Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day

and it set me thinking of the answer.

Not the answer that you and I should give to each other

not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth

but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories

and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.

So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble.

The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperilled by their mutual endeavors.

I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling.

I know that, I and those whom I knew best, had not.

We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win

we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluble

we, or many of us at least

also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough.

But we equally believed

that those who stood against us held just as sacred conviction that were the opposite of ours

and we respected them

as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief.

The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed.

You could not stand up, day after day, in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible

because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south--each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other.

As it was then , it is now.

The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.

But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories.

When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone.

The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control

although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence

and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple.

For, stripped of the temporary associations which gives rise to it, it is now the moment when

by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it

to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return.

So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up

we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year

a national act of enthusiasm and faith.

It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly.

To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might.

So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching.

More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course

perhaps a long and hard one

without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out.

All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate.

One may fall--at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks

but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.

When it was felt so deeply

as it was on both sides

that a man ought to take part in the war unless some conscientious scruple or strong practical reason made it impossible

was that feeling simply the requirement of a local majority that their neighbors should agree with them?

I think not: I think the feeling was right--in the South as in the North.

I think that

as life is action and passion

it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time

at peril of being judged not to have lived.

If this be so, the use of this day is obvious.

It is true that I cannot argue a man into a desire.

If he says to me, Why should I seek to know the secrets of philosophy? Why seek to decipher the hidden laws of creation that are graven upon the tablets of the rocks,

or to unravel the history of civilization that is woven in the tissue of our jurisprudence

or to do any great work, either of speculation or of practical affairs? I cannot answer him

or at least my answer is as little worth making for any effect it will have upon his wishes if he asked why I should eat this, or drink that.

You must begin by wanting to.

But although desire cannot be imparted by argument, it can be by contagion.

Feeling begets feeling, and great feeling begets great feeling.

We can hardly share the emotions that make this day to us the most sacred day of the year, and embody them in ceremonial pomp, without in some degree imparting them to those who come after us.

I believe from the bottom of my heart that our memorial halls and statues and tablets

the tattered flags of our regiments gathered in the Statehouses

are worth more to our young men by way of chastening and inspiration than the monuments of another hundred years of peaceful life could be.

But even if I am wrong

even if those who come after us are to forget all that we hold dear, and the future is to teach and kindle its children in ways as yet unrevealed

it is enough for us that this day is dear and sacred.

Accidents may call up the events of the war.

You see a battery of guns go by at a trot, and for a moment you are back at White Oak Swamp, or Antietam, or on the Jerusalem Road.

You hear a few shots fired in the distance

and for an instant your heart stops as you say to yourself

"The skirmishers are at it," and listen for the long roll of fire from the main line.

You meet an old comrade after many years of absence; he recalls the moment that you were nearly surrounded by the enemy, and again there comes up to you that swift and cunning thinking on which once hung life and freedom

Shall I stand the best chance if I try the pistol or the sabre on that man who means to stop me?

Will he get his carbine free before I reach him, or can I kill him first?

These and the thousand other events we have known are called up, I say, by accident

and, apart from accident, they lie forgotten.

But, as surely as this day comes round, we are in the presence of the dead.

For one hour, twice a year at least

at the regimental dinner, where the ghosts sit at table more numerous than the living, and on this day when we decorate their graves

the dead come back and live with us.

I see them now

more than I can number, as once I saw them on this earth.

They are the same bright figures, or their counterparts, that come also before your eyes

and when I speak of those who were my brothers, the same words describe yours.

I see a fair-haired lad

a lieutenant, and a captain on whom life had begun somewhat to tell

but still young,

sitting by the long mess-table in camp before the regiment left the State

and wondering how many of those who gathered in our tent could hope to see the end of what was then beginning.

For neither of them was that destiny reserved.

I remember, as I awoke from my first long stupor in the hospital after the battle of Ball's Bluff, I heard the doctor say, "He was a beautiful boy", and I knew that one of those two speakers was no more.

The other, after passing through all the previous battles, went into Fredericksburg with strange premonition of the end, and there met his fate.

I see another youthful lieutenant as I saw him in the Seven Days, when I looked down the line at Glendale.

The officers were at the head of their companies.

The advance was beginning. We caught each other's eye and saluted.

When next I looked, he was gone.

I see the brother of the last

the flame of genius and daring on his face

as he rode before us into the wood of Antietam, out of which came only dead and deadly wounded men.

So, a little later, he rode to his death at the head of his cavalry in the Valley.

In the portraits of some of those who fell in the civil wars of England, Vandyke has fixed on canvas the type who stand before my memory. Young and gracious faces

somewhat remote and proud, but with a melancholy and sweet kindness. There is upon their faces the shadow of approaching fate, and the glory of generous acceptance of it.

I may say of them, as I once heard it said of two Frenchmen

relics of the ancien regime,

"They were very gentle. They cared nothing for their lives."

High breeding, romantic chivalry

we who have seen these men can never believe that the power of money or the enervation of pleasure has put an end to them.

We know that life may still be lifted into poetry and lit with spiritual charm.

But the men, not less, perhaps even more, characteristic of New England, were the Puritans of our day.

For the Puritan still lives in New England,

thank God!

and will live there so long as New England lives and keeps her old renown.

New England is not dead yet.

She still is mother of a race of conquerors

stern men, little given to the expression of their feelings

sometimes careless of their graces

but fertile, tenacious, and knowing only duty.

Each of you, as I do, thinks of a hundred such that he has known.

I see one

grandson of a hard rider of the Revolution and bearer of his historic name

who was with us at Fair Oaks, and afterwards for five days and nights in front of the enemy.

The only sleep that he would take was what he could snatch sitting erect in his uniform and resting his back against a hut.

He fell at Gettysburg.

His brother

a surgeon, who rode, as our surgeons so often did, wherever the troops would go

I saw kneeling in ministration to a wounded man just in rear of our line at Antietam, his horse's bridle round his arm

the next moment his ministrations were ended.

His senior associate survived all the wounds and perils of the war, but

not yet through with duty as he understood it

fell in helping the helpless poor who were dying of cholera in a Western city.

I see another quiet figure

of virtuous life and quiet ways

not much heard of until our left was turned at Petersburg.

He was in command of the regiment as he saw our comrades driven in.

He threw back our left wing, and the advancing tide of defeat was shattered against his iron wall.

He saved an army corps from disaster, and then a round shot ended all for him.

There is one who on this day is always present on my mind.

He entered the army at nineteen

a second lieutenant.

In the Wilderness, already at the head of his regiment, he fell

using the moment that was left him of life to give all of his little fortune to his soldiers.

I saw him in camp

on the march, in action. I crossed debatable land with him when we were rejoining the Army together.

I observed him in every kind of duty

and never in all the time I knew him did I see him fail to choose that alternative of conduct which was most disagreeable to himself.

He was indeed a Puritan in all his virtues, without the Puritan austerity

for, when duty was at an end, he

who had been the master and leader

became the chosen companion in every pleasure that a man might honestly enjoy.

His few surviving companions will never forget the awful spectacle of his advance alone with his company in the streets of Fredericksburg.

In less than sixty seconds he would become the focus of a hidden and annihilating fire from a semicircle of houses.

His first platoon had vanished under it in an instant

ten men falling dead by his side.

He had quietly turned back to where the other half of his company was waiting

had given the order, "Second Platoon, forward!" and was again moving on, in obedience to superior command, to certain and useless death

when the order he was obeying was countermanded.

The end was distant only a few seconds; but if you had seen him with his indifferent carriage

and sword swinging from his finger like a cane

you would never have suspected that he was doing more than conducting a company drill on the camp parade ground.

He was little more than a boy

but the grizzled corps commanders knew and admired him

and for us, who not only admired, but loved

his death seemed to end a portion of our life also.

There is one grave and commanding presence that you all would recognize

for his life has become a part of our common history.

Who does not remember the leader of the assault of the mine at Petersburg?

The solitary horseman in front of Port Hudson

whom a foeman worthy of him bade his soldiers spare

from love and admiration of such gallant bearing?

Who does not still hear the echo of those eloquent lips after the war teaching reconciliation and peace?

I may not do more than allude to his death, fit ending of his life.

All that the world has a right to know has been told by a beloved friend in a book wherein friendship has found no need to exaggerate facts that speak for themselves.

I knew him

and I may even say I knew him well

yet, until that book appeared, I had not known the governing motive of his soul.

I had admired him as a hero.

When I read, I learned to revere him as a saint.

His strength was not in honor alone, but in religion

and those who do not share his creed must see that it was on the wings of religious faith that he mounted above even valiant deeds into an empyrean of ideal life.

I have spoken of some of the men who were near to me

among others very near and dear

not because their lives have become historic

but because their lives are the type of what every soldier has known and seen in his own company.

In the great democracy of self-devotion

private and general stand side by side. Unmarshalled save by their own deeds, the army of the dead sweep before us

"wearing their wounds like stars."

It is not because the men I have mentioned were my friends that I have spoken of them, but

I repeat

because they are types. I speak of those whom I have seen. But you all have known such; you, too, remember!

It is not of the dead alone that we think on this day.

There are those still living

whose sex forbade them to offer their lives, but who gave instead their happiness.

Which of us has not been lifted above himself by the sight of one of those lovely, lonely women

around whom the wand of sorrow has traced its excluding circle

set apart, even when surrounded by loving friends who would fain bring back joy to their lives?

I think of one whom the poor of a great city know as their benefactress and friend.

I think of one who has lived not less greatly in the midst of her children

to whom she has taught such lessons as may not be heard elsewhere from mortal lips.

The story of these and her sisters we must pass in reverent silence. All that may be said has been said by one of their own sex---

But when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.
Then did I check the tears of useless passion,
weaned my young soul from yearning after thine,
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten,
Down to that tomb already more than mine.


some of the associations of this day are not only triumphant, but joyful.

Not all of those with whom we once stood shoulder to shoulder

not all of those whom we once loved and revered--are gone.

On this day we still meet our companions in the freezing winter bivouacs

and in those dreadful summer marches where every faculty of the soul seemed to depart

one after another, leaving only a dumb animal power to set the teeth and to persist-- a blind belief that somewhere and at last there was bread and water.

On this day, at least, we still meet and rejoice in the closest tie which is possible between men-- a tie which suffering has made indissoluble for better, for worse.

When we meet thus

when we do honor to the dead in terms that must sometimes embrace the living, we do not deceive ourselves.

We attribute no special merit to a man for having served when all were serving.

We know that, if the armies of our war did anything worth remembering, the credit belongs not mainly to the individuals who did it

but to average human nature.

We also know very well that we cannot live in associations with the past alone

and we admit that, if we would be worthy of the past, we must find new fields for action or thought, and make for ourselves new careers.



the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience.

Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire.

It was given to us to learn at the outset

that life is a profound and passionate thing.

While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference

and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition

we have seen with our own eyes

beyond and above the gold fields

the snowy heights of honor

and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us.

But above all we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig

or from Aspiration her axe and cord and will scale the ice

the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.

Such hearts

ah me, how many!

were stilled twenty years ago;

and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories.

Every year

in the full tide of spring

at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life

there comes a pause

and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death.

Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees

and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier's grave.

Year after year the comrades of the dead follow

with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march

honor and grief from us who stand almost alone

and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all.

I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean.

I see

beyond the forest

the moving banners of a hidden column.

Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death

of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring.

As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again

and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers

and destinies of good and evil

our trumpets sound once more a note of daring


and will.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. His Touched with Fire speech, delivered to a veteran's post on Memorial Day address, 1884.

For more on this speech see The Pennsylvania 133rd Volunteer Regiment at Fredericksburg on this site.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This is Public Occurrences


Symbol: Approximate to.

Color: Blue--strength, steadfastness, light, friendliness, peace, 
truthfulness, love.


Symbol: The same as.

Color: Yellow--wealth, cowardice, illness, dishonesty, avarice,
weakness, greed.

We are not the same; we are diverse.

We are not cowardly, ill, dishonest, weak, or greedy.

We are for peace; we are strong, steadfast, friendly, 
truthful, and loving.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

True Crime Stories: "Any lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."

For the non-lawyer (that is, a normal person), the appellate

rights granted a defendant are the most frustrating aspect of

the criminal justice system. A defendant goes to trial, is

represented by a (in most cases taxpayer-paid) lawyer, has a

fair and impartial judge preside over the trial, is convicted,

and then...oftentimes years later, his conviction is overturned,

and he's granted a new trial.

However, when a defendant enters into a "plea bargain," there is no

trial to get overturned. The prosecution and the (taxpayer-funded)

defense lawyer "plea bargain," the defendant admits to the crime

charged, and recieves the sentence agreed to by his lawyer and

the prosecutor . Before accepting the plea, the judge goes through a

thorough "plea colloquy" with the defendant to make sure that he

knows what he is doing, is making the decision freely, without

promises or coercion, that he understands the plea bargain

and it's consequences, and is entering into the plea because

it is in his best interests.

After that, it's done. No appeals, end of case.


To quote the eminent legal scholar Borat, "Pause, pause, pause,

The defendant still has the right to appeal. He can claim that

he didn't understand the terms of the plea agreement-- for whatever

reason--; he can claim that his lawyer was ineffective in representing

him (the most frequent claim); any number of things. And defendants

do claim these things. In almost every single case, they file what is

called a "post-conviction" motion to try to get their plea set aside.

Although written pro se, that is, by the defendants themselves,

these motions are usually very well-drafted legally. "Jail house

lawyers," themselves inmates, who have availed themselves of the

law library in the jail (also provided gratis of the taxpayers), to

educate themselves in such matters, help other inmates with their


Occasionally however, a neophyte (lawyer, not criminal) decides to

file his motion truly on his own, without the assistance of a jail house

lawyer. The motion excerpted below is the result of one such


"Because petitioner is seriously pressed

for time [ed. note: petitioner was serving a

40 year prison sentence]...petitioner is

forced to simply xerox said argument

from ...those previously submitted...[ed

note: defendants cannot file successive post-

conviction motions, and this was petitioner's

sixth such motion] be that as it may, it's all

the same... petitioner is entitled to the

relief he seeks." (page 5)

"Facts are petitioner...simply refuses to

be further burdened by the convictions

of these cases. Enough is enough. If

respondent [that is, the prosecutor] has a

'problem' with that then let it take

petitioner to trial..." (page 5)

"Although this petition may seem

lengthy..." (page 5 of 38)

"Defendant reasserts he is absolutely

innocent of...the battery of a law

enforcement officer because the truth

is defendant...merely pulled his arm

from HER grasp which caused HER to

lose HER balance and fall backwards..."

(page 8) [emphasis added]

"Although defendant does not have law

to cite herein he submits there is such

law..." (page 19)







"The court grossly violated the plea

which prompted defendant to enter

(i.e. to stand by and watch the

court enter the plea for him)."

"Accordingly, when actually called

before the court that day, petitioner

simply stood there (something he has

regretted ever since) and listened to the

court's pronouncement of sentence..."

[ed note: excerpt from plea colloquy: The

Court: All right. Are you doing this freely

and voluntarily? The Defendant: I certainly

am, sir."]

"Defendant is not guilty by reason of

insanity due to ingestion of/addiction

to prodigal (sic) amounts of cocaine."

(page 20)

"Although defendant does not have

any Washington, D.C. 'case law'

supporting that conclusion..."

(page 20)

"Although it may be argued that

defendant is being too technical here..."

(page 27)

"Again, in the event the court that all

related herein (sic) 'is just too lengthy'

to read..." (page 24)




PROCEEDINGS." [ed note: this motion was

filed by the defendant in 2004]

"Although that failure did not really

prejudice defendant who was well

aware of that Right..." (page 34) [ed note:

the law requires that the defendant specifically

allege prejudice.]

"Is this the kind of justice the Washington,

D.C. court dispenses?"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This is Public Occurrences: "We Rise with Our Dreams."

The post below was first published here on November 13, 2007. The words, and original melody, to this inspirational song have been recorded as We Rise with our Dreams by former Jefferson Airplane founder and lead singer Marty Balin. The song is part of Mr. Balin's CD, Nashville Sessions. A one-minute clip of the song is available here, as are instructions for ordering the CD.


These are the lyrics to the theme song of Subaru Ski World

which aired in the 1980's and 1990's. I have never forgotten

them. In my opinion they are wise, and perhaps you will agree.

If so, sometimes one can find wisdom in the most unlikely

of places.

Anyone with information on the composer or the song please

email so that credit can be given.

Man can’t recall

when he first learned to fall

or the time

when he first learned to climb.

But the dream is the thing

both his anchor and wing

it’s his soul

and the flame in his eye.

Oh the wisdom is reaching

far beyond what you see

and the triumph is seeking

all the best you can be.

So delight in the journey

or the struggle it seems

for the spirit is learning

that we rise with our dreams.

Man is the sum

of the living he’s done

and the choices

he’s made in his time.

To the left or the right

through the dark or the light

given earth

how he yearns for the sky.

Oh the wisdom is reaching

far beyond what you see

and the triumph is seeking

all the best you can be.

So delight in the journey

or the struggle it seems

for the spirit is learning

that we rise with our dreams.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Never judge a person by the dumbest thing that (s)he ever said."
-A colleague's wife.