Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gettysburg... How long, O Lord?

When my older son joined the boy scouts, one of the first camping trips I went on with him was to Gettysburg. We camped on the battlefield, and hiked the "Johnny Reb" and "Billy Yank" trails, following in the footsteps of the soldiers of the Confederate and Union, respectively.

This October, my youngest son arranged that we would camp at the same spot, on one of the last camping trips we would make together. We did some of the same things, but one thing we did differently was a ranger tour of the cemetery and a tour of the town. What an eye opener.

After the battle of Gettysburg the town was in bad shape. The Confederate army fled south after the battle, the the union army pursued them, leaving the town, population 2,400, to deal with the 8,000 bodies left behind, the 3,000 horse carcasses, not to mention 14,000 wounded and 8,000 Confederate prisoners.

People came from all over the country. Many to look among the dead for their loved ones (this is before the age of dog tags, many soldiers were hard to identify), some volunteered to help bury the dead, burn the horses, and tend to the wounded. Many people were sick from the stench. Flies were so numerous they covered entire houses. Every possible building was turned into a field hospital to care for the wounded. One of the churches had to have holes drilled in the floors to drain out the blood because it was getting deep.

For the most part the Union soldiers were buried and the Confederate soldiers were left to rot and be eaten by scavengers, unless their families came and claimed the bodies. The battle happened in July, so it was imperative that things be taken care "quickly".  It wasn't until October, when the weather was cooler, that the bodies of Union soldiers were exhumed and moved to the National Cemetery where they have a place of honor today. The Confederates were still left where they fell.

On our camping trip we visited the national cemetery, where a ranger gave us a tour. It was later, walking through town, that we wound up finding the "colored" cemetery. Even though we like to think of the North as fighting for African Americans, the colored troops were not allowed to be buried in the national cemetery, but buried in a not-so-good part of town, in their own cemetery.

And even today, that cemetery is separate, and is along Cemetery Ally, behind an abandoned auto body shop. Gettysburg is a stark reminder that the desecration/denigration of people we don't consider "worthy" is not a new thing.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Clear Case for Carrying

You surely have heard of the latest mass killing, at a Baptist Church in Texas. As of this writing 26 are dead and 20 more wounded. First of all, let's stop and pray for the victims, their families, and all affected by this horrible crime (including the murderer).

What you likely won't see get very much coverage in the mainstream media are the following. Even though it happened in Texas, under law the victims most likely would not have been allowed to be armed, because they were in church. In Texas churches (and businesses) can forbid guns on the premises, and that carries the weight of law. I don't know if this particular church allowed guns on the premises or not, but given that nobody was able to defend themselves or their children, I'm guessing no. I can't imagined an armed person watching children get mowed down and not trying to return fire.

Secondly, the slaughter was stopped by a citizen with a gun, before law enforcement was able to get there. How high would the death toll be if this happened in New Jersey or California, where people can't have guns outside their homes? The killer would have had a much longer time to kill his helpless victims. How much lower would the death toll have been if the victims in the church had been able to return fire?

I already see people calling for more gun control. Truth is there isn't a law that could be passed to stop this. The killer was dishonorably discharged, and so under law was not permitted to own or handle a gun. The church (presumably) forbid guns on the premises, by law, and yet the killer brought a gun into the church. Lastly, murder is illegal, and yet the killer murdered helpless people.

All another anti-gun law could possibly do is prevent the hero of this story from being able to stop the killer and chase him away. Rather than using this as an excuse to weaken the defense of Americans, why not actually address the problem and arm more good people? If there is a better argument for concealed carry reciprocity, I don't know it.

The laws... which forbid to wear arms, disarm those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator; and does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack armed than unarmed persons.
- Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, "An Essay on Crimes and Punishments" [1764]