A Few Appropriate Remarks

Next Tuesday (19 November 2013) will be the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.


The words are well-known, so much, in fact, that it’s become a cliché to point out that Lincoln was wrong when he said his speech wouldn’t be remembered. Many schoolchildren are obliged to memorize the text, guaranteeing that they won’t understand it. Lincoln gave a good encapsulation of a democratic society–government of the people, by the people, for the people. If only such a government existed, what a wonderful world we would have.

But as a son of North Carolina and someone with a contrary streak, there’s a part of me that understands another famous passage, this one written by William Faulkner in Intruder in the Dust:

It’s all now you see. Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago. For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago; or to anyone who ever sailed a skiff under a quilt sail, the moment in 1492 when somebody thought This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world’s roaring rim.

Now before anyone rises up to accuse me of supporting slavery or the like, understand that I abhor that peculiar institution. The driving impulse that led to the Civil War was the wrong cause. But it was also a lost cause, and as Faulkner explained, something in the spirits of those of us born in the South feels a sympathy for lost causes. It may be that many of us are of Scots-Irish ancestry and have a cultural memory of what distant capitals do to common people. It may be the hillbilly sensibility that we’ll welcome you in for a plate of beans and cornbread if you’re hungry, but if you commence to telling us what to do, you’d better be able to run faster than 850 ft/sec down the road back to town.


But the Union won that fight, and I am glad for it. The rebel in me–the source of my western character, Henry Dowland–hears the trumpet sounding for the charge. As dangerous as it is to follow that call, at times we must. Alas, as we’ve seen in the tales from the Trojan War to the War between the States and beyond, the contest requires two sides at least to be fought out. May the gods grant us the wisdom to choose the side of good.

Crossposted in English 301: Reading and Writing.


45 thoughts on “A Few Appropriate Remarks

  1. orlin sellers

    But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—”that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.
    H.L. Mencken on the idiocy of the Gettysburg Address

      1. orlin sellers

        A centralized Federal government dictating to the states and the people is not self-determination. That is exactly what we got after the South lost. One form of slavery was replaced with another.

    1. Greg Camp

      Orlin, slavery was a denial of self-determination. The federal government has indeed gone beyond its proper bounds since the Civil War, but things aren’t nearly as bad as enslaving people for life.

      1. orlin sellers

        Your Master has you believing that you have “Freedom in Chains.” That you have not “Lost Rights”. That the people in D.C are your helpful friends, that members of the local standing army are your pals, that the multitude of taxes, fees, regulations, licenses, permits are for your own good.
        It must be wonderful to be so young and believe in fairy tales.

    1. orlin sellers

      What exactly did I exaggerate?
      Are you free to keep the fruits of your labor, or does your Master require you give a percentage to him…or else?
      When the Master sets down his rules, even when immoral and unjust, must you obey under threat of force?

      No, Greg, I didn’t exaggerate anything.

  2. orlin sellers

    Greg, that is a happy and content slave’s response. But, not a very well thought out one.
    But let’s go back. John Hancock, the bold signor of the DOI, was wanted by the British, why?
    Where any of the founding fathers not tax evaders?
    But, about Holmes. He made that idiotic remark in 1904. He never had paid a withholding tax, a FICA tax, a Social Security tax, or any other non-existent tax of that day. He was not paying for New Deal programs, the Great Society, or any of the other welfare and warfare debts. I could go on and on, but hopefully, you get the idea.

    Should we be surprised that Holmes liked taxes, after all, that is the source of money that paid his salary.

    Back to the founding fathers. Can you imagine them, a bunch of tax evaders, approving Holmes pro-tax statement being etched in stone on a building that collected taxes?

    But I admire you Greg, for being loyal to your Master.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      Orlin, you’re becoming tedious. Being a citizen is hugely different from being a slave. Citizens get to participate in their own rule. I’m certainly not saying that the current government is doing the right thing, but we do have a responsibility to each other to build a good society.

      1. orlin sellers

        What is tedious is your flipping and flopping all over the place.
        Do you remembering writing this:
        “Self determination is one thing, but determining the lives of others is something else.” or this:
        “Orlin, slavery was a denial of self-determination.”
        Society is not an individual. Self-determination is a human right, it is a form of property rights. An individual is his own property. The fruit of one’s labor is his property. Taking that property by force is theft, the same way stealing the self-determination and property of a slave is theft. It is as clear as your last few responses that you are a happy and content slave to a Master, living your life of “Freedom in Chains”.

  3. Greg Camp

    The fact is that with society, we can do a lot more than we can do without it. Your definition of slavery fails to take into account everything that you couldn’t do without society. That’s been the bargain since the beginning of civilization. A rational society doesn’t make excessive demands on its citizens, but to function, some demands must be met.

    1. orlin sellers

      It is obvious you wanna high tail it away from any more talk about individuals & self-determination. You wanna change that subject right quick and move on to a society whose “demands must be met.” Demands must be met is simply another way to say, ‘being forced’. Since it is not a voluntary society, but a monopolistic one, the Master rules. There goes that individual self-determination right out the window again.
      Take a look at our dysfunctional society. It is a society perverted by Orwellian Newspeak, Hypersensitivity, and lack of clarity.
      Perhaps it is time for you to get the smoke out of your eyes, and take a serious look at those demands forced upon us, demands that make us slaves to that Master.

      1. Greg Camp

        Orlin, since we disagree, how about posting your view on society on your own blog? My position is clear. Yours has been presented only in the negative.

  4. orlin sellers

    Again, you are the one who changed the topic of self-determination to a society. But, what do you think of that society under the Stars & Stripes that promoted and endorsed slavery? I’m guessing since it was society you had a positive view, while of course mine was a negative view. According to you, negative is bad.

    1. Greg Camp

      By this point, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Slavery is a violation of the slave’s rights. But reasonable taxes are not slavery.

      1. orlin sellers

        By ‘reasonable taxes’ you mean like ‘reasonable gun control’?

  5. Greg Camp Post author

    Reasonable gun control means that you don’t get to fire off rounds inside a city unless you’re defending yourself. Things like that.

    1. orlin sellers

      So, you want ‘common sense’ legislated.

      A partial list of ‘reasonable taxes’:
      Sales Tax
      Hotel Tax
      School Tax
      Liquor Tax
      Luxury Tax
      Excise Taxes
      Property Tax
      Cigarette Tax
      Medicare Tax
      Inventory Tax
      Car Rental Tax
      Real Estate Tax
      Well Permit Tax
      Fuel Permit Tax
      Inheritance Tax
      Road Usage Tax
      CDL license Tax
      Dog License Tax
      State Income Tax
      Food License Tax
      Vehicle Sales Tax
      Gross Receipts Tax
      Social Security Tax
      Service Charge Tax
      Fishing License Tax
      Federal Income Tax
      Building Permit Tax
      IRS Interest Charges
      Hunting License Tax
      Marriage License Tax
      Corporate Income Tax
      Personal Property Tax
      Accounts Receivable Tax
      Recreational Vehicle Tax
      Workers Compensation Tax
      Watercraft Registration Tax
      Telephone Usage Charge Tax
      Telephone Federal Excise Tax
      Telephone State and Local Tax
      IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
      State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
      Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
      Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
      Telephone Federal Universal Service FeeTax
      Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
      Utility Taxes Vehicle License Registration Tax
      Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax

      1. Greg Camp

        You’re determined, I’ll give you that. What you haven’t done is explain how we pay for society without taxes. Now how about you answer that?

  6. orlin sellers

    Man, you might have me a stumped there, Greg. But, what ta hey, I’ll take a crack at it.
    How about the same way the country did it for over a hundred years before the income tax. See, the founding fathers believed you, and only you, had the right to keep the fruits of your labor. They believed in property rights and that what you made was yours to keep for yourself.

    “There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
    ― Robert A. Heinlein

    “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
    ― Thomas Jefferson

    “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”
    ― John Marshall

    “It would be an instructive exercise for the skeptical reader to try to frame a definition of taxation which does not also include theft. Like the robber, the State demands money at the equivalent of gunpoint; if the taxpayer refuses to pay, his assets are seized by force, and if he should resist such depredation, he will be arrested or shot if he should continue to resist.”
    ― murray rothbard

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      That’s one answer. But with modest taxation, look at all we can accomplish. Society creates opportunities that couldn’t exist without it.

      You’re correct to say that there’s a danger to freedom in taxation, but as with everything, when the society loses freedom as its goal, no action is safe. If freedom is the goal, many things are good.

      1. orlin sellers

        Modest Taxation?!?! WTF!!!! Please, my friend, take off your statist-colored glasses. We are taxed at nearly 50% of what we make, and then look at the list of taxes I provided in an earlier response. You dare call that ‘modest’. That truly is insane. Our society is dysfunctional. 40+ million on food stamps and another 40 million on phony disability. How can you make these comments with a straight face?
        And that is not even getting into the freedoms we lose on an almost daily basis.

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        We are taxed at fifty percent? That’s variable, depending on your income level and spending habits. But the number of people on disability or food stamps is a different question from the principle here that government must have some power to tax. We agree to give government some power for the benefit of us all. Unless you’re willing to throw aside all government, you must accept some taxation. In our form of society, we elect the people who will choose what those taxes will be. If we don’t like that, we can replace them.

  7. orlin sellers

    All I can figure is you must be big into NASCAR with all those left turns you take. Enjoy your slavery.

    1. Greg Camp

      A slave has no choice and no ability to affect the course of his life. We citizens choose our leaders. Too many Americans are lazy and don’t do a good job of choosing, but that’s their own fault. The principle remains. We choose our taxes.

      1. orlin sellers

        Are you kidding me?

        “A slave has no choice and no ability to affect the course of his life.”
        They couldn’t escape, revolt, or disobey? Are you not capable of these?

        “We citizens choose our leaders.”
        No we do not. They are chosen by ‘the party’

        “Too many Americans are lazy and don’t do a good job of choosing, but that’s their own fault.”
        Not true. They choose those who promise the most goodies at the expense of the rest of us.

        “The principle remains. We choose our taxes.”

        Really? You chose Obamacare? You chose to pay for $500 toilet seats? You chose to pay $600 per gallon of gas in Afghanistan? You chose to give billions and billions to foreign dictators? Should I thank you now?

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        Of course, revolt or running away is possible, though often unlikely to succeed.

        But indeed, too many Americans don’t pay enough attention to make good choices. That’s our own fault. Saying that they vote for goodies doesn’t make their choices good.

  8. Pingback: Citizen or Serf? | Greg Camp's Weblog

  9. orlin sellers

    Greg, as you have consistently said on this thread, you favor all the goodies for society’s sake.
    You believe that redistribution of wealth is a good thing. There is a word for someone with that mentality.

      1. orlin sellers

        Come on Greg, I didn’t put any words into your mouth, you have prattled on and on about your love for wealth redistribution. What you have said time after time is that you approve of this theft at the point of a government gun.
        Speaking for myself, I believe in property rights.

  10. Greg Camp

    Orlin, I believe in property rights as well. But much of that property depends on society to create and support it. You have yet to show how anything other than a cabin in the wilderness is possible without taxation.

    1. orlin sellers

      Translation: I believe in property rights as long as my property is redistributed. There was no society in the United state until after income tax, withholding tax, social security tax and the warfare/welfare state was created.
      From the time the Constitution was ratified until income tax was legislated we had no society and were simply savages all going our own way cannibalizing each other. Everyone was living in a cabin in the woods.Society is not possible without wealth redistribution, welfare, warfare, and a whip in the hands of the overlords. We must be a collective of socialists to have society.
      The right of individuals to keep the fruit of their labor will destroy society.

      I think that nicely sums up what you said.

      1. Greg Camp Post author

        You’re committing the fallacy of the false dichotomy here. What America achieved before the income tax was subdue a continent. But look at the achievements of the twentieth century. How much of that would have been possible without an income tax?

        But I’m not saying that we were savages before the tax, nor am I agreeing that after the tax we have lived in tyranny.

  11. orlin sellers

    Your 12+ years of compulsory attendance in government indoctrination centers is showing.
    It certainly fulfilled its purpose in your case.

      1. Greg Camp Post author

        The jobs that my parents had paid for that, and without society, they wouldn’t have had those jobs. Hunter-gatherers don’t have much time for anything other than teaching food acquisition.

  12. orlin sellers

    You are confusing society with the market. Odds are that both your parents worked because of taxes.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      How? Markets are part of society. But my parents worked to make a living. Orlin, you are becoming increasingly tedious with this.

      1. orlin sellers

        The market is an array of exchanges that take place in a society.
        Earlier you said,”Actually, I attended private schools. But school is an example of society benefitting us all.”
        How is the fact that you attended private school a benefit to us all?

  13. orlin sellers

    The education system is an utter failure that systematically gives children toxic doses of political correctness and statism.


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