What defines a person--his or her beliefs? dreams? passions? principles? commitments? These much more so, I think, than such accidental or mundane characteristics as birthplace, gender, ethnic heritage, class, income, occupation, or age. The reason is that while the latter factors certainly help shape the former, they are much less matters of choice, and choices are what truly define a person's character, as they are made from birth to death. The ideals and commitments one chooses to live by enable him or her to rise above the boundaries imposed by outward life, and to emerge as a free and unique individual. Marxists would deny this, of course, but we--knowing our divine provenance and eternal destiny--know better.
So what am I all about? Most essentially: son, husband, and father; proud and grateful American; errant but hopeful Christian. Some of these are matters of choice; they're all blessings far beyond my understanding or deserving. My dreams? To live to advanced age with my wife, children, grandchildren, and friends, in an America that's strong, peaceful, and as prosperous as we need to be. I'd also like to retire in modest comfort and security, learn to fish, and accumulate all the edifying knowledge and wisdom I can. My particular aspiration is to research, write, and teach, or at least pass on to others whatever of value I think I've learned in life. If I can influence others for good, now and into the future, my life will have been worth something.
My passions? History--all periods and cultures, but (aside from a recent fascination with British history and Winston Churchill) especially the 19th century and the American Civil War. This stems largely from my family background, which includes a Confederate ancestor (Lt. Ezekiel Josiah Hull, Co. G, 8th Florida Infantry), and the fact that my mother and her family hail from deep in the Confederacy in northeast Florida. Yet, my father was a Yankee sailor when he met Mom, and I grew up in western New York State, whence came his family. I guess this mixed heritage makes me a "post-sectional" person (not "trans"-sectional--repeat that word to yourself and you'll know why). That, and a reluctance even to pretend to defend the abhorrent institution of slavery, goes far to explain why I'm a reenactor of the Civil War as a private in the Union army (with the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry in Buffalo), rather than as a Confederate soldier. Not that I'm in the least ashamed of my Southern heritage; I'm VERY proud of it, and am a card-carrying member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Men on both sides fought for many reasons unconnected with slavery, and I'm proud of them all.
Other passions and interests? Music--especially classical, jazz (and mostly the "classical" forms of that genre), and those great old "standards" from the 1940s and 50s--in fact, almost anything recorded before 1967, when sex, drugs, and politics seem to have taken over popular music. I'm also fascinated by other cultures (e.g., Indian, Tibetan, Japanese). And, since I'm an American citizen living in perilous times for our country, politics. I'm conservative about everything I believe (and most things I like), so naturally have long been aligned with the Republican Party. But its leaders haven't been very faithful to conservative principles of late, so we'll see whether the GOP much longer merits my support.
Well, enough background, enough about me. The floor is now open for discussion of things truly interesting to everyone!