its behalf.

It is likewise "selfish" for a property owner to protect his land and goods, legally acquired and developed through his own exertions, when the State seeks to waste them in the murderous folly of war.

Charlie Anderson, as portrayed by Brigadier General James Stewart (a World War II combat veteran who most likely wouldn't have taken the role if he didn't understand and share the character's views, at least to some extent), embodies precisely the opposite of selfishness. With all due respect (whatever amount that might be) to Randians who consider Anderson an Objectivist Archetype, the character was actually a portrait in the noblest form of altruism: Selfless paternal devotion to hearth, home, and particularly children.

He was a uxorious husband, even after the loss of his wife; a stern but palpably loving father who was willing to fight and die to protect his children, but -- and here's the important part -- wanted nothing to do with the death of other people's sons. He despised both chattel slavery as practiced in the South, and the industrialized slaughter practiced by Lincoln's regime (Lincoln and his regime were the descendants of the Jacobins, and the progenitors of the Bolsheviks).

Many of those who fought in the War Betweeen the States, particularly on the Southern side, were men like Charlie Anderson: Their allegiance, which has been described as telluric ("earthy" or "of the soil") patriotism, was to particular people and specific places, not to grand abstractions like "Union" or even "The Cause," as the expression was understood by the South.

By the war's end, as Jeffrey Hummel has documented in his splendid study Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, both the Federal and Confederate governments had degenerated into plunder-fueled engines of tyranny and corruption. War, whatever its stated objectives, always emancipates the State, to the detriment of liberty.

Unassailably noble as the Southern cause was (it is never justifiable to murder people because they no longer want to be part of your club), the Confederate government imposed conscription before the Union resorted to it, and its program involved not only the impressment of men but the seizure of property as well as the creation of what Karl Marx called "industrial armies."

As someone who proudly displays a Confederate Battle Flag in his home, I offer that acknowledgment with some regret. On more than a few occasions as I have denounced conscription in the company of people whose views I almost entirely share, the Southern example has been cited to justify the proposition that in some desperate circumstances conscription has to be allowed.

But my respect for the South doesn't leave me inclined to emulate their errors. Nor does it nullify the central moral argument against conscription: The State has no right to force people to kill and die on its behalf, and any government that cannot inspire volunteer efforts in its defense not only deserves to die, it must die. If the State can seize individuals through a draft, it can do anything else it pleases to anyone of its choosing, anytime it sees fit to do so.

As I have noted elsewhere, Lincoln's draft was hailed by the New York Times in a July 13, 1863 house editorial ("The Conscription a Great National Benefit")precisely because it removed all restraints on government power.

"It is a national blessing that the Conscription has been imposed," declared this psalm in praise of the deified State. "It is a matter of prime concern that it should now be settled, once for all, whether this Government is or is not strong enough to compel military service in its defense." Up until that point, "the popular mind had scarcely bethought itself for a moment that the power of an unlimited Conscription was … one of the living powers of the government in time of war. The general notion was that Conscription was a feature that belonged exclusively to despotic Governments…."

However, under the draft, "not only the property, but the personal military service of every ablebodied citizen is at the command of the national authorities, constitutionally exercised…. The Government is the people’s Government…. When it is once understood that our national authority has the right under the Constitution, to every dollar and every right arm in the country for its protection, and that the great people recognize and stand by that right, thenceforward, for all time to come, this Republic will command a respect, both at home and abroad, far beyond any ever accorded to it before."

Pay careful attention to the order of priorities described above: The State has the right to every increment of wealth we possess, and every drop of blood in our veins, "for its protection."

That's what conscription means.

That's why it is utterly un-Godly, documentably un-Constitutional, and morally impermissible.

That's why any parent who doesn't do everything he can to prevent the impending imposition of universal conscription is "worse than an infidel" (I Timothy 5:8).

Charlie Anderson, as portrayed by Stewart, was passionately anti-war, but not a pacifist. The same is true of millions of American parents, myself among them. I have no desire to kill or injure another human being, and pray that God grants me the blessing of finishing my life without staining my hands with human blood.

That being said, this must be also:

I would kill and die in defense of my country, but I wouldn't shed a paper cut's worth of human blood to defend the pack of degenerate gangsters who presume to call themselves "our" government. And as a Christian father it is my duty to prevent harm from descending on the family God has entrusted to me, if it resides within my power to do so.

There are only a few circumstances in which God authorizes us to kill, but in those circumstances, killing is mandatory. If I were to permit lethal harm to come to any member of my family when I could prevent it, I would be implicated in the blood guilt of that crime. This is why I will not, and cannot, permit the government to conscript my children for any reason.

I would kill any member of any armed gang who would violate the sanctity of my home for the purpose of abducting one of our children. It doesn't matter what exalted title he would possess, or what tricked-out gang colors that gang-banger would wear. That principle, as John Locke would say, applies equally to both private sector gangs and those who operate under the supposed authority of the state.

It's quite simple: If you threaten my kids, I'll hurt you. If you try to kidnap them from me, I'll kill you. Capice?


dixiedog said...

By the war's end, as Jeffrey Hummel has documented in his splendid study Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, both the Federal and Confederate governments had degenerated into plunder-fueled engines of tyranny and corruption. War, whatever its stated objectives, always emancipates the State, to the detriment of liberty.

Even though I haven't read Hummel's study, I wouldn't really contest that since war in the abstract always reveals the the level of inhumanity that humanity can contemplate as well as the aggregate corruption and destruction of liberty that is evident.

As someone who proudly displays a Confederate Battle Flag in his home, I offer that acknowledgment with some regret. On more than a few occasions as I have denounced conscription in the company of people whose views I almost entirely share, the Southern example has been cited to justify the proposition that in some desperate circumstances conscription has to be allowed.

Sigh, that's why I don't display it ;(. I prefer the 1st national with either the original seven stars representing the inital seven states that seceded Dec. 1860-Feb. 1861, the eleven stars representing the eleven states, minus Kentucky and Missouri, or the thirteen stars representing the eleven actuals and the two hopefuls Kentucky and Missouri. I'm aware that the 2nd national had a battle flag canton, but by the time that flag became official in mid-1863 the Confederacy had already breached the summit and was on the decline. Defeat was only a matter of time. It's still utterly amazing to me that the southern nation held out until 1865 even. That indicates to me the hardy constitution of the southern folk in general to the immense hardships and yet to not think of surrendering until their resources were completely depleted and the men were beyond ragged. Yet, even at Appomattox, many of the men of the AoNV were still willing to continue the fight even with Grant's army besieging Petersburg and their positions.

Again, utterly amazing...

Another point I want to make is that as you are against conscription as am I, I've also come to loathe the entire military complex itself, not the men mind you, but nothing makes me cringe more than seeing these guys even "voluntarily" joining the military because of the socio-economic or just economic condition they find themselves in. That's another angle no one talks about. The pundits are all about WAR! SUPPORT the WAR!, WAR! as long as it's not the richie pundits' kiddies who have to play a combat roll. As General Smedley Butler wrote a book called "War is a Racket," indeed it is and the lower middle class is the bearer of the burden of it all. But there's another reason I cannot fathom even "voluntarily," forget being forced, joining the military is I couldn't see a single righteous attribute or philosophy that I'd be fightin' for! I loathe this country's culture, I loathe Hollyweird, I loathe the media pundits, I loathe the government elites and I would not want to put my life on the line to defend any of those camps in any way!

As you said, "Capice!?" The country is dying and I would not want to contribute to its demise by fighting for all of the above. I guess I'm a victim of seeing the "big picture" in the conscription whine and I see even the so-called voluntary service a pile of bile. Most of the folk in the military now did not join because they just LOVE the thought of battle and killing other folk, destroying other folks' infrastructure, ad nauseam, they joined because they had no other economic avenues on which to move ahead and get somewhere! Did you get that, folks? I'm beyond tired of hearing/reading anti-draft/conscription screamers raging against the same, and yet in the same breath say we already have folk who volunteered to join the military machine. BS!!

dixiedog said...

I'm a native of Virginia myself as is my dad and his dad and my mother is native to southern North Carolina who moved to the Tidewater region in the early 60s. My entire "clan" so to speak basically still are concentrated in the two states. That said, I've always been a more localized supporter for Virginia, which just happened to secede and join the Confederacy, and not so much the Confederacy in and of itself. I also believe that the vast majority of southerners of the "Civil War" era were also, hence Mr. Anderson's view.

On of my favorite books of the era and the following decade of reconstruction are the memoirs, compiled in When the Yankees Came: Civil War and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula, of George Benjamin West (1839-1917) and edited by Park Rouse, Jr.

Mr. West was raised on the Virginia Peninsula and describes in detail how his and his family's life were changed forever and their four year long life as refugees in Richmond and Lynchburg after Virginia voted to secede on April 17, 1861 and the arrival of the Yankees six weeks later. His memoirs were written in the 1890s some thirty years after the war, but they are eye-opening. Just to make clear, I also do not, and would not, support chattel slavery, even though we're all slaves in essence, just today it's an economic (mamon) master rather than literal chattel. And for Christians, Christ is supposed to be our master, but I digress.

Anyway, about some his local neighbors, who likewise were farmers, residing at Newport News point, he wrote:

None of them were rich, but all were well-to-do, owned farms, and had sufficient slaves for household and farm work....The slaves were notably well-treated, well-fed, and well-housed; they were seldom bought or sold. They married either their master's slaves or those of their neighbors. They attended and belonged to the churches of their owners....Not a single one left his master, though they had every opportunity to do so in the vessels that traded up the James River.

This is not to say that all slaves throughout the CSA were thusly treated and cared for, but it's significant nevertheless. With all the bile that's been propagated, since the turn of the 20th century especially, about blacks being treated as no more than cattle, the truth is somewhere in between the two opposites.

I think this concept of "what is worth fightin' fur" is among the many, many things that need to be seriously mulled by folk today even more than during the WoNA. Folk need to seriously begin to understand and grasp the panoramic view concerning life issues and faith issues instead of being overly focused upon tactical details. Similar, in a sense, to the "live from paycheck to paycheck" mantra that so many follow.

dixiedog said...

i can understand dixiedog not wanting to join the military, but there may be one reason to join--to get the training. joining to get the training, and then getting out my pay off in the end.

Well, that's today 8) since I now see so much of the "big picture" that I was utterly ignorant of in a previous life.

See, dang it I must confess. I "forgot" to mention that I have already been in the military (AF in ground radio communications) myself from '84-'90 during the Reagan years and the beginning of Bush 41 years. I was stationed in upstate NY (Griffiss) near Rome '85-'86 and then after GLCM, or Ground Launched Cruise Missile, school was stationed in Germany from '87-'90. Of course, we knew that after Reagan signed the INF treaty in Dec. '87 that GLCM was going to be phased out.

I probably would have gone on to retire in 2004, but I was diagnosed with diabetes (Type I) in 1990 and could not re-enlist. Anyhow, after that I made my way in both the government sector (NAAF) working at AAFES and then finally in the private sector as a general computer tech at several firms and finally to a network admin, and here I am. The significance of me mentioning this, however, is that had I not left the military my eyes would have likely remained closed and I would be thinking tactically and not strategically as regards government, military, etc. So I'm thankful ;).

and for dixiedog. i can understand supporting VA over NC. i'm from VA, but currently in NC. this state has more gun control than VA! now, if we could only get rid of the VS troopers on the interstates and their ticket writing habits? i just love it when i cross into NC on the interstate. feels like....freedom!

Rick, a small world, eh? Well, the interstates are not so bad, in terms of overactive VS troopers on ticket writing missions, at least in the Hampton Roads region anyway (I264,I664,I64). On the other hand, I81 and I95 are another matter since those two are major traffic expressways, I95 traversing the entire eastern seaboard, I81 from New York to Tennessee. It's not just interstates in which ticket happy troppers can be found, but also US-360 from approximately Chesterfield county to Danville is a sometimes heavy VSP ticket nest. And ugh, I'll be riding the roads again late in September on our F650s heading to Stuart, VA. to my buddy's dad's family's ol' homestead, but we'll probably be heading west on US-58 from Isle of Wight. Not as bad as US-360, we've heard anyway, for being a ticket haven.

Speaking of NC, I just traveled to Beulaville (Duplin county) with a buddy of mine, both on our F650 motorcycles...hehe. I went down there to see a great-aunt that is 101 and also to examine my grandmother's now idle property. She's been deceased since '99 and my mother and aunt, who lives in Richlands near Jacksonville, have b/w them about 40 acres. Land is a most precious property and my family has basically kept to handing a homestead down rather than selling it off.

If you don't mind me asking, what general area of NC do you reside? I'm in Yorktown, VA. myself.

dixiedog said...

Sorry for the nutty paragraph order above. I actually meant for the "And ugh, I'll be riding the roads again..." paragraph to follow the "Speaking of NC, I just traveled to Beulaville..." paragraph, naturally. I often get distracted with other compu-centric matters while I'm writing forum postings or blog comments and, especially in those long comments, it ends up twisted or misordered.

i'm from williamsburg, so we share the same congresswoman. you know, the one who went to a boy scout meeting at o dark 30 when i think CAFTA was being voted on. her vote would have made a difference.

Yeah, Johann Davis. The only politician that seems to have demonstrated that he possesses any solid convictions is Ron Paul, which TNA has made note of as well in past artciles. Other than him, I think politicians especially those in the Congress, as a whole, are spineless and are little more than reprobates.

fayetteville. in the 60s and 70s known as fayettenam. one guy i know now says we must modernize so he calls it "bragghanistan". that had me rolling!

I've heard that as well. I've been to Fayetteville one time to a big gun store there. This was some years ago, in the early-mid 90s, to see some of the "assault" weapons he had on sale. I decided to make a stop by there after visiting Fort Fisher on the way back up.

I can't remember the name now, unfortunately, but it was a BIG gun dealer, as I recall.

dixiedog said...

Johann = Jo Ann

Anonymous said...

Yes, I recognize years and years have gone by since this article was first published, but I only recently learned of 'Pro Libertate' and as I appreciate it, have gone back to reading the blog from its inception.

And this is the first entry in which I have an issue.

The Commandments are simple: Thou Shalt Not Kill.

It seems as if once we begin to find exceptions to that rule that we additionally find there are more and more and more exceptions... until we've reached the point that those in prison can be killed, those captured on the 'battle field' can be killed, those who stand up to the state's agents (police) can be electrocuted and killed and whenever there is a war declared by the State, those of a particular age can be killed (and kill).

I know we're nearly on the same line, but you argue that: "if you threaten my kids, I'll hurt you. If you kidnap them I'll kill you.''

But once you (it seems to me) begin down that winding trail of 'I'll kill you if you do ... ' then more and more opportunities are accepted by our leaders and clergy until you reach the point that we're at today (obviously at a point near if not in hell itself) where the State can kill for a wide variety of reasons (and preachers claim it is just) and offspring are taught in school that all wars are good wars if TPTB tell us so.

Seems better to say: I'll keep the commandment and NOT kill rather than opening the pandora box of death.