He's been on patrol with the Marines in Fallujah, and Route Mobile, one of the two largest and most important roads in Anbar. The Marines described the quiet he encountered as "typical," although he also describes the new tactics adopted by the insurgents to deal with the enhanced security.
Obviously, being up north is playing with his brain, because he's taken to composing poems about the snow. Actually, the whole piece is almost a poem. I would say it's the first piece in a long time that is "classic" Doc Russia, the sort of thing he used to write before the last year of med school and the first year of his new residency drained away his time.
It's a good piece, in other words.
I have my own memories of the cold and the snow, also from mountain living. It was the winter of 2002-3 that was coldest for us. We lived on a mountain above thirty-three hundred feet, so that it froze in early November and never warmed above freezing, day or night, until sometime in March. There were no roads in or out of the place except private dirt tracks, which were impassable even with a 4x4 when there was any kind of snow. My "neighbor," a park ranger, would join me in painstakingly shoveling off each snowfall the whole long way back, over the ridge and to the switchbacks on the sunny side.
While it was still snowing, it was necessary to hike in and out, two miles over the ridge, to the closest state highway. We'd park over there and hike in. My wife had a new child at the time, and so she was not particularly mobile. I'd have to carry food for them in with my backpack, fifty pounds of flour and canned goods.
Happiest time of my life. No kidding.
The clouds would pass right there over the mountains, and the mists that make up the clouds would freeze to whatever it touched. In the mornings, as the sun rose and I was hiking out for work, every single thing would be covered in a sheet of ice, like in a fairy story where some warlock or evil Queen had cast a spell of doom. It was cold enough that you knew if you slipped and broke your ankle or something similar, you would probably die before anyone found you.
I also wrote a poem that mentioned all that, once, to commemorate the greatest sadness of my life so far. Never mind what it was; think of your own greatest sorrow, and you will understand what I meant.
Two Spartans survived. One, who missed the encounter at Thermopylae because he was on a diplomatic mission, hanged himself in disgrace upon his return home. The other, who missed the battle because of an eye infection (not much of an excuse for a solider, never mind a Spartan), went on a suicide mission in the next major encounter with the Persians. When Spartans said that the only way to return from a battle was with your shield or on it, they meant it.I will say two things about the review. First, the author is correct to note that it's hard to see the Spartans as the ancestors of the West -- spiritual or otherwise -- given how different Spartan culture was from anything else before or since. The closest thing I can think of to the Spartans was the Jomsvikings, or perhaps the orders of the Church Militant. Neither of those, however, proposed to engage the whole civilization in the business -- women, children, families, slaves, and a subject people to pay for it all -- as did the Spartans.
How, then, was Thermopylae the battle that changed the world if the Greeks lost? It did seriously weaken the Persian forces and spelled their ultimate defeat. But Mr. Cartledge has something grander in mind. For him, Thermopylae was a triumph of "reasoned devotion to, and self-sacrifice in the name of, a higher collective cause, Freedom." The strange capitalization is Mr. Cartledge's and it is a measure of just how seriously he takes the Spartans' stand.
The second is that suicidal displays were apparently more common in the period than they are today, outside of course of Islam. The second review on the page -- of what sounds like a better book, Xenophon's Retreat -- makes clear that whole villages sometimes wiped themselves out to make a point. Nor was this unique to the Greek world, as we know from the later episode of Masada. Indeed, the fact of Masada probably undermines the conclusion that Thermopylae was a Western thing. While the Jewish civilization later became very important to the West, even as late as Masada's mass suicide, Jews were a small and apparently unimportant minority whose culture was not resonant through the Roman Empire as a whole. It was only the conversion of the Empire to Christianity that made old Jewish stories and ways of thinking an area of interest in the larger West.
That said, Thermopylae was and remains a great symbol. The Spartan spirit -- my favorite example being the reply 'Good! We shall fight in the shade! -- has its high qualities.
When the news of the stand at the Alamo became widely known, it was declared by American newspapers to be a Thermopylae. Indeed, the Alamo is a better example of what the author was seeking -- men dying for, if not "Freedom," certainly independence and self-determination. That shows the importance of Thermopylae as a symbol to the 19th century American.
My sense is that, in the 20th and 21st centuries, we have replaced Thermopylae in our culture with the Alamo. It is now the symbol that Thermopylae was, and it is more plainly ours. It's hard to think of yourself as a Spartan, but we can readily understand Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.
So. I've seen (on a rack of sarcastic and ironic bumber stickers) a bumper sticker that said "If they take our guns away, can we use swords?"
The question, it appears, has been answered in Australia:
A FEUD between two families in a remote Northern Territory community escalated when more than 200 people attacked each other with axes, spears and homemade swords overnight.
The fighting in the Gemco mining town of Alyangula on Groote Eylandt continued throughout the night after a failed attempt to resolve the long-running dispute earlier yesterday, police said.
The two families had agreed to meet with the intention of reaching a peaceful resolution to their problems.
About 200 people turned up for the meeting in the stifling December heat but as the two groups gathered, police said one began to "taunt and verbally abuse" the other.
"The opposing family responded physically," police said.
"The situation escalated with police frantically trying to disarm young men of axes, spears and homemade swords."
Although the officers managed to disperse the crowd, the fighting continued throughout the night with police estimating it caused more than $20,000 in damages to cars and other property.
So far, 11 people have been taken into custody and will be charged with being armed in public, taking part in affray, being armed with an offensive weapon and inciting others to commit an offence.
Send those people some armor, I say. Or not. So far it appears that nobody has got hurt. C'mon people, you can do better than that.
I do believe that we should, in some ways, model our conduct on the gentlemen of old. I do not believe that every American man can attain the status of Gentleman. No matter how good his character, devotion to arms, or other abilities driven by steadfast resolve.
Put simply, we will always fall short in one key area: Nobility.
From a linguistic perspective, a Gentleman is strictly defined as a man of superior, noble, social station. This is why I feel it is a dishonest usage.
Blackstone confirms that requirement right from the start:
“ALL degrees of nobility and honour are derived from the king as their fountaina : and he may inftitute what new titles he pleafes.”
Blackstone Book I Chap 12
To compound the problem, we have an intrinsic, as Americans, misapplication of what nobility truly means.
George F. Jones pointed out in both Honor in German Literature & Southern Honor, that the understanding of ‘noble’ had drastically changed when the Christian Guilt Culture supplanted the Germanic Shame Culture (incidentally, giving birth to the, then foreign, concept of Chivalry), and again changed in the North East during the birth of our United States and finally changing that last bastion of the Old South during the post-Civil War era.
Jones’ point is that noble is something recognized and confirmed by a sovereign and not something one feels about ones self. I would agree as I take deeds as the measure of a man. As such an action is not a noble action unless recognized. How you internalize an action is between you and your God or Gods; neither of which means anything to me. When a man says, “I am a man of honor”, it is a meaningless statement to me. While I will give leave of Right Good Will, and thus give you the benefit of the doubt, I will come to judge your deeds.
The next problem goes back to Blackstone; who are we to confer that status? Staying true to the roots of sovereignty, I could confer noble status only as far as my reach. Meaning, if thirty men swore oath to me as liege, my confirmation has meaning only among those men and their families. In the United States that is officially meaningless as we do not recognize peerage.
So I have a problem with the use of gentleman as anything other than a term of politeness in speech; “Ladies and Gentleman, if I can have your attention”, “That gentleman over there is Mr. Smith”, etc. Yes, an incorrect usage as well… but one that is not as dishonest in my eyes.
I feel a greater honesty in saying that Grim is an Honorable Man as opposed to a Gentleman. There is my recognition of honorable conduct, without the assumption of a shared sovereign with reach over us both, nor dependant on contrary views of nobility.
I am told I have the bad habit, for a writer, of putting my point last, and the evidence -- in the form of long narratives -- first. The result, for those who read to the end, is that suddenly a long and apparently separate series of events comes together, and has a clear lesson. Unless you read to the end, though, you may never know what I was talking about at all.
For that reason, I'll state my intent clearly this time: "Gentleman" is a word that is not understood today. This must change.
The other day I ventured down to Gwinnett county, which is named for Button Gwinnett, signator of the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett died in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh, a Continental officer who later became a Valley Forge veteran and general in George Washington's army. I encountered, while walking around, a posh store with very fancy appointments, declaring itself to be "for distinguished gentlemen."
Standing outside, wearing a Stetson hat and blue jeans, I realized that these fellows had a very different definition of "gentleman" from mine. I doubt they understand the concept at all.
"For distinguished gentlemen!" A Google search on the term yields botiques, perfumes, and escort services.
This is not right. A gentleman is defined, as noted in Blackstone's commentaries, as "one qui arma gerit."
That is, "one who bears arms."
The manners and grooming aspects are entirely -- entirely -- secondary. I will explain how they came to be associated with gentlemen in a moment. For now, I will note Major Leggett's objection to gentlemen focusing attention on fashion:
I think that any self-respecting individual should take the time to ensure that their grooming and apparel standards are up to snuff. Nevertheless, I categorically reject the idea that an obsessive concern with the latest fashion trends is the hallmark of gentlemen. That is the hallmark of a fop. Remember, the concept of the gentleman comes the tradition of chivalry, which was itself an ethical system for fighting men, not fashion models.Blackstone notes, as does the Oxford English Dictionary, that the "arms" in question are heraldic arms -- that is, symbolic ones. Those symbolic arms, however, were the later representation of what was earlier a very real right: the right to bear not only weapons, but armor onto the field. Heraldry describes the shield of a fighter. In the Middle Ages, the sort entitled to such a shield were those with the literal right to bear arms. It is only in these more decadent ages -- in more decadent countries -- that this right has become purely symbolic.
Why did the state recognize that right, in a time before the Declaration that Gwinnett signed? It did so because it depended on these fighters, knights and noblemen and squires, who later became the gentlemen. It needed them to defend itself. Before the Napoleonic era, wars were a matter of professional armies and levies raised by the fedual structure. The right to bear arms arose from the fact that you could be counted upon to defend your country and its civilization at need.
That is what it means today. Fine manners and courtesy pertain to the gentleman because he is, through their use, upholding what is fine about civilization. He defends it symbolically as he defends it practically.
In America, the right to bear arms is secured in the Constitution itself. If you wish to register heraldic arms, the link to the American College of Heraldry is on the right. If you wish to bear literal ones, you have the right to do so. Every American man can be a gentleman.
To do so, though, requires that you constitute yourself a defender of your country and its civilization. It is not enough to say, as did Dutch humanist Oscar van den Boogaard:
"I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."No, that is not a gentleman, though he wears the finest clothes and writes the finest novels, keeps the best society, and has the finest manners. He has only the accidents of a gentleman. He has nothing of its essence.
The essence is to bear arms, in defense of country and civilization. That is the real thing, the root of the tradition. The arms may be symbolic, or they may be actual. The defense must be devout.
That may sit ill with some, but there it is. Honi soit qui mal y pense, goes the motto of the greatest of England's knightly orders. For the rest of us, there lies the gage.
Over at The Geek w/a .45's, Charles is positing a set theory for political correctness:
It seems to me that when a bad act is discussed in academia, or the media, the offenders are described as part of whatever grouping includes both the offenders and white Christian American men. For example, Christian snake handlers or abortion clinic bombers are identified as Christian, while Muslim terrorists or Aztec human sacrificers are religious....I think he's got something there.