Things I find Beautiful Part 5- Clarence Darrow’s Closing Argument for Leopold and Loeb

There are lot of things very wrong with our criminal justice system.  I think it’s fair to say that America, unique among developed countries, has instituted a monstrous system of mass incarceration that targets minority populations.

The most grotesque feature of this system is the continuance in some of our states of the death penalty.  The sanitized killing of another human being by the state.  There’s a little bit of blood on all of our hands over it as Americans- we tolerate this destruction of another human life, as though this ritual cleansing of a murderer will do anything for our society.  It doesn’t deter, it doesn’t heal the victims, all that it does it give us a small measure of revenge.

This argument has been made for a very long time.  Better men than me have made it.  For my money and time, the most eloquent and impassioned speech against was Clarence Darrow’s closing argument in the Leopold and Loeb case.

I am, of course, in law school.  I like, and admire Clarence Darrow, and despise the death penalty.  I think every attorney wants to be able to argue against injustice- to rail against something that it truly monstrous.  To not only argue against it, but make a difference.  To save a life, is possible, and make it matter that you were there in that courtroom.

Most attorneys don’t get to make that kind of argument, at least not often.  But Clarence Darrow did, and my word, do I admire his closing speech.

Clarence Darrow’s argument for humanity and civilization, in the face of barbarity and cruelty, by both his clients and by the criminal justice system is beautiful.

Clarence_Darrow_cph.3b31130.jpg

There was no real defending the boys, not on innocence.  They had confessed to a monstrous crime- the murder of a young boy that they knew from the neighborhood.  And they did it to prove themselves the superior men- that they, proud boys of Hyde Park and its University of Chicago (at for Leopold.  Loeb was from Hyde Park, but attended the University of Michigan.)  These two clowns, these buffoons of criminality believes that they could commit the perfect crime as prime examples of Nietzsche’s  Übermensch.

And then they went and immediately confessed to it after the police picked them up after Leopold left his eyeglasses at the scene of the crime.

Some supermen.  I suggest that your average hoodlum from a tougher neighborhood of Chicago could’ve beat the rap.  Most of them know that the first thing you do in a police interrogation room is ask for an attorney.*  Leopold, of course, was going to attend Harvard Law School, after a trip to Europe.  Too late young man, too late!

Darrow decided to defend them to take a stand against the death penalty, to save his clients from the Cook County gallows.

Darrow entered a plea of guilty, and asked for a bench trial.  He avoided a Cook County jury, and hoped to convince the mind of just one man, Judge John R. Caverly, to give his clients a life sentence.

The sentencing hearing lasted 32 days.  The prosecution put on witness after witness describing the despicable deeds they had done.  Darrow put on psychiatric testimony to mitigate the death sentence that was looming.

And Darrow concluded his case by giving a 12 hour speech.  He considered it the finest speech he ever gave.

In that speech he makes a case for civilization, for decency, and for an optimistic belief that we are capable of progress beyond our barbaric history:

“I have heard precedents quoted which would be a disgrace
to a savage race. I have seen a court urged almost to the point
of threats to hang two boys, in the face of science, in the face
of philosophy, in the face of humanity, in the face of experience,
in the face of all the better and more humane thought of the
age.”

He goes into the details of crime, and how stupid and pointless it was.  That the boys were not in their right mind.  He argues for medical treatment, not vengeance:

“I have heard in the last six weeks nothini but the cry for
blood. I have heard raised from the office of the state’s attorney nothing but the breath of hate.
I have heard precedents quoted which would be a disgrace
to a savage race. I have seen a court urged almost to the point
of threats to hang two boys, in the face of science, in the face
of philosophy, in the face of humanity, in the face of experience,
in the face of all the better and more humane thought of the
age.”

“And do you think you can cure it by hanging these two?
Do you think you can cure the hatreds and the maladjustments
of the world by hanging them? A You simply show your ignorance
and your hate when you say it. You may here and there
cure hatred with love and understanding, but you can only add
fuel to the flames by hating in return.
What is my friend’s idea of justice? He says to this court,
whom he says he respects-and I believe he does-your honor,
who .sits here patiently, holding the lives of these two boys in
your hands: “Give them the same mercy that they gave to
Bobby Franks.”
Is that the law? Is that justice? Is this what a court
should do? Is thia what a state’s attorney should do? For
God’s sake, if the state in which I live is not kinder, more human,
more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of
these two mad boys, I ‘am sorry I have lived so long.
I am sorry for these fathers and these mothers. The mother
who looks into the blue eyes of her little babe cannot help but
wonder what will be the end of this child, whether it will be
crowned with the greatest promises which her mind can imagine
or whether he may meet death from the gallows.
All she can do is to raise him with care, to watch over him
tenderly, to meet life with hope and trust and confidence, and
to leave the rest with fate.”

And that’s how we adjourned the first day, because he was taking 3 days to give this speech.

He picked up on the second, where he left off.

“I can think, and only think, your honor, of taking two boys,
one 18 and the other 19, irresponsible, weak, diseased, penning
them in a cell, checking off the days and the hours and the
minutes until they will be taken out and hanged.

Wouldn’t it be a glorious day for Chicago? Wouldn’t it
be a glorious triumph for the state’s attorney? Wouldn’t it be a
glorious triumph for justice in this land? Wouldn’t it be a
glorious illustration of Christianity and kindness and charity?
I can picture them, wakened in the grey light of morning,
furnished a suit of clothes by the state, led to the scaffold,
their feet tied, a black cap drawn over their heads, placed on
a trap door, and somebody pressing a spring, so that it falls ,
under them, and they are only stopped by the rope around their necks. It would surely expiate the placing of young
Franks, after he was dead, in the culvert. That would bring
immense satisfaction to some people. It brings a greater satisfaction
because it is done in the name of justice.”

He is, of course, putting the system on trial.  And he goes, God bless him, to go into English history, which will always make my ears perk up.  We inherited a lot of law and culture from the English, included their cruelty in law.  But we’ve sometimes failed to pick up their tendency to reform the rougher edges of the law:

What happened? I have read the life of Lord Shaftsbury, a
great nobleman of England, who gave his life and his labors
toward modifying the penal code.
I have read of the slow, painful efforts through all the ages
for more humanity of man to his fellow man. 4 I know what history says, I know whlat it means and I know
what flows from it, so fAr as we can tell, which is not definitely.
I know that every step has been met and opposed by prosecutors,
many times by courts. I know that when poaching and petty
larceny was punishable by death in England, juries refused
to convict. They were too humane to obey the law, and judges
refused.
I know when the delusion of witchcraft was spreading over
Europe, claiming its victims by the millions, many a judge so
shaped his cases that no crime of witchcraft could be punished
in his court. I know that it was stopped in America because
juries would no longer convict
I know that every step in the progress of the world in reference
to crime has come from the human feelings of man. It
has come from that deep well of sympathy, that in spite of all
our training and all our conventions ,and all our teaching, still
flows forth in the human breast. Without it there would be no
life on this weary old planet. And gradually the laws have been
changed and modified, and men look back with horror at the
hangings and deaths of the past.
What did they find in England? That as they got rid of these
barbarous statutes crimes decreased instead of increased, and
and as the criminal law was modified and humanized there
was less crime instead of more. I will undertake to say your
honor, that you can scarcely find a single book written by a
student-and I will include all the works on criminology of
the past-that has not made the statement over and over again
that as the penal code was made less terrible, crimes grew less
frequent.”

It’s a long speech, and I have probably tried your patience too long.  But his closing passage sings to me.  It speaks of a better age, of a better justice system, of better men than we.

Here, listen to his final closing argument.  This won the day.  He saved his clients’ lives, whatever they were worth, and spared not only them, but also Chicago.  It spared our fair city from having another killing upon its hands.  We have a terrible history with the death penalty in this city.  We’ve killed a fair number of innocent men.  But here, listen to Mr. Darrow’s final plea, as he saves two wretched lives from the gallows:

“I am pleading for the future; I am pleading for a time when
hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men. When we
can learn by reason and judgment and understanding and faith
that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute
of man.
I feel that I ought to apologize for the length of time I have
taken. This may not be as important as I think it is, and I am
sure I do not need to tell this court, or to tell my friend Mr.
Crowe, that I would fight just as hard for the poor as for the rich.
If I should succeed in saving these boys’ lives and do nothing
for the progress of the law, I should feel sad, indeed. If I can
succeed, my greatest award and my greatest hope and my greatest
compensation will be that I have done something for the tens

of thousand of other boys, for the other unfortunates who must
tread the same way that these poor youths have trod, that I have
done something to help human understanding, to temper justice
with mercy, to overcome hate with love.
I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian
poet, Omar Khayyam. It appealed to me as the highest that I
can envision. I wish it was in my heart and I wish it was in
the heart of all, and I can end no better than to quote what he
said :

‘So I be written in the Book of Love,
I do not care about that Book above.
Erase my name or write it as you will,
So I be written in the Book of Love.'”

God bless, Mr Darrow.  How I love those closing paragraphs.  He is arguing for a better world, and it gives me a little hope to read those lines.

The whole speech can be read here, along with the prosecutors closing argument.

Thanks, as always for reading!  I hope that you found this speech to be as beautiful as I did!

*Obviously, this case is pre-Miranda.  But even in the 1920s, an Attorney of the caliber that their families could hire could have gotten them out of the interrogation room, especially with as little evidence as the cops had.

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Things I find Beautiful Part 4- My Dog, Atticus the Excellent!

The hardest things about dogs is that they are so much more limited than we are.  We get them at some point in our lives, and they go through their entire lives so much more rapidly than we do.  I got my dog, Atticus, when I was 26 years old, and he was a three month old puppy.

He’s grown up, and is now a ten year old glorious dog.  But he’s gone grey in his muzzle, and is showing his age.  He now longer jumps quite as high as he used to, and our runs together gets shorter before he wants to just walk along.  If I’m still around, he will pass from the earth in maybe 3, 4, 5 years, 7 or 8 if I’m really lucky.  And I’ll still be around, and older man, and lesser for having lost him.

But he’s still around now.  Currently begging for a bit of baked beans or tomato soup that are my lunch.  His eyes are focused, like a laser, upon the bowl that contains my food.  I know that he’s rather ill when he no longer wants to beg food from me.  He is sweet and kind and gentle, particularly with little kids.

Atticus is one hell of a dog.  He is one hell of a beautiful creature.  Let’s enjoy some photographs of him:

 

crazy puppy

I got Atticus when I lived far away from Chicago, in a place that became very lonely for me.  He was my companion.  Twice a day trips to the dog park- puppy Atticus demanded it!

And I was happy to go with him.  If you are lonely, and you can swing it, I can recommend enough getting a dog.  Having a loving creature he needs to be taken care of, and will take care of you, is immeasurable.

And he was so tiny back then!  Look at him!

tiny puppy

Also, look at how incredibly goofy looking I was.  None of my clothes fit.  None.  And I would wear those Adidas Samba shoes till they fell apart around my feet.  In that picture, you can see some woods behind me.  Although we were near a University, there were these dense, deep woods a block away.  Atticus loved going into them, with me attached.  If you got through the first couple of layers of trees and kudzu, there was a little circle of trees where you could hang out, and the world was still.  If you went further north on that little street, you would find yourself on a little path, surrounded by trees.  Although the road was only 15 feet away from you, the trees would block all light from coming through.  It was terrifying, but Atticus liked going up that path.  I would get scared, but he would carry me through.  One night, imagined that a bully from not long before would be there, to jump out at me.  I had nicknamed him “Doug the bum.”  (No one reading this would know him.)  But Atticus, the happy little puppy, kept on going, and we always got home safe.

Eventually I came back to Chicago, but I came back without Atticus.  I came back without this adorable puppy:

puppy ears

He eventually was returned to me by agreement.  Thank God!  And he moved in with me to the Ukrainian Village in Chicago, where he, no doubt, obtained a taste for eastern European food.  (He is mostly lab, so it is accurate to say that he was born with  taste for pretty much every type of food.)

licking chops

This is a recent photo of him, waking me up, and licking his chops.  I snapped a photograph of him.  Puppy!

He is also amazingly kind and gentle with kids.  With tiny children, he will just stand there and get petted.

kid friendsHe knows how to be gentle, even if he is not always gentle with adults.  (He leaps up on people to say hello.  He just, so badly, wants you to know that he likes you.)

jumping puppy

That is the standard greeting in Chicago, no?

I have so many stories I’d like to tell you about him, before I forget all his glories.  Did I mention that he sings?  He does!  He sings along with Lisa, as she plays her saxophone.  Here, have a listen:

Puppy dog!

When I first got him, over ten years ago now, I imagined what my life would be like when he passed away.  Fifteen years, perhaps, from that date?  Would be a happy 40 years old, kids of my own that would have to grapple with death for the first time?

I don’t know yet.  He lives, breathes, and plays happily.  howling atticus

He’s even helping us with music sometimes:

piano atticus

Always ready to hunt down the nefarious agents of Rahm, the dastardly squirrels!

hunting atticus

He even has adorable puppy dog friends, like sweat pea!

sweet pea atticus

And Max, Lisa’s parents’s excellent doggie!

atticus with max

And even dear departed doggie friends, like his giant friend Gavin:

gavin atticus

I hope, I pray, that I get a bunch of happy years with puppy dog.  I don’t know what I would have done without him, the sweetest, greatest dog in the world.

Atticus, you are one god blessed beautiful dog.  Proof alone that humanity can build something of worth, that there remains kindness, gentleness and play in the world.

couch atticus

Puppppppy!

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Things I find Beautiful, Part 3- The Roaring Bellows of Tom Wait’s Voice

Beauty, as they say, is in the ear of the beholder.  This next post on things I find beautiful will not appeal to everyone, I know that.  Tom Waits does not sing with a traditionally beautiful voice.  Many of most recent songs suggest that he no longer sings with a human voice anymore.  If you were to walk into a smoky old club, and hear Mr. Tom Waits singing, you’d probably think to yourself, “Buddy, don’t give up your night job.  Don’t give up any of your other jobs, because you ain’t making it as an entertainer.”

Even Bob Dylan, famous for his unorthodox singing voice, complained that Tom Waits doesn’t get complained about in the same way.

Oh, brother, does he.  Most folks say Tom Waits sounds like he’s been gurgling nails when they hear him sing.  That he sounds the way a cat does when someone starts pulling on its tongue.  That he sounds the way a battered railroad striker looks after the Pullman goons have wailed on his face for twelve hours, and thrown boiling water onto his scalp, and peeled back his toenails for fun.  That’s what they say about Tom Waits’s voice, and I’m telling you, it’s all true.  When he sings, he sounds like he not only was burning the whole town down with the midnight oil.

But I’m also telling you- it’s beautiful.

Take a listen to this- it’s off his last album.  It’s a song about what happens to you after you die, and making sure you’re, you know, satisfied before you go.

A pretty voice wouldn’t work on this song, which I love.  You want something infused with pain, a mix of screaming and singing.  If you tried to sing it in a traditional way, it would just fall short.  It would be a disaster!

It’d be like listening to Rod Stewart sing Downtrain Train, and who the hell wants that?  (Or god help us, the even worse cover of Tom Traubert’s Blues.)

There’s room for a gutteral cry from beneath.  He’s taking us on a tour of the underbelly of the city sometimes, and I don’t want a pretty boy singing to me.  Waits has the entire 11 yards going on in his voice.  He sounds like he’s off his sofa chair, writhing around on the floor, crying out for vengeance.

I want someone who looks and sounds like he works in a junkyard.  He sounds like he swallowed a muppet, and is making them talk while they dissolve in stomach acid.  Like the dark gods of elder times have come back, and we need to warn the village.  Wake ’em up, ladies and gentlemen, scream and shout about the killers thieves and lawyers that we left in charge.  He’s singing with the spirit of dark fairy tales, where most of the heroes aren’t making it out alive.  Every cloud in his world has a poison lining, and it wasn’t just curiosity that killed the cat.  It was Dave the Butcher.

His voice wasn’t always like this.  It used have its own bit of pretty, as he sang songs about sailors and lost love.  Have a listen to my favorite song he sang before he got weird(er):

It’s got some prettiness to that.  Not that there wasn’t some of what was coming later in those early albums- Tom Traubert’s Blues is the saddest song I’ve ever heard, and he’s singing it like his future self.

He eventually, after his career tanked, decided to get weird on Swordfishtrombones.

I don’t know what a swordfishtrombone is.  I read a whole book on the album, and I have no idea what the hell he’s singing about.  It’s also the album he made by himself and his wife.  He made this album after he met the love of his life, and they made this weird, dark album.  It’s covered in the oddities, the freaks, the castaways, and residents of a carnival madhouse.  Just a giant pile of them on a piano, dancing away, hitting notes, while Waits sings along in a top, carrying a sword cane.  His wife said he sings about Grim Reapers and Grand Weepers, and that’s about right.

Listen to this one, particularly the last minute.  I don’t exactly know how to describe what he’s doing with his voice as he shouts Shore Leave over and over again.  He goes falsetto, and sounds like he’s being strangled, as he sings about writing a letter his far away wife:

That same voice come also do powerful things.  My favorite song, maybe by anyone, is the closing song on Mule Variations, called Come on Up to the House:

This is almost a gospel song in the way that he’s going.  There are notes, beautiful notes, in there.  It’s painful, mournful, and hopeful.  Sure, he’s quoting Thomas Hobbes, but he’s still going to get up and come up to the house.  It’s resilient in a way that I admire.  It takes what life can throw at it, and comes back for me.

Part of the reason I like the voice so much is that it reminds me, a bit, of how my grandfather on my dad’s side talked.  If Grandpa Priz sang, it would be like Tom Waits.  My grandfather went through a lot in his time, and you could tell.  And he was one god damned resilient man.  Imperfect as all hell, but he could be wonderful.  He could be awful.  And he had the same cigarette infused rasp to his voice.  I don’t know if my grandfather ever gargled nails, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.

This world can be dark, and full of terrors.  His voice can be the same way.  When I’m in the mood for something weird and wonderful, I put Mr. Waits on.

Oh, and he sounds like a demented Cookie Monster.  He is a demented Cookie Monster, look and listen:

Mr. Waits, I find your voice to be beautiful.  Never stop let that muppet in your belly stop singing.

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Day 2 of things I find Beautiful- The Lovely Ms. Elisa Shoenberger

Two years ago, to the day, I was fortunate enough to marry the one and only, the beautiful Elisa Shoenberger.  Below is a picture of our wedding kiss.

wedding picture

I am fairly certain that my exuberance in that kiss caught her slightly off guard.  But you only get married once, if you’re lucky.  I figured I’d make my wedding kiss count.

Listen:  I think more husbands need to say this about their wives.  My wife is beautiful, and I love her.  We’re still pretty much newlyweds.  I don’t know- yet-what it is that makes folk stay together forever and ever.  My best guess is this:  want to try to make the other person happy.  And be as fortunate as me in who you choose to marry.

Lisa is wonderful.  I think some people think that she puts up with my mischief.  That’s a little bit of a misunderstanding of how Lisa works.  She doesn’t put up with my mischief- we get into mischief together.  We go on adventures together.  We go and find together.  Oh, she is a wonder to behold.  Kind and sweet, and we keep each other together in trying times.

scott and lisa circus

If you know Lisa, then you know how wonderful she is.  If you don’t know her, let me let her wonderful qualities for you:  adventurous, beautiful, brilliant, inquisitive, caring, an explorer extraordinaire of culture and lands, keyed up for more, giving, full of decency, righteousness, fun loving, and sweet, so very sweet to me.

silly scott and lisa

I am damned lucky to have met her.  The first time that I saw her, I wanted to ask her out.  I asked a friend if she was available, and said, no, no, she’s dating someone alas.

I shrugged, and waited.  I was fortunate to see her again.  She was no longer with the other guy.  I asked her out, and never looked back.  It was the easiest decision in my life to ask her to marry me, after a 5 hour scavenger hunt to rescue me from the clutches of the diabolical “Le Capitain Francais”, and I suspect it was fairly easy for her to say yes.

yesshesaidyes

It’s good to appreciate the good times, and a steady, loving household.  Lisa is beautiful, like a bright shining light in my life.  And thank goodness I met her.  Life can be hard, and I am grateful to be able to go at it with her by my side.

She is the best.

lovely hat.jpg

Happy anniversary, and all my love,

Scottini Prizzini

E.E.E.

swinging lisa

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Things I Find Beautiful- The Colour Chartreuse!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the first of hopefully many posts on things I find beautiful.  These are things that speak to my soul, that make me want to be more Scottini Prizzini, or S. Montgomery Priz, English Explorer Extraordinaire, or Scott Montgomery of Chicago.

Results may vary.  Not all of these will be as beautiful to you as they are to me.  I’m certain, in fact that this first entry will not be one that most people adore.  Most people, when they see this gorgeous, wondrous colour, will avert their eyes.  Some will say, “My God, turn it off!  Turn it off!  It’s much too bright!”  Yet others will wonder why America, in the 1970s, decided to paint it’s fire trucks this colour.

I say, Chartreuse is the most beautiful colour in the world.  There is none like it, in all the world!

scott priz chartreuse

Oh yeah!  It is the brightest colour to our puny human eyes- it’s the colour we pick up the best.  Our eyes are better suited to seeing things on the yellow green type than the blue red type.

And why?

Because our eyes are designed for seeing beauty, not the wretched and dull blue and red that populate this world.  It is, of course, names after the liquor, but oof.  That stuff takes the opposite of how the colour looks.  The green chartreuse, the really foul stuff, has the colour of molding skin.  Even the yellow doesn’t quite come close, even if it tastes less like your favorite pet’s ashes.  The colour is removed from the liquor, and thank God.  It tastes like sorrow, while the colour…it looks like…

Look at its beauty!  Look at it!

full chartreuse

My god, such a wonderful world we live in.  How I was introduced to the colour is a story in itself.  It was the summer before my second year of college.  My car had died, and I needed a new one.  My father spotted in a a car lot the most beautiful car that I’ve ever seen to that point- it was a Chartreuse Dodge Neon.

A neon Neon, if you will.

 

dodge neon

This is close to it.  But not quite.  It was brighter somehow.  More glorious.  You could see it coming from blocks away.  The 3 year old who lived in our dormitory with our RH’s used to point out his 8th story window at it, and say, “Dot Car!”

Dot Car indeed.  It was a wonder and a sight to behold.

When I was a child, I used to say black was my favorite colour.  Once, a counselor asked me why, and I replied, “It’s because black is dark, and if a robber came into our house, and it was black, I could beat him up without him seeing me.”

Everyone, including my mother had a good laugh.  I like to think it was because it was such an odd thing for a child to say.  Maybe it was just the idea of tiny child scott, who weighed, perhaps 15 pounds while carrying a barbell, beating up anyone.

That all changed once I say that car.  I bought it that day, dent be damned!  I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, so be it!  I shall learn!  The clutch pedal broke on the way home, you say?

Never you mind call a tow truck!  I need my chartreuse car!  And I need it now!

trapeze chartreuse

I have never waivered, not once, in my devotion to the colour.  The car, sadly, is no longer with us.  Adventure with pirates, and it ended up in Lake Michigan.

umbrella

The colour just makes me happy to see it.  It’s so bright and wonderful.  It is garish and ridiculous.  You can not hide in chartreuse- it’s why they make construction workers wear it.  It’s why the standard highlighters come in this colour.

Because it must be seen!

chartreuse clown

That’s me as my occasional clown character, The Chartreuse Clown.  So beautiful.  Whatever you are, this colour will make you more so.  There is no hiding from the world in it, you must simply be, and be bright.

masked chartreuse

So, onwards, in these dark times.  The colour, glory, and brilliance of CHARTREUSE will light the way for us.

Captain Chartreuse

So go off yourself, and be beautiful.  The world is full of enough terrors and awful things these days.  I find chartreuse to be astonishing, my advice to see is to be astonishing yourself, and make the world a little brighter than when you found it.

There’s no shortage of dimness, shadows, darkness in this world.  But there’s still room for the brightest light of all.

There is still room for the glory of CHARTREUSE!

trapeze scott

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George Henry Thomas, the Rock of Chickamauga and the Sledge of Nashville

General George Thomas was blessed with the best and worst nicknames of any major Civil War General.  He had a bad back, and he walked slowly.  When he taught at West Point, his cadets gave him the nickname “Slow Trot Thomas”.

The name stuck with him in the Civil War, and people would call him that whenever his armies wouldn’t move quite as fast as they’d hoped.

That’s ok.  He’d earn better nicknames in the war.  He saved the Western Union Army-maybe saved the whole damned war- at the otherwise disastrous Battle of Chickiamauga where he earned the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga.”  He won the Union its first major battle of the Civil War at the Battle of Mills Springs in Kentucky, and he won the last major battle of the Civil War outside of Nashville, where he earned his second nickname, “The Sledge of Nashville.”

You won’t see any statues of George Thomas in Richmond’s Monument Avenue.  They reserve space there for a pack of traitors like Jackson, Lee, Stuart, Jefferson Davis, and the Chief of the Confederacy’s Sea Coast.  But Thomas was a Virginian- from Southeast Virginia (from a farm outside of Newsoms Depot, Virginia, whose current population is 282.)  And while isn’t honored by the Confederate descendants who took over the South after the fall of reconstruction he was the greatest Virginian to serve in the Civil War.

And he has the greatest, and catchiest Civil War Song, penned by Jimmy Driftwood in 1961, called, the Rock of Chickamauga:

God Damn that’s a catchy song.

Listen:  at the Battle of Chickamauga, disaster struck the Union invasion of Northern Georgia under General Rosencrans.  A mix of orders happened on the second day, and there was an accidental gap in the Union Lines.  A giant, Division Wide gap.  And by chance and happenstance, it was exactly at the gap that General Longstreet, on loan from General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia-  sent his 10,000 men.  They went right into a void, where there was nothing, and then they came crashing down upon the rest of the flanks of the southern half of Rosencrans’s army.  Came crashing down, and that half of the army fled.  They melted and ran away, in a mad rush to safety.

That was the southern half.  The other half of the Union Army was commanded by George Thomas, who was about to earn one of his nicknames.

He occupied Snodgrass Hill.  His troops stood their ground.  Outnumbered 2-1, they faced 25 assaults from the Confederate hoard.  If they were defeated, the entire Army of the Cumberland- the main western army of the United States- would be gobbled up in their retreat to Chatanooga, and the whole damned war machine would collapse.

Rosencrans sent his chief of staff- future President James Garfield- to check on Thomas as Rosencrans fled to Chattanooga.  Garfield sent back a message’ “Thomas is standing like a rock.”

The line held.  The Union cause lived on for another day.  Rosencrans slunk away from the war.  Thomas would fight under Grant (winning the day at Missionary Ridge, and chasing the victor of Chickamauga, General Bragg, right out of the war), Sherman (saving Sherman’s army outside of Atlanta at the battle of Peachtree Creek), and under his own command, where he ended Hood’s last, desperate invasion of Tennessee with the most decisive of any Civil War battles (where he earned his second nickname, the Sledge of Nashville.)

Thomas is a hero.  A loyalist Virginian who believed in the Union cause.  After the Civil War, he’d command troops to protect freedmen from the KKK.  And he tried to stop the former Confederates from rehabbing their reputation.

He died in 1870.  Eventually, his enemies got the better of the historical argument.  They were rehabbed in the process of the “lost cause” and the myth-making about the Civil War mostly about States Rights and so on.

General Lee gets statues all over the South. Good luck finding a statue of George Thomas south of the Mason Dixon line.

I bring all of this up because the argument I see over and over again on social media is that by removing Confederate memorials, we are removing history.

As if people don’t know who Hitler was because Berlin isn’t covered in statues glorifying him.

But it’s not about removing history- it’s about removing a particular version of history.  The version of history that has poisoning us, and filling us terrible ideas.

The idea that these defenders of slavery were heroes, and were worth emulating.  That we should strive to be like them, and defend their ideals.

It’s not a coincidence that most of these Confederate statues sprang up in the 20th century, as the KKK sprang back up to renew their reign of terror.   To push back against civil rights and the equality promised by that most revolutionary of our constitutions amendments, the flawed but glorious 14th Amendment.

And it’s why these bastards are pushing so hard against the removing of these statues, because it is the removal of the foundation of their lies.  That the Confederacy was something worth fighting for.  That there was something good and noble in General Lee, the plantation owner who invaded the North and enslaved every black man his army could get his hands on during the Gettysburg Campaign.

We need to fight these ideas.  We need fight back against this corrupt and wretched version of history.  We need to not only take down these statues of these villains, but replace them with men and women worth emulating.

Take down a statue of Lee in Virginia, and replace it with a statue of General Thomas, the loyal Virginia.  Rename Fort Bragg, and name it after a General worth idolizing, General Grant.

Take down the statues to the slave trader and founder of the KKK, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and replace them with statues of slaves breaking their chains, like the one they have in Barbados.

We need better history.  We need better ideas, and better heroes.  And there’s good news- the Civil War is full of Great Heroes who didn’t commit treason.  It’s full of an incredible cast of daring-do doing men.  Men like William Cushing, who led a commando raid to blow up the traitor iron-clad the Albemarle. People like Robert Smalls, an escaped slave who freed his family, stole a traitor boat, and became a Congressman from South Carolina.  (He also authored the legislation establishing the first free and compulsory public school in America.  Robert Smalls- awesome man who needs more statues!)

And maybe replace that statue of Lee in Charlottesville with one of Heather Heyer, who knew she was going into a Hornet’s nest at that rally, and went anyway.  Her mother is speaking at her funeral.  She is saying this, with quiet authority.  Listen to her speak.  Here is some of what she is saying:

“”I’d rather have my child but, by god, if I’m going to give her up we’re going to make it count.”

We need better heroes.  The good news is that they exist.  We just to choose to emulate them, and act in their honour.

 

 

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Goodbye to West town!

The moving trucks have come and gone, and for the first time in nearly a decade, I am no longer living in West Town.

I’ve lived in that area of the Northwest Side of Chicago for most(!) of my adult life.  I moved there for the first time into my first apartment that was all mine.  I moved into Noble Square, near Division & Ashland.  It was a pretty crappy apartment- it was a “convertible”, which is another way of saving that it was a slightly larger studio apartment.  Its closet was in the bathroom, the kitchen was tiny, there was no where to eat, I didn’t have internet, and so on.

It was lovely, and it was mine.  And I loved my little part of Chicago.  It’s where I discovered (what we would eventually rename) the Wicker Park High Tea and Dodgeball Association, which played every Thursday night in the bank parking lot down the street.  I wanted, God help poor little younger Scott, to be a writer or something, and cranked out weird little stories on a typewriter, and painted bad oil paintings in my bathroom/closet.  I learned to cook good red sauce in that apartment, and only mildly angered my landlord with my antics.

young scott

Oh man, I looked young back then.

I moved away in 2007- my then girlfriend got accepted to the University of North Carolina, and suggested that I come with.

So I did.

And I left Westtown for the first time.  And spent 13 month of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I won’t speak of it much further, except to say that it was a terrible time, except that that met Atticus, my lovely dog.

But when I came back to West town, I didn’t have my dog.  For the first five months of 2008, Atticus the most excellent, stayed in Chapel Hill.

And when I came back, I moved to another section of West town, to the Ukrainian Village, at Walton and Levitt.  The area had been suggested by that very same now ex-girlfriend, and she was right!

The Ukrainian Village is a wonderful part of town!  It, at the time, had this lovely mix of Ukrainian immigrants, young cheap folks like me who were willing to live in older apartments, and the coming richer gentrifiers.

God, how I love the borscht at Kasia’s.  It’s just perfect, that little deli.  And if you ever go tot he Ukrainian Village, go there, at Hoyne and Chicago.  I have tried to make it a few times, and got it close to it just once.

I spent a good 6 years in that little apartment.  I grew up a bit, fell in love with my now wife, drove own to Carolina to pick up my dog, and started law school.  I discovered Circus there- Aloft was just down the street, and I worked very hard to become a totally above average student in my spare time.  I remember the midnight Orthodox Christmas mass in January.  The military parade marching down our side street- with horses and cannons and everything!  The gorgeous Cathedrals, the pick-up soccer games, my dog’s dog friends, still tight knit community of Ukrainians that called it home.

clowning

It was wonderful.  Lisa eventually moved in with me, and when we needed a bigger place, we moved West of Western, as pairs of lawyers were buying up and renovating the area that we lived in.

It was so nice, it became the hottest real estate market in Chicago.

We got a bigger apartment, but we eventually decided to buy our place, and also escape the up and downs of living in an old apartment building.  But, you know, Hottest Real Estate Market in Chicago!

We could not afford to purchase a reasonably sized place in our neighborhood.  It’s nice that the neighborhood is getting fixed up, but I’ll take my oddball Ukrainian neighbors over the third wave gentrifiers. over rich lawyers as neighbors.  (As a second wave gentrifier, third wavers are my natural enemy.)

And so, we’ve moved on to Avondale, further up into the Northwest side.  It’s a lovely little townhome.  It’s wonderful, and close to where my circus school moved to into their lovely circus church.

Still.  It was my home forever.  And I’m going to miss it.

But..a new neighborhood awaits!  Adventure ahead!  I love thee, west town, but you got too fancy and expensive for this second waver.  Infamous place, how I adore thee.  Enjoy West Town while you can.

But alas, alas.  Onwards to my new home!  To Avondale!

kissing house

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