Knowledge vs. Ignorance

The reason why I can’t really get into, but a question has been cycling through my mind in recent days. Is it better to know what’s going on, behind the curtain so to speak, or to remain blissfully oblivious? My education teaches me that there is an underlying order to everything, and that order can be known an understood. But, the question remains if that order SHOULD be understood (or known, if you will).

The fusion and fission of an atom is what provides us with light and warmth. But that same process, when known and understood was converted into the most powerful weapon of destruction ever known. Birds have been flying since the dawn of creation. Humans captured that power and now have a delivery system both for themselves, humanitarian aid, and yes, those same atomic and nuclear weapons.

So, the question remains. Would life be better if there was some information we didn’t know. Is the world any better off now that we know how to destroy it? Would information that could destroy a family be better left unsaid?

My entire life, people have told me things. Most of the time, there is something so unmentionable, something they can’t bring themselves to say. This one will tell me one side. Another individual will tell me the other side. All too often, I just wish I had a flash gun that would let me erase memories like something out of Men in Black.

Other times, my gut (no, I’m not Gibbs, not even close) tells me things. My mind just puts weird things together in a quite odd manner. It’s weird; while I don’t “know” something, it just doesn’t surprise me when I find out, often months later.

The problem is when I find out something I’m not supposed to know. Every now and then, one piece falls in place that enables me to put the puzzle together before anyone wants me to know the full picture. I’m not supposed to know what I know, so I can’t talk to any one about it.

This is what bothers me. I can’t do anything with the information. I’ve spent the last five years being pounded with the fact that all information is to be desired and to always work for more and MORE information. But I can’t help but think that there are some things I would just rather not know.

Ok, theory friends of mine. Eat your heart out. Help your empiricist buddy sort through this one. Is knowledge always preferable to ignorance? Or is one of the assumptions of the Western Analytical Tradition false?

A Challange for Indpendence Day

Two hundred thirty-three years ago, fifty-three guys got together and decided that some truths were simply self evident. All men are created equal. These men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, these rights being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They declared that the purpose of government was to ensure these rights, and when government failed to perform its duty, the people had the right to alter or abolish that government.

These men went on to list the ways in which King George had violated these rights and submitted this indictment to a candid world. Then, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Of course, I am writing of the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate on this day. The men whose names are affixed to this document which announced to the world:

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

Their names are burned into our minds and history books: John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton. Yet, none of these men acted alone. Why? Because, in order to succeed, this undertaking would need MUTUAL effort. One colony, or even a group of colonies, could challenge the British empire effectively. It would require a united effort.

It has never failed that, upon the occasion off viewing a film based in the time of war in the 18th or 19th century, that my uninformed companions mention the idiocy of the tactics of battle during that time. Well, that was a time of major transition in battlefield tactics, but this rank and file system of the battle line was highly effective at the time of its inception. While it may seem foolish to stand in neat lines (ranks in one direction, files in the other, thus rank-and-file) and fire weapons at each other at close range.

But, go back another couple thousand years, when these tactics began. A lone combatant was the strength of one. When combined into a group of 8 men (a Contubernium), and those groups were combined into a Centura (10 contuberniums or 80 men), they were a highly powerful and effective fighting force. Some they locked their shields together and provided defense not only for themselves, but also for their comrades.

The principle of mutually facing life with comrades is also found in scripture.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:25

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” ~ Matthew 18:20

So then, not only do we gain strength from each other, the Lord also promises to be in the midst of those who fear him.

Over the course of the last three days, I have celebrated our nation’s independence in three very different ways, in three very different places. On Thursday, I was in Warner Robins. Independence Day is a very big deal there. It is a military town and home of Robins Air Force Base. Just about everyone in the town is somehow related to public service. And boy, when it’s time to celebrate, they go all out. Somewhere between twenty to thirty thousand people pack into the local high school football stadium. There are overflights by military aircraft. The Band of the Air Force Reserve performs along with nationally known guest artists. The fireworks display is something to behold. The show goes into the night, the stalemate in the parking lot much later. It is typically well after midnight before I am able to return home and get to bed. But, it is well worth it.

Friday saw another celebration. This one was what was once the middle of nowhere (in my lifetime) between Eatonton and Greensboro. Then, Lake Oconee became THE place to be in this section of the state. The per capita income has $9.365 in 1985 (when I was born) to $31,331 in 2007. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s more than double. Put frankly, the population, and the wealth, of the county has exploded. Where the Warner Robins was patriotic and enthusiastic, this was regal and elegant. As well it should have been. Instead of a band, the artist here at Reynolds Plantation was trumpeter and vocalist Phil Driscoll (who lives nearby) backed up by the Atlanta Pops. The setting was a far cry from the battleground of a high school football field. Instead, it was on the lake, between the beach and a swimming pool on the back lawn of the Ritz-Carlton Lodge. Instead of taking swallows of coke, here the spectators sipped wine. Instead of wheeling in an ice chest, there were caterers onsite. While I am certain that those in attendance loved their country as much as those I had I had seen the previous evening, they expressed their patriotism in a very different manner.

Finally, today, I went to the Independence Day Celebration in Wrightsville, Georgia. Wrightsville is not really known for anything. Most of the plants which were there have closed. Its main claim to fame is now this one day a year when they go all out to celebrate this country and a guy who was pretty good with a football about 30 years ago. Wrightsville is rural Georgia. VERY rural. It would have done well as the set of Sweet Home Alabama (the actual location of the filming would require a drive of about 60 miles north to Crawfordville). The people here, while not ignorant by any means, are faced with more important concerns than contemplating the deep meanings of life in the United States. But, they love this country. I saw more red, white, and blue today than I did in the last two days combined, never mind the that there was as many people at the Ritz as live in the entire county, and at least three times as many in Warner Robins. The air was full of patriotism. From the parade, to the booths on the town square, to the runners in the road race.

Why do I mention all of these three very different places? Because if this nation is going to continue into the next 233 years, the people at Reynolds Plantation are going to have to join forces with the people in Warner Robins, who in turn are going to have to link arms with the people in Wrightsville. Though many, we ARE one. We are one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge–and more.

~ John F. Kennedy

America is at a crossroads. We have become so divided that idiocies are accepted as proposals simply because they are different than the status quo. My friends, please join with me. Once again, this nation needs to, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, to mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Let not history judge this generation as the one who destroyed the greatest nation in the annals of time.

If the embedded video doesn’t display, click HERE.

Farewell, Peace

Ok, I know I need to get a real post up soon (hopefully tomorrow or Friday), but until then, here is one of my favorite poems I recently stumbled upon again. It was written by Joseph Hopkinson. He was better known as the author of the lyrics of Hail Columbia. He was a member of Congress from 1814 to 1819 and a attorney who argued the landmark cases McCulloch v. Maryland and Dartmouth College v. Woodward before the United States Supreme Court. His father, Francis Hopkinson, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

This poem was written during the leadup to the War of 1812.

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Farewell, Peace! Another crisis calls us to “the last appeal,”
Made when monarchs and their vices leave no argument but steel.
When injustice and oppression dare avow the tyrant’s plea.
Who would recommend submission? Virtue bids us to be free

History spreads her page before us, Time unrolls his ample scroll;
Truth unfolds them, to assure us, states, united, ne’er can fall.
See, in annals Greek and Roman, what immortal deeds we find;
When those gallant sons of woman in their country’s cause combined.

Sons of Freedom! Brave descendants from a race of heroes tried,
To preserve our independence let all Europe be defied.
Let not all the world, united, rob us of one sacred right:
Every patriot’s heart delighted in his country’s cause to fight.

Come then, War! With hearts elated to thy standard we will fly;
Every bosom animated either to live free or die
May the wretch that shrinks from duty, or deserts the glorious strife,
Never know the smile of beauty, nor the blessing of a wife.
~ Joseph Hopkinson

In Memoriam – Mildred Shelor

This afternoon, I attended a memorial service for Ms. Mildred Shelor. It was kind of strange, as I had only met her once, and that was in passing. But, she had managed to have a deep impact on my life.

About, wow, was it really 5 years ago? I met Joannah. She was the newly elected chair of the GCSU College Republicans. Since I was the chair at Georgia Military College, we started working together on projects. As our friendship blossomed, she told me that her uncle was going to replace the retiring chair of the Division of Social Sciences at GMC. Honestly, I was guarded. He was replacing a family friend… I didn’t figure I’d get along with the new guy as well.

Boy, was I wrong. The metal pointer wielding retired Marine officer soon captured my confidence and my trust. We also became close, and he was one of my first mentors in the academic sphere. I’d sit in his office long after the day’s lecture (along with the “high speed, log drag note taking”) had been completed. There, we’d discuss topics far beyond the realm of world history. We’d talk about American history, the “War of Yankee Aggression,” the fight for independence, today’s fight to continue independence. There was scarcely an aspect of history, politics, or philosophy that remained uncovered.

Well, time moved on, and I eventually graduated from GMC. During the summer between that graduation, and beginning my studies at Georgia College, Joannah called me to help with a congressional campaign in Warner Robins. I, being bored out of my mind and needing a distraction, agreed, as long as housing and food was provided. Occasionally, I was housed in a motel. But, most of the time, I crashed in the guestroom of Joannah’s parents, Ms. Elaine and Mr. Ken. Over the course of four months, they also became dear friends. By the time the election was over, (we lost, unfortunately) they were all like a second family to me. Our paths continued to cross, and the friendship has remained strong and has even strengthened over the past few years.

Col. Shelor gave me advice, and friendship, when I needed most. I don’t know if I would have graduated GMC if it hadn’t been for his willing ear to allow me to talk things out, from impeachment battles, to leadership issues, to the general “palace intrigue” that comes with a small school. Ms. Elaine gave me a bed when I was as weary as an individual can be. At one point, I even leaned over to untie my shoes, and woke up 6 hours later (a very long night in campaign mode) fully dressed, on top of the covers, with my shoe halfway off.

Anyway, my point is both the son (Col. Shelor), and the daughter (Ms. Elaine) must have been raised by an incredible mother. Their hospitality and kindness is of the type which is not acquired in adulthood. It was something that had to be ingrained throughout their lives. In accomplishing this, Ms. Shelor, who I never knew, has touched my life forever.

We sang this hymn as part of the service.

Happy Fathers’ Day

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…” Proverbs 22:1
“Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” Proverbs 21:23

As I have traveled around this state, one thing has never ceased to amaze me. Everyone knows my father. I have grown accustomed to my dad knowing my lunch arraignments when I’m in Milledgeville, even before I receive the check.

Me: Hello?
Father: So, who’s this attractive female you’re having lunch with, son?
Me: It’s (fill in the blank). I’ll tell Chester you said hi.
Father: What makes you think it was Chester that called?
Me: Ok, so I’ll tell Bill, Larry, Franklin, and Buddy (et al) hey too…

While this has become common around home, it still surprises me when I’m out in “my” turf, at political events and even the capitol. Random people, some of whom I know, several of whom I do not, approach me and inquire, “Are you Quincy Simpson’s son?” Then, without fail, they proceed to tell me how they know my father, and what a great man he is. My father’s good name IS known in the gates of this land.

A good name is a legacy that cannot be purchased. It is something that is given, from father to son. It is up to me, as I enter adulthood, to preserve it for my sons. Then, they will have the charge of preserving it for their sons as it passes from generation to generation. My I preserve it as my father has.