Sunday, February 8, 2009

Happy Birthday A. Lincoln - We Honor You, Cracks And All

He was in his time the most popular and the most disliked American. "Abraham Lincoln was one of the four most hated presidents in U.S. history, the other three are Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman and George W. Bush." , explained James Cornelius, curator of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. He is now, without question, our most beloved and respected citizen.

"Looking For Lincoln" is Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s quest to piece together Lincoln’s complex life. The 2-hour documentary airs on PBS television on Feb. 11, 2009,
it can be viewed online now here in it's entirety. There are over 14,000 biographies of Lincoln, more than on any other person in the worlds history. In this new PBS video we see a Lincoln that will disappoint some and enrage at least a few. Viewers will find not an iconic hero but a human with all the normal faults and fears ( and sometimes extreme fears ) that we all have.
Lincoln has been described as the representative American, he's a representative human and like all a mixture of elements of courage and fear, wisdom and folly, accomplishments and mistakes. Many of his speeches were poetry and his personal writings were sublime in their wisdom and sensitivity. Witness :

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

A progressive theorist but coldly realistic thinker who stayed within and shared many of the accepted prejudices of his time. One will see here some cracks and chips in the complexion of the marble iconic figure that carried the nation on his back for over four years. Acknowledging these cracks does not diminish his place in history nor the value of either his service or his example to us.
Bob Dylan said " Woody Guthrie was my first hero, he taught me that there were no heroes." People are only human, but some, when needed, when called by History, like Lincoln, can be heroic.

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