Tag Archives: Battle of Gettysburg

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. “General, I have no division!” At about 2:00 pm, , July 3, 1863, by the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched his last, desperate and audacious stratagem to win the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, a massed Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetary Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center. The doomed march into artillery and rifle fire, across an open field and over fences, lasted less than an hour. The Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Lee’s bold stroke had failed spectacularly, and would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

That verdict is debatable, but this is not: Pickett’s Charge, as the attack came to be called, holds as many fascinating ethics lessons as any event in American history, and this blog has returned to it for enlightenment time and time again.

There is the matter of the duty to prevent a disaster that you know is going to occur, the whistleblower’s duty, and the theme of Barbara Tuchman’s work, “The March of Folly.” There was Robert E. Lee’s noble and unequivocal acceptance of accountability for the disaster, telling the returning and defeated warriors that “It is all my fault.” The defeat also turned on moral luck, with many unpredictable factors, such as the intervention of a brave and intrepid Union cavalry officer named George Armstrong Custer, who also teaches that our greatest strengths and most deadly flaws are often the same thing, and that the Seven Enabling Virtues can be employed for both good and wrongful objectives.  Pickett’s Charge shows how, as Bill James explained, nature conspires to make us unethical.

Pickett’s Charge also teaches that leadership requires pro-active decision-making, and the willingness to fail, to be excoriated, to be blamed, as an essential element of succeeding. Most of all, perhaps, it illustrates the peril’s of hindsight bias, for without a few random turns of fate, Robert E. Lee’s gamble might have worked.

2. Funny how if you continually denigrate someone based on his color and gender, he will eventually stop respecting you. Stanford University has established a Men and Masculinities Project  that aims to help men develop “healthy and inclusive male identities”—because they obviously don’t have those now.  “We acknowledge that male identity is a social privilege, and the aim for this project is to provide the education and support needed to better the actions of the male community rather than marginalize others,” anti-man-splains Stanford’s gurus. Stanford, of course, is not alone in pushing the ubiquitous progressive narrative that men are toxic, along with whites, making white men the worst of all. Perhaps this might explain why support for Democrats among young white men is falling fast.

Nah, it must be because they are sexist and racist…

3. But..but…settled science! The Economist estimates that as many as 400,000 papers published in supposedly peer-reviewed journals were not peer-reviewed at all. Scientists, scholars and academics are no more trustworthy or alien to unethical conduct than anyone else, but because most of the public (and journalists) don’t  understand what they write about and have to accept what they claim on faith, they are presumed to be trustworthy.

Think of them as the equivalent of auto mechanics. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Science & Technology, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations

Cross the Parkland shooting with the ethical problems created by technology, and you get this..

One of our engaged readers sent me this story, about how real-time texting and tweeting have become standard fare during mass shootings and other crisis situations. The story is full of positive words for the phenomenon….

The texts hit a nerve with people because they’re so gut-wrenching and real, Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are highly emotional, and enable people to feel empathy and a connection to what the students were feeling at the time,” she says. Social media in particular is good for sharing these texts, Rutledge adds. “Removing the sense of mediation in connection is what social media does best,” she says. “It transports people into events and allows them to share the feelings more intensely.”

The messages are also stimulating to people and create a horror-story-type feeling — except they’re not made up, clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. That can also make the experience more real. “They bring the reality of the dangers in the world into one’s life and right into your personal space,” Mayer says. “Therefore, it becomes even more frightening.”

The texts also allow people to experience the events vicariously, albeit from a safe distance, and can prompt feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the safety they do have, Rutledge says.

But these kinds of texts really resonate because they’re authentic and straight from the source. “They are real-time reporting of feelings and events,” Rutledge points out.

Well, it’s certainly nice that vivid reporting comes out of massacres! What would we do without social media and cell phones!

My reaction is completely different: Why are these people texting and tweeting in the middle of a crisis? Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Daily Life, History, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

Now THIS Is “Whataboutism”….

Oh, Glenn, Glenn, Glenn.

What gets into you sometimes?

I could ask that of a lot of conservatives right now.  Many of them, and there are far too many,  are looking for ways to rationalize supporting Roy Moore for the Senate in Alabama because he has an (R) next to his name. My favorite quote from “A Man For All Seasons” comes to mind: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?”  Wales is a bargain, compared to giving up one’s soul—integrity, values, self-respect, common decency, credibility— for the likes of Roy Moore. Even the most fanatic partisan has to accept that there are some depths to which no honorable person should  sink for pure political gain. Partisans who don’t accept that are themselves untrustworthy.

Moore’s candidacy was indefensible long before he was revealed as a stalker of teens when he was an assistant district attorney. The allegations—there was another one yesterday—are just fecal frosting on a poisonous cake. Republicans are saying, “Oh, everyone’s making too big a deal over the frosting. It won’t kill you.” What about the cake???

Yesterday Prof. Glenn Reynolds, a conservative blogger who often gets disoriented amidst his more extreme and less erudite readers, posted,

HOW CAN DEMOCRATS SUPPORT THIS? Roy Moore’s Democratic Challenger Recently Ran an Ad Praising the Confederate Army. I’m sure all the press folks will ask all the leading Democrats that question.

This is wrong in so many ways, it’s like a tangled ball of unethical yarn.

The Slate article linked is intellectually dishonest, politically-correct History for the Simple-Minded. Normally, Reynolds would be mocking it, which would require defending Democrat Doug Jones. Can’t have that! Jones has run a campaign ad spotlighting Col. William Calvin Oates of Alabama, the Confederate officer who led his troops in battle on Little Round Top against Maine soldiers led by Col. Joshua Chamberlain. It was one of the most memorable and important episodes at Gettysburg: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, History

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: July Fourth, 2017

Good Morning, everybody, and Happy Independence Day.

1. A minor item cross-filed under “Twitter makes you stupid and careless,” “Oh, sure, our public schools are terrific!” and “Is we getting dumber?”: Yesterday, whoever the History Channel allows to handle its Twitter account tweeted out the fact that July 3 was the anniversary of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and included a picture of General…George Washington.

2. Is trolling ever ethical? When it’s pointed, clever and deserved, perhaps. Boston-based businessman and inventor V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai,  a Republican who received a Ph.D. and his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is running for the GOP nomination to oppose Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. He’s running on the slogan: “Only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian.” V.A. sent Warren a DNA test so she could prove that she’s part Cherokee, as she asserted in the past to get the benefit of affirmative action recruiting programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania. The Senator refused to take the test, prompting her tormentor to tweet,

“I’m deeply saddened @SenWarren refused my thoughtful (gift-wrapped) Birthday Gift: the 23&me DNA Test Kit,” Ayyadurai tweeted Sunday. “Most unfortunate! #FakeIndian.”

He then posted screenshots of the DNA test kit he purchased online.

Why doesn’t Warren just take the test? If it shows she has Native American DNA, then she’s killed an issue that has haunted her since 2012, and will continue to unless something changes. If it shows that she isn’t an “Indian,” then all she has to do is say that she was mistaken, she had bad information from her family, and regrets taking advantage of the affirmative action programs to the detriment of real minority academics. (Harvard listed her as a teacher “of color.”)

The answer is that Warren would rather claim that the Indian issue is a manufactured slur by the right, so she can continue to claim minority status and victim status. The answer is that she’s a cynical, cowardly fraud.

Warren, Hillary, Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters constitute the mots visible leadership of the Democratic Party.

Res Ipsa Loquitur. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of This Day, July 2: The Inscription On the Monument To The First Minnesota Regiment At Gettysburg National Battlefield Park

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 “On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 Sickles’ Third Corps, having advanced from this line to the Emmitsburg Road, eight companies of the First Minnesota Regiment, numbering 262 men were sent to this place to support a battery upon Sickles repulse. As his men were passing here in confused retreat, two Confederate brigades in pursuit were crossing the swale. To gain time to bring up the reserves and save this position, Gen Hancock in person ordered the eight companies to charge the rapidly advancing enemy. The order was instantly repeated by Col Wm Colvill. And the charge as instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrated fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy’s front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground there the remnant of the eight companies, nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time and till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved this position and probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed & wounded. More than 83% percent. 47 men were still in line and no man missing. In self sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war. Among the severely wounded were Col Wm Colvill, Lt Col Chas P Adams & Maj Mark W. Downie. Among the killed Capt Joseph Periam, Capt Louis Muller & Lt Waldo Farrar. The next day the regiment participated in repelling Pickett’s charge losing 17 more men killed and wounded.”

On July 2, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 262 Union soldiers in the First Minnesota Regiment rushed—which apparently specialized in desperate fighting-–to throw themselves into a breach in the Union line at Cemetery against a greatly superior force, knowing that they were almost surely to die. 215 of them did, but the regiment bought crucial minutes that allowed reinforcements to arrive.

It is perhaps one of the most inspiring of the many acts of courage that day, the second day of the battle that changed the course of the Civil War. I first wrote about the sacrifice of the First Minnesota five years ago, here.

Let’s try to remember.

(A recommendation: Sometime between July 1 and the Fourth ever year, we always watch Ted Turner’s excellent film, which also has one of my favorite film scores.  It  helps.)

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Ethical Quote Of The Day—D-Day, That Is : Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander

dday_landing

“Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

—–Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, as found on a piece of paper he wrote on just before the D-Day invasion began, and just after he ordered it to commence, on June 6, 1944.

Eisenhower wrote these words to be his own apology and acceptance of responsibility had the massive invasion at Normandy been a defeat rather than the history-altering victory it was.

It almost was a defeat, and as the note, which Ike’s naval aide, Captain Harry C. Butcher, found crumpled in his shirt pocket weeks later and saved for posterity, shows, Ike realized all too well that it might be. The secret dry run for the invasion had been a deadly fiasco, the weather was atrocious, and no military operation on this scale had ever been attempted before in the history of man. It took a combination of German mistakes, high command confusion, individual heroics and the usual twists and turns of chaotic fate that decide most battles to allow the Allies to prevail. Continue reading

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July 3: A Day To Honor Custer’s FIRST Stand, At Gettysburg… And Reflect On How Our Greatest Strengths Can Be Our Fatal Flaws

custercharge

I wrote this post two years ago, concerning my favorite neglected episode of the Civil War, when young George Armstrong Custer shocked Confederate J.E.B. Stuart with his unexpected and furious resistance to Stuart’s attempt at disrupting the Union flank while Gen. Meade’s army defended itself against Pickett’s Charge. As with the First Minnesota’s suicidal stand on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Custer’s crucial moment of truth has been largely neglected in the assembly of the battle’s heroes; I don’t think it has ever been depicted in a Civil War film, for example, though there is at least one book about it.

The incident is especially fascinating to me because of the its multiple ironies. Custer succeeded when his nation needed him most because of the exact same qualities that led him to doom at the Little Big Horn years later. Moreover, this man who for decades was wrongly celebrated in popular culture as an American hero for a shameful botched command that was the culmination of a series of genocidal atrocities actually was an American hero in an earlier, pivotal moment in our history, and almost nobody knows about it.

Thus it is that among the brave soldiers of the Blue and Gray who should be remembered on this 150th anniversary of the greatest battle ever fought on this continent is a figure whose reputation has sunk to the depths, a figure of derision and ridicule, a symbol of America’s mistreatment of its native population. Had George Armstrong Custer perished on July 3, 1863, he might well have become an iconic figure in Gettysburg history. The ethics verdict on a lifetime, however, is never settled until the final heartbeat. His story also commands us to realize this disturbing truth: whether we engage in admirable conduct or wrongful deeds is often less a consequence of our character than of the context in which that character is tested.

Here is the post, slightly lengthened:

July 3, 1863 was the date of Pickett’s Charge, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered a desperate Napoleonic advance against the Union line at Gettysburg in what has come to be a cautionary tale in human bravery and military hubris. The same day marked the zenith of the career of George Armstrong Custer, the head-strong, dashing cavalry officer who would later achieve both martyrdom and infamy as the unwitting architect of the massacre known as Custer’s Last Stand. Continue reading

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