A practical guide for any young person considering a military career that analyzes the traditional career path and provides proven alternatives that lead to success, options and most importantly maintenance of the individual and freedom of action.
Complete a military career on your own terms, with success defined by you while achieving financial security and independence and providing post-service options to follow passions in either work, hobbies or entrepreneurialism.
The Problem with the Traditional Career Map
The Alternative and Fun Path
The Real Key to Success in Anything: Mind, Spirit, Emotions in Balance
Hours after VP Pence spoke today about China, Foreign Policy published a piece that laying out five takeaways.
“Linking Hong Kong and trade talks”
“Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces liberty,” Pence said, before offering an unusual note of support for an official in an administration that has often been reluctant to embrace protest movements. “We are inspired by you,” he added. “Know that you have the prayers and the admiration of millions of Americans.”
“China is becoming a great cudgel in the culture wars”
“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China,” Pence said on Thursday. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”
“Settling the great ‘decoupling’ debate”
“People sometimes ask whether the Trump administration seeks to ‘decouple’ from China,” Pence said on Thursday. “The answer is a resounding ‘no.’”Rather than isolate Beijing, Pence said the United States seeks “engagement with China and China’s engagement with the wider world but engagement in a manner consistent with fairness, mutual respect, and the international rules of commerce.”
“Emphasizing the intellectual property theft debate”
“American enterprises continue to lose hundreds of billions of dollars each year in intellectual property theft.”
“The political meddling bugaboo”
“Beijing’s economic and strategic actions, its attempts to shape American public opinion, prove out what I said a year ago, and it’s just as true today: China wants a different American president.”
Obviously none of this is real news, it is really more of a slow reveal. The 2017 National Security Strategy mentioned China 33 times by name, twice as much as Obamas’s last version.  Trump’s NSS specifically called out China and identified mounting threats where Obama’s focused on engagement. Trump’s document, in short, called on all the domains of US power to compete and combat China in every area of importance. This was a nuanced but direct shift in US policy. VP Pence’s words today are merely part of a progressively elaborating articulation of this strategy.
Trump’s next NSS document is due out in 2020 and I suspect it will be less nuanced and more direct in relation to China.
If you are like me years ago you may not grasp the importance of the NSS document. I took public policy classes in college where it was discussed but I garnered it was merely another piece of government paperwork, perhaps more political than anything. It was really not until Command and General Staff College that I realized how important the document is. The moment it is released all the machinery of government stops, reads it, and shifts gears to operationalize the strategy. Every word, every sentence, the choice of words, all are important, nuanced and have great meaning. All the nations of the world read it too and plan and react accordingly. There is perhaps no piece of paper of greater importance released by a US president in the modern era. Before the 2017 document hit the streets parties internal and external to the government began lobbying for their version fo what the 2020 document should say.
For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance. It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversi ing. Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America’s world-class universities.
2017 US NSS
In early 2018 the DoD released its National Defense Strategy one of the dozens of such documents that follow the release of the NSS and implement the strategy within various domains.
In June 2019, the DoD established a separate office to focus exclusively on China.
“The inward part [is] to help us drive alignment on China across the department as we carry out our National Defense Strategy and its implementation. … A lot of that is to help us internally, with the Joint Staff and the services, to make their respective decisions”
Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs 
This is the only such office at the DoD level focused exclusively on one country. Trump absolutely meant what he said in his NSS that China is his focus.
Trump’s 2020 budget reflects his focus on China.
To a remarkable degree, the 2020 Pentagon budget proposal is shaped by national security threats that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has summarized in three words: “China, China, China.”
The South China Morning Post reports that the US conducted four separate training operations in August and September focused on China. 
A sealift exercise designed to move heavy Army divisions
Joint land-to-ship missle exercises with Japan
US-Asean naval exercise with 10 pacific nations, Four of which – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – have territorial disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.
I have personally argued for years that we were spending blood and treasure in the wrong places and focusing on the wrong goals strategically. If I were to be a hawk, I am not, I would have been hawkish on China for years. Whether this course is right or wrong, and I believe it is certainly part of what we should refocus on, only time will tell.
Herein I will argue points that many know as facts but seldom are the implications of these facts, taken together holistically, discussed for their wider meaning. China is a great power, historically and currently, and it is increasing in economic, diplomatic and military strength at a rapid pace. China benefits from a centralized system of governance that seems to be exercising realpolitik on the global stage in a masterful way. The country benefits from a homogeneous population, and in the case where homogeneity does not exists, such as the Uyghurs, China is currently undertaking drastic and brutal steps to stamp out nonconformity. Furthermore, China leads the world in the application of the use of technology to suppress dissent and disagreement, both within its borders and abroad.
These facts combine to make China a deadly enemy to the West, western culture and the idea of liberal democracy. The threat does not manifest directly through military action, the application of economic and soft-power is proving perfectly suited to the expansionary goals at the moment. If and when direct military conflict becomes a reality with the West it will simply be too late for western democracies to oppose it.
Let me state upfront I am certainly not an advocate of the methods and style of China. I state that their advantage of a centralized government and extensive social controls is such only because the West has failed to actually adhere to the principles of good governance and culture that would otherwise decide this growing conflict long before it began. The West lost its way long ago. We have toyed with progressivism and socialism but have not perfected it the way China has, thus we have a defective hybrid system – not quite the City on the Hill and not quite a socialist dystopia. We have dismissed the homogeneity of culture enforced by the Chinese in favor of a sort of diversity that creates pockets of dissent and disagreement at all levels – we simply cannot agree enough to compete with a monolith. In essence, all of the great ideas of Western Civilization regarding good governance based upon first principles have been abandoned for an ineffective hybrid system.
Chinese history begins perhaps around 2070 BC. This is an important fact from an analysis of current geopolitics because that long history informs and shapes the narrative of the Chinese people, as crafted by the Chinese government. It provides context, lessons, pride and patience. Throughout the history of China there have been ebbs and flows in terms of power, in the last century great embarrassment; in prior centuries moments of great invention in the arts and sciences. This feeds a narrative that builds a sense of expectation. The Chinese know they are a great people with great potential and the government makes full use of this.
Lessons from the Ming Dynasty and the Treasure Fleet
Between 1405 and 1433 China dispatched seven great treasure fleets to ports throughout the Indian Ocean. This merchant navy was unrivaled in the world, no other nation could conceive of building ships of the size and complexity contained within these seven fleets. The largest of these ships had a displacement of about 1/2 of a modern US aircraft carrier. The mission of these fleets was essentially shock and awe, they did not need to go get trade, anyone and everyone came to China to trade. This was a statement of great power. In 1433 the Ming Dynasty suddenly stopped sending the fleets and either burned the ships or allowed them to rot in harbor.
China then vastly expanded the Great Wall, passed laws to forbid further foreign trade via the sea and entered an internal period for almost 500 years. During this period China culturally became the China we recognize, Han, and it was still powerful. However, relative to the West, that power, in terms of technology wained. By the late 1800’s European powers were threatening China on the mainland. By the 1900’s the Chinese were being humiliated at home.
Two lessons derive from this.
First, from a Chinese perspective, the notion that soft-power must be pushed forward, throughout the world is important. No matter how many internal resources, no matter what program of internal improvements China must control or influence centers of power else it will be dominated again.
Perhaps a lesson Americans should take from this is similar. Building walls and disengaging will have long term consequences. Perhaps America needs a long period like the Chinese Qing Dynasty to get culture right. These are questions for another discussion. However, Chinese retraction in 1433 certainly had long-term, positive and negative consequences for the Chinese. (Building walls may be important to maintain order and respect the rule of law, the lesson to be taken is perhaps not against physical walls but rather against isolationism.)
The Way Ahead
I do not intend to overburden my arguments with the inclusion of multiple data points related to the Chinese economy. I would refer you to this Congressional Research Service report from Morch 2019. I would note that the numbers are grim but the assessment less grim, although not bright. The report writers see challenges for China in terms of local debt, I predict the centralized system and expanding economy will easily overcome these.
Areas of Chinese Advantage
The Road and Belt Initiative will continue to give China inroads and access to trade and resources throughout central Asia.
BRICs, the accumulation of physical gold and US dollars will threaten the current economic system and set the stage for a new one.
Industrial espionage, state-sponsored, will close the remaining technological gaps.
Parity and potential advantages in the Cyber domain will threaten to destabilize economies and societies.
Growing Chinese power and influence will – without a doubt – alter the nature of free speech, rights and the flow of information. This is already occurring and will only increase. China will rule, by default, areas of our life without ever firing a shot.
Lastly, the Chinese seem to have mastered two concepts that bode poorly for the ordinary man; state-supported capitalism and a strong central government. They have taken what was good of the Soviet Union and dispensed with the bad and taken from the West the engine that makes an economy grow while avoiding any of the political philosophies that might protect the citizen. If their model works, if their system wins, 1984 is conceivably within the future of mankind.
First, China’s stated strategic goals coupled with a marshaling of state resources to achieve that goal will close the current gap quickly.
Second, and more worrying. China will likely develop quantum computing first. Quantum computing will change everything. The playing field that exists prior to the first quantum computer going online will simply not matter. The first nation to develop this technology wins. Developing one second or third may actually not matter so much – as soon as a quantum computer comes online all secrets, industrial, military and others are vulnerable.
I humbly submit my very rough working list of First Principles. It is ironic that since Elon Musk said he thinks in first principles the Interwebs are all aquiver with folks publishing list that generally have nothing at all to do with fist principles – usually, their list do not comport the requirements of real first principles, which are:
First principles are true
First principles are necessarily true
First principles are indemonstrable
And most importantly, generally these lists do not derive from First Causes.
The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time
Nothing comes from Nothing
There is/are a creator (G)god(s)
Natural Moral law exists and is written into the spirit of all men in all times
There exists a Transcendent Order
Social Continuity is Good
Variety is Good
No fear if you are reading the above and think I have become a transcendental theist or polytheist even. I personally believe in one God, the Christian God. My effort with this is to build philosophical proofs into a list of first principles that argue against atheism, secular humanism and metaphysical naturalism and to articulate the foundations that bias my opinions on other subjects. In fact from the above I infer:
Inferences, Deductions and Syllogisms
11. The God of the Bible is most likely the true God
Aligns best with the Natural Moral law
Historical evidence in support of Biblical narrative
I. There is a God that created the universe (3 a.-d.), Christianity presents a system supported by evidence that aligns with natural law and is supported by reason, therefore, the God of the Bible and Christianity must be true.
II. The God of Christianity is God and the Creator of the Universe, the text of the Bible is provably accurate and authentic and states it is the word of God, therefore, the Bible must be an accurate testimony of God’s word.
I began this blog as I prepared to retire from the Army with two missions. First I wanted to “talk” through my own journey and second, I hoped talking about and discussing what I was learning would help others.
I have accomplished, I believe, my first mission in that I found my own personal purpose after military retirement. I hope that the post I shared during the journey have helped and might someday continue to help others.
As part of newfound purpose I have decided to rebrand the site toward my passion for trying to understand the world around us. I am very dissatisfied with the pundits, experts and paid shills that appear on television and in print and digital media trying to explain the world, geopolitics, and government. I will become my own Geopolitical and military analyst. I will seek out my own foundational answers to human and cultural problems – with the assistance of the great minds to guide me. If others find the questions I pose, the answers I strive for and the analysis I arrive at useful I will be pleased. If I write to an echo chamber I at least know I can trust that the analysis was honest and sincere.
As I look upon and reflect upon the world I am very often left with a sense that things are tragically wrong – so wrong that politics and political movements cannot right the trajectory of the ship. We are in a time of tremendous transformation, perhaps greater than most want to admit. Technology will soon exponentially change us -our relationship to one another, to government and to life – we are entering this great change with many of our core values, presumptions and assumptions askew. We have lost much of our humanity in a traditional sense and have lost sight of what is permanent and important.
Words, certainly not my words, cannot change any of this. However, words are important. Ultimate truth exists and it should not be removed from the Earth merely because it has been forgotten by most and is unpopular to many that still acknowledge it.
Writing here about things that matter from a perspective that acknowledges ultimate truth and respects the great minds and ideas that have come before us is one of my purposes now. Perhaps you might occasionally find my efforts useful.
I hope within the next year to secure an adjunct professorship at a local college. I realize adjunct professors are not supposed to express an opinion and I realize from my recent dealings with academics that the sort of opinions and ideas I will express here are definitely not in favor. I believe intellectual honesty is important. Therefore, I say let it work out as it should, I will be me – much like I have been most of my adult life.
Over the course of my Army career, I had numerous opportunities to live with, train, fight beside and become friends with Kurds. I am not unlike many others that had the same experiences over the last two decades in that my interactions with the Kurds left me with a sense of respect, admiration and affection for them.
Naturally, I felt an initial sense of bewilderment and some anger last week at what seemed a sudden US policy shift relative to the Kurds. We have had many foreign partners and extra-national compatriots over the years but in my and many other’s experiences, none match the overall worthiness and decency of the Kurds. Also, considering this is not the first, but rather the third, major policy betrayal of the Kurds by the US in the last 30 years this all just felt wrong. I made real friends among Kurdish soldiers, this all touched me on a personal level.
However, once I put emotions aside and began to analyze what
has occurred critically, I have come to suspect that something much bigger has occurred. The narrative spun by “national security
experts” and parroted by hyperbolic media is an inaccurate picture of these
events because none of these folks seems to be taking into account actual
Despite the Kurds being one of the largest ethnic groups in the world without a country of their own it has never been a US policy tenet to support the formation of such – our partnership with the Kurds in Syria was always within the context of a restored Syria.
The “moderate” elements so often touted by liberal pundits and neoconic warhawks, were never really that moderate. Many of those elements are now threatening genocide on the Kurds in support of Turkey (and by extension Saudi Arabia). The Kurds were and are the only moderates in Syria.
Turkey itself has a pretty dismal history. There is, of course, the Armenian genocide in the early 20th Century, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities and growing repression of the rule of law and political dissent inside the regime. The failed 2016 coup was perhaps the last best effort to set Turkey on a different path, but the resulting purge removed all remaining moderate and sane voices. Their policies and action since have proven they are no ally and not within the Western sphere of thought and action.
By any objective measure, Bashar al-Assad was and is not that bad, relatively speaking, when compared to other outcomes in the Middle East. The Muslim world works best, politically, with a strong government that keeps the passions of the people in check. Assad was no better or worse than any other leader in the region in this regard. In fact, pre-civil war Syria respected the rights of ethnic and religious minorities far better than many countries in the region – Turkey and Saudi Arabia as prime examples of “allies” that have much worse records in that regard. By international law and custom, Assad is the legitimate leader of Syria – objectively it was never correct to interject in the internal affairs of another sovereign nation without their invitation.
Many in the media bemoan the fact that a US disengagement from Syria empowers Russia and Iran. The standard narrative conflates the interest of those two countries into an “axis of evil” but that is not a correct view. Their interest have been conjoined only insofar as the recent geopolitical environment has made them bedfellows. The other part of this flawed narrative is that Russia is an enemy to be feared which, when evaluated based upon real facts is ridiculous. They are at worst a protagonist and adversary in terms of some strategic goals but Russia is a glass cannon, a shade of its former self. The true peer competitive enemy of the US is China – focus on Russia “getting a small win” distracts from the real threat.
Assad is Russia’s ally. Syria has invited Russia into Syria to assist with its internal conflict. This complies with international law. The US was never invited and short of declaring war in Syria, we were always wrong for being there.
Considering those facts, recent events make more sense. Russia is not a threat to us. The US was expending blood and treasure in a place, not in our strategic interest. Syria is within Russia’s strategic interest and a stable Syria would control ISIS.
Why would a rational person not see this as an acceptable outcome?
Consider this. Less than 24 hours after the “infamous” tweet last Thursday the Kurds struck a deal with the Syria Army. Is it reasonable to assume that enemies suddenly become allies following a tweet? Is it more reasonable to assume a lot more went on behind the scenes prior to the announcement via tweet that facilitated this arrangement? It is highly unlikely the US would announce that we brokered a deal like that but looking at the situation rationally it seems the most likely possibility. If so, we really did not abandon the Kurds as is so readily portrayed in the media.
Such an outcome is essentially a strategic win for the US. We get out of Syria, the Syrian government can reestablish control of its territory and return to the status quo that existed prior to the civil war (and no matter what political grievances some people had then the situation was much better than the last several years, that is inarguable). Russia bears the responsibility to see all this through, via financial and military support. We can retract and refocus on our true threats in the world – China.
The only fly in the ointment is Turkey and their invasion of
Last evening, the wife and I had a dinner date that included attending a performance of Silkroad Ensemble at the Maxwell Theater over at Augusta University. I am always game for musical entertainment that may perhaps broaden my perspective a bit so a hybrid fusion ensemble of talented musicians seemed like a nice evening event. I am not a musical expert, let us establish that up front. However, I do not believe I actually heard anything that could pass as actual music last night.
Let me explain.
At one point early in the presentation one of the performers mentioned how the group was formed some twenty years ago to bring together all sorts of musical styles, put them in a pot and cook them into what Silkroad produces. They mentioned that 2+2 could be 5. As a metaphor, I could accept the premise. Concerning music and what music actually is, I cannot. Good music in all places, times and cultures has followed certain mathematical rules.
At another point the musicians stood on stage, essentially silent for 45 seconds, perhaps two minutes, I do not know for certain, doing ma. Ma is Japanese for a pause or gap in a sequence. I looked about the crowd in attendance and it seemed to me folks thought this was the most brilliant thing possible. I saw seven people standing on stage not playing music.
I actually had to stop the wife from laughing out loud at this point.
Music in all paces and in all times has been based upon certain mathematical certainties. (Well that and the obvious requirement to actually play your instrument and not stand silent – actually playing something is a requirement for music also I think.)
You can look anywhere, across history, and find that some cultures added 20+20 to get 40 and others 200+200 for 400 and others 5+5 to arrive at 10, etc., but all followed what can be clearly interpreted as mathematical rules to produce actual music that humans enjoy. Good music follows a mathematical ratio, the golden ratio, that all humans everywhere recognize. Tempo, style, instrumentation all vary, but real music always follows this rule. In fact, all art, architecture and even what we perceive as beauty in other humans is related to how closely something aligns with the golden ratio. It is almost like this is the mathematical basis of beauty that God wrote into the universe when he created it and we all intrinsically recognize it even for those that do not recognize a Creator.
When one of the performers stood up and told the crowd that 2+2=5 they actually meant it. Each performer clearly had talent in playing various instruments, but what they did on the stage was not at all music. It is not that I did not like it, that is not relevant. I can dislike a style of music but still, accept that it is actually music. My radio dial is filled with music that I dislike but that I still accept as actual music. It is not that I am an ignorant creten that simply cannot appreciate art. I may, in fact, be such, but as a human, I am attuned to the universal law of math and the golden ratio, I can easily discern noise from art.
The question I ask is why would otherwise talented people travel the world performing noise rather than music? Why would educational institutions such as Augusta University spend money to bring talented people to the school so that they can perform noise? Why would a small audience sit and pretend that they “get it”? Well, the answer to those questions are not very pretty I am afraid.
If one looks at the description of Silkroad it seems innocent enough:
Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world.
Seems innocuous enough, after all, who can really be opposed to a “more hopeful world”. There is, however, I suspect a lot of imagery and code in that simple sentence. When a person tells you who they are, you ought to actually believe them. The 2+2=5 statement at the beginning of the show was not merely a metaphor for perhaps thinking differently. It was a statement that these folks believe that the foundation of what has come before is not worthy of their time or effort. It is essentially a statement that the rules of the universe, created by God, are not relevant to them. It is a bold statement of rebellion against tradition. They might as well have stood on stage and stated that the Earth is flat and gravity does not exist. There is a palatable ideological bent to this group.
In the free market I would say let these folks make what ever noise they want and try to sell it as music. In a truly free market they would be on the side of the street with a bucket accepting donations for supper. However, the market this ideology exist in is not free. It is supported by funds from large endowments and educational institutions.
Make no mistake, the profit this group took from their performance on Saturday was not based upon ticket sales. Augusta University paid to have this group here under the guise of providing an enlightenment opportunity for students (I saw few students in attendance by the way). As a public institution, this means that ultimately two groups paid for this, the taxpayers and students out of their tuition and fees. Imagine that some student will pay some small amount of interest on the cost of this for the next 30 years in the form of repayment of student loans – all in the name of allowing a few eccentrics the luxury of declaring that they are smarter than all of the world’s great composers and musicians to come before them and smarter than God himself.
This performance was nothing more than another expression of the supremacy of man, a self-centered secularism that seeks to dispense with all that has proven good and acceptable through centuries of human history. It was not just the innocent act of a few otherwise talented musicians banging on drums to produce noise that three eight-year-olds running amuck in a music room might similarly produce.
I enjoyed the evening, dinner was nice, accompaning the wife was nice and watching this event was informative, but I am left to shake my head at what passes for art and enlightenment.
The real story of the Hamburg Incident is that two groups of South Carolinians, each with much more in common than they possibly realized did violence to each other. They shared commonalities of misplaced hate, fear, insecurity and pride of principle. The events of 8 July 1876 shaped the future of South Carolina more significantly than any event to occur here before or since. The loss of life was tragic, but if a common narrative that binds us together as South Carolinians is to be found in this event is that of blood sacrifice on the eventual road to who we are today – it is our story. It should not be a story of this group versus that group, told from two sides. All involved were sons of our fair State.
As a one so recently introduced into the myriad of issues that seem to be inflaming passions related to monuments, interpretive plagues and the proper utilization of historic properties within the city I cannot say that I know all of the personal histories that may be fanning the current flames of emotional distress. I can say as a son of the State of South Carolina and a fellow that has been intently interested in the history of the state and her people coupled with the fact that I endeavor and pray for God’s wisdom in the application of critical thinking skills I do have a perspective to offer on this entire situation.
It is not my purpose here to discuss if the city council should have selected a different site for the new public safety headquarters. I suspect there are better properties from a logistical and access point of view but my intent here is to address the counter-arguments related to the Flythe house and the Hamburg Incident (or Massacre if you prefer). I submit that it is very important to discuss North Augusta’s history vis-a-vis Hamburg but that it is not helpful to conflate the discussion of the location of the public safety headquarters into that discussion. The bottom line is the city, could, if planned properly, construct a headquarters building that is architecturally true to the original Seven Gables design and accommodates some homage to Starkey Flythe onsite. If they are intent on building at that location, these points are for a separate discussion.
Something of a more weighty matter, that is lost in the conflation of political discussions and debate, is the narrative and history of this side of the river. I ask humbly that you bear with me through my argument, it may seem to offend sensibilities of all sides at one point or another but I believe there is an important common ground and story to be told. I contend that this is where discussions of monuments and historical interpretation should be aimed.
In terms of its greater impact what happened in Hamburg on July 8, 1876 was the most significant historic event to occur in North Augusta/Hamburg. That event set in motion a series of other events that fueled the eventual election of Wade Hampton and the end of the Federal Occupation of South Carolina and Reconstruction. We must be very careful to deconstruct what that meant and not merely jump to faulty conclusions. Ending the occupation of South Carolina was a positive good – independent of any and all of the other potentially negative impacts that followed. Those unfortunate reactionary measures should not be conflated with or tarnish the positive of being free of a foreign army of occupation. Arguments against Jim Crow and the disenfranchisement of Blacks in South Carolina are valid but it would be a faulty analogy to argue that because bad things followed the end of occupation reconstruction itself must have been a good thing for South Carolina. It was bad for all South Carolinians, black, white, rich and poor.
To provide some idea of how bad reconstruction really was for South Carolina one need only look at the fraud and scandal surrounding the state legislature and the treasury from 1867-1874.
“…in 1870–1871, the state’s financial board secured the authority to print and sell $1 million in state bonds; there were to be $1,000 bonds numbered 1 to 1,000. Members of the board printed two sets— both numbered 1 to 1,000—and sold both sets. They kept no records of their transactions and were caught only when a New York investment firm came into possession of two bonds with the same number on both. Partly as a result of such malfeasance, and partly because of legitimate increases in expenditures such as the creation of a public school system from scratch, state budgets skyrocketed during Reconstruction and the state slipped further and further into debt. ” SC Encyclopedia
For many from the North, with an eye toward profit, Reconstruction served as a perfect mechanism to extract from the South and South Carolina treasure for their own purposes. The South, and her people black and white, became easy prey to anyone with an entrepreneurial and unethical frame of mind. Infrastructure was ruined, the social security provided by the former slave system was gone. Sharecropping became the economic model – a system that provided no security at all for the laborers at the bottom of the system. Northern investors provided high-interest loans to plantation owners, and when the price of cotton plummeted in the late 1860’s these loans could not be repaid. The first people to suffer under this system were sharecroppers. The only people to profit were Northern investors supported by an occupation army.
It is perhaps even more nefarious. Northern Republicans were only too happy to use the majority black vote to secure state offices. Even being so “kind” as to admit several black legislators don’t you know. Of course, they never allowed or conceived of allowing the black population to actually control state politics or hold the highest offices. This was paternalism coupled with manipulation and not so subtle disdain. They used the black population to attain power.
Additionally, rather than quelling racial animosity in the State, the policies and actions of the occupying army and Northern opportunist served only to incite it. I shall explain.
People often focus on racism as the cause of so many ills. I suggest racism is just a version of hate -sim. Hate based upon race is just easier to spot, it is obviously in the pigment of skin, it is easy to identify a target of one’s hatred. But hate -ism is really no different anywhere it is found. It is almost always a result of misplaced angst. People come to view the source of their problems in another group and begin to hate them. In the former Yugoslavia, we observed the exact same thing. Families that lived alongside each other for a couple of centuries turned to hate – ism and identified the source of their problems in the identity of another group. I suggest the real root cause of why hate – ism manifested in the South was more fundamental than the mere color of a person’s skin. Karl Marx was wrong about most things but argued that history is the story of economics. I tend to agree that people fundamentally get most invigorated over economic issues, particularity those related to survival. The political and economic policies of the Reconstruction government fed hate and animosity as opposed to building tranquility and harmony. Let’s dispense then, at least for the moment, of racism talk and perhaps acknowledge that there was a lot of misplaced hate going around. People hated their circumstances and their rulers but were powerless to change things.
By misplaced hate, of course, I mean, both the black and white population of South Carolina had good cause to be upset with the occupation, with the running of the state government, with finances and with the economy in general. Many whites had been outright disenfranchised, blacks could now vote but still did not really run the affairs of the state and both groups shared the burden of a failed economy and a dismal future if the circumstance did not change.
If my assessment of the Union occupation and Republican rule of South Carolina seems too harsh perhaps I can allow that the US was essentially an amateur at nation-building and occupation in the late 1800s. Many of the mistakes I personally observed in Iraq were the same mistakes the Union Army made – disenfranchising an entire population and leaving them with no political voice, failure to address economic issues etc. Obviously, those failures throughout the decade of the 2000s resulted in the formation and expansion of ISIS so after 130 years the US has really gotten no better at the task. That being said, the problems created by reconstruction and the violent reactionary movement that resulted from it still must be laid clearly on those that created the problem and not simply chalked up to the mysterious boogeyman of racism -it is so much more complex than that.
So we arrive on the fateful day of July 4th, 1876. The militia in Hamburg was conducting a 4th of July Parade. Consider, the South simply did not celebrate the 4th until the Spanish American War and not wholly until the First World War. It simply did not happen, it was a Union holiday. However, the predominately black population of Hamburg was celebrating that day, replete with their militia on parade.
Consider how inflammatory this entire circumstance was, Governor Robert Scott, a “real estate speculator” and former Union officer from Pennsylvania had armed the Hamburg militia with state arms. Whites were precluded from serving in or forming militias. Captain Doc Adams, proud of his position and the patronage shown by the Republicans in charge of the state proudly paraded his company that day in Hamburg. One cannot really fault him for this, the real culprit that set up this situation is the marionette occupying the state capital.
Then we have of course the two white farmers from Edgefield that confronted Adams on the road that day. Did these two likely know about the 4th of July celebration? Probably? Is it reasonable to assume they were out to make a scene or cause trouble? – Perhaps.
The events of the next four days are fairly well documented, and unfortunately, occupy much of the narrative and disagreement over how the events of 8 July 1876 ought to be remembered. I argue again, that the tragic outcome of that day should not be the keystone of the story.
The real story of the Hamburg Incident is that two groups of South Carolinians, each with much more in common than they possibly realized did violence to each other. They shared commonalities of misplaced hate, fear, insecurity and pride of principle. The events of 8 July 1876 shaped the future of South Carolina more significantly than any event to occur here before or since. The loss of life was tragic, but if a common narrative that binds us together as South Carolinians is to be found in this event it is that of blood sacrifice on the eventual road to who we are today. It should not be a story of this group versus that group, told from two sides. All involved were sons of our fair State.
If the city wants to tackle this issue and create a narrative that tells history in context we should create one near the old armory site and depict that day as a tragic but perhaps necessary part of South Carolina learning and growing to be who we are. This ought not be mixed in with talk of a public safety building.
It is my sad regret that I cannot regale you with photos of me dressed in full fig alongside my gorgeous bride attending festivities. Alas, I took violently ill just as we got dressed and prepared to depart the hotel and walk to Saint John’s for the investiture. For about 10 minutes, however, I did look pretty snappy, medals all blinging, top hat and gentleman’s cane.
We will just leave the rest unsaid. It was tragic and involved my wife holding a trash can, in her dress mind you, me in tails, turning what I am told was an ashen color of grey.
No great tale should begin with such a dire and shall I even say, perhaps todetailed of a story. Yet here we are. I have recovered from whatever demon virus afflicted me.
The purpose of our visit to the quaint little town of Florence, South Carolina was to attend the Priory of Saint Vincent’s Convent. These fellows, and ladies too it seems, are part of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. Now bear with me, and wait before you click off this page. I already know what you may be thinking.
No, I did not meet any Grand Poobah, and I was not shown a secret handshake. And NO this is not the Masons.
If we can dispense with such trivial assumptions I might explain why we drove two hours to attend this event.
Allow me first to digress. If one checks the mission statement here at this site you will find it is all about Finding Purpose. I have stated directly and indirectly numerous times that I believe a key to successfully finding purpose after a military retirement is to balance three things, aligning with the creator, engaging culturally and building spiritual, emotional and physical strength.
These are not new thoughts of mine, and perhaps not even original to my on brain-housing group. These are points I began to ponder more deeply as I approached retirement. I even began a Facebook page to “test the waters” related to some of my ideas. Chivalry seems the answer to many problems that plague the modern world. Chivalry seems a good prescription and tool for a person seeking to add a balanced foundation to their life. We would all be better off if more people acted chivalrously. I wrote as an alter-ego, a fictional me, but suggested that we can actually become that which we imagine.
But to the event in Florence. The SMOTJ is a religious military fraternal order dedicated to:
Seeking God in our lives and promoting love and respect for our community.
Increasing understanding between religions, helping pilgrims visit holy places, and maintaining a Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Supporting the poor, sick, and unjustly accused; standing against oppression, and protecting freedom of speech.
Encouraging the noble ideals of Chivalry; maintaining the monuments, archives, and history of the Knights Templar.
These guys have hit on all cylinders of the Finding Purpose engine, so of course we happily accepted the invite to attend. An organization that encourages service, fraternity, and spiritual enrichment. Who but a heathen could be opposed? On the plus side, you get to justify your involvement to the wife by inviting her to dress up a couple of times a year for a formal event.
I am very thankful for the invitation, hate that we missed the pageantry of the investiture and the banquet but very much enjoyed the business meeting and the meet and greet. I hope it is ordained that we should continue our aquantence.
Tip O’Neil famously said, all politics are local. I have spent much of my life being interested in national and international politics and geopolitics but have never paid much attention to local events.
Very recently I realized that my little city of North Augusta, SC is in something of the order of 120 million dollars in debt. Apparently approximately 70 million of that on account of the construction of SRP Park.
My wife and I bought a home here in 2016, I was deployed, we actually purchased the home while I was on leave. We knew she had a good job at the University and this is where I should retire. I could not imagine living in the debacle that is Richmond County and Columbia County was too far. Besides, I was born and bred in South Carolina, I am a proud son of the State. North Augusta seemed perfect.
I recall in an off-hand conversation my wife and I discussing how the ballpark had been funded. I assumed that surely there must have been a referendum for such an expenditure. Surely, right? How could a small town council possibly spend so much of their neighbor’s money without asking them? I supposed my assumption was correct and moved on with life, happily ignorant.
In the last couple of years my wife has occasionally mentioned to me something like, “man, there is some drama going on at North Augusta 20 20”. I would generally mumble in acknowledgement and continue on with what I was doing. I long ago stopped paying much attention to Facebook. I have seen too many people with drama there. I never stopped to wonder if there was really fire associated with the smoke she was seeing.
Apparently, there has been a real fire raging beneath the smoke of Facebook drama. Contentiousness has been the norm in council chambers and outside for some time it seems. However, I do not know all the facts or personalities or details involved up to this point.
I know one thing for certain. My original assumption concerning the state of good governance in my little city were all wrong. Based upon one fact alone I am prepared to say something is amiss and things must change.
The council saddled the citizens of the city with enormous debt, almost $70 million, without a referendum. Nobody elects part-time city officials to make decisions of that magnitude – it is plain and simple irresponsible, unconscionable and immoral. It is theft of property no matter how you state it. In local government one just generally assumes that everyone knows that the right thing to do when such a large matter is in question is to allow the people to decide – after all it is their money.
Based upon this one simple fact, this one simple callous immoral act of hubris I have become interested in and involved in local politics.
Last night I contacted the Constitution Party of North Augusta and asked them to place a sign in my front yard. I offered to help in any way possible and next week I will break bread with one of their officers to discuss what that means and figure out where I can help.
The list of absurdities could go on – perhaps the passage this past Monday of an ordinance allowing open air consumption of alcohol in Riverside Village (mind you there are what two bars there at present). That seems a rather silly thing to be worried about considering almost none of the magnificent storefronts, shops and entertainment that was promised in the artist depictions have actually materialized. When I recently visited the area I wondered where there might actually be space for any of the grand things we were promised. The hotel is not grand and the ball park is archetecturally out of place.
Then perhaps one could point to the utterly brilliant idea to install parking meters down there. You people build a field of dreams with our money, sold a bill of goods with wonderful pictures and delivered a much less grandiose reality with already frustrating and limited parking and now you want to discourage further patronage with parking meters. Simply brilliant. These folks must go.
Finally, we read our city administration is coordinating with Augusta and Georgia to construct a pedestrian/bike path on a future 13th Street bridge. I suppose all North Augusta needs is folks walking over from Broad Street in Augusta to ask me money when the wife and I go out to eat. This is a large reason I do not often go to Broad Street! Again – brilliant.
North Augusta is not Augusta – that place elects fools and those fools mismanage funds and the potential of the city and county. We do not need to be like Augusta. We should progress, but keep the culture and nature of our city intact. We also should expect elected officials that know the moral limits of the power vested in the positions they hold. Placing every resident of the city in debt without the common decency to ask – that is wrong. This is what got me interested and involved in local politics.
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