Terms of Engagement

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a bit of time with the latest book to make it to the top of my perpetual must read pile before my somewhat languid brain loses its ability to even process the written word. In this particular instance, I’ve actually given an author’s efforts something of an in-depth dabble as opposed to my usual cursory perusal. Certainly this amounts to the highest of praise for John Fabian Witt’s Lincoln’s Code. This excellent narrative examines America’s role in defining the rules of government sanctioned armed conflict, with an emphasis on Abraham Lincoln’s input on the matter of trying to bring  fair play, dignity, and perchance even a touch of charity to the bloodied fields of combat. While I do not discount the sincere intent of those who throughout history have endeavored to bring a modicum of humanity to the battlefield, there is that ever skeptical side of me that questions their underlying motives–whether it be the likes of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington or any other supposedly enlightened and regarded individual. 

I’ve always suspected that the call for order and civility in the midst of organized carnage is as much about justice as it is about those that started the fight trying to avoid retribution and the hangman’s noose when the fog of war finally lifts. And then of course there is the political practicality of having something left above ground to exploit and govern after the fallen have been properly placed below ground. Perhaps the only thing that might appear to be somewhat more disingenuous or hypocritical than our attempts to codify the institution of war is our attempts to codify the institution of marriage. But at some point during the current session of the Supreme Court, those erudite legal minds seated in chambers across the street from the U.S. Capitol will consider doing just that.

While I understand the level of discomfort expressed by those who argue against gay marriage on moral and religious grounds, I have come to my own conclusions based on personal experience. During my time behind the bar, I have established close friendships with a number of long-term committed gay couples. In all instances, these loving people have fostered  positive changes in environments that normally would have been less than accepting of any homosexual individual prior to them quietly working their way toward establishing regular’s status. In fact, their  presence helped to bring about a greater degree of acceptance, patience, tolerance and kindness toward all clientele, no matter what their gender, political persuasion or sexual orientation might be.

In the text of his Second inaugural Address, Lincoln reminded us to act in accordance with the words of Matthew 7:1, “let us judge not that we be not judged.” It is time to award all who choose the bonds of steadfast love an equal place at the bar–in hopes that we all may be granted an equal place at that eternal table.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag


The Clock is Ticking

“The court’s blinkered and aphoristic approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve…”   Justice John Paul Stevens

On  January 14th the wise minds that comprise the editorial board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided to give civilization a one minute reprieve from Armageddon – the “Doomsday Clock” was now set at six minutes from midnight. For the next few days I was feeling pretty darn good about our  prospects, that was until those  giants of jurisprudence decided to speed up the clock on the demise of democracy by awarding our invisible unaccountable corporate keepers further cover  by way of  the First Amendment.

My initial response to the ruling was dumbfounded belligerence, I was almost ready to join the ranks of the nearest “Tea Party,” so that I to could shout from the heights, “Take Back Our Country.” But then I remembered  that we never really had this country all to ourselves in the first place. Since the inception of the republic, it has been a constant struggle between those with power and wealth, and those of limited means trying to find fairness and favor within the framework of the Constitution.This questionable decision by the Supreme Court might just be the spark we need to rekindle that quest of achieving a government of the people, by the people, and for the people!

Time, as some fear, may be running out for America; but I would like to hope that the clock is set to tavern time, and that there is still another fifteen minutes to get this one right – or at least enough time to have one more drink before closing.

Posted by: Chris Poh


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