Posted by: canthold | July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, America!

I’ve been feeling particularly patriotic this Fourth of July. It probably has something to do with the fact that I just finished reading Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s about the Lincoln presidency and his Cabinet filled with rival politicians.

What I learned is that Lincoln was driven to uphold the Constitution and keep the nation whole. He thought that our country didn’t have a chance if part of it splintered off. And while he’s credited with ending slavery, he originally just wanted to follow the Constitutional tolerance where slavery already existed. (With the thought that it would die out on its own.)

It’s an incredibly interesting book and shows the brilliance and compassion of this truely great man.

He reminds me of George W. Bush. Lincoln reminds me that Bush is NOT what our country needs to continue upholding the Constitution. The (so-called) Patriot Act and the loss of rights and freedoms would make Lincoln turn over in his grave.

While Lincoln was very respectful of the Confederates and insisted that they be allowed back into the fold if they gave up their insurrection, Bush, on the other-hand is treating the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as non-humans. He won’t bring them to American soil so they can be given right to a fair trial and subject to American laws, and he’s removing them from wherever they are so that he can avoid the Geneva Convention that way, too.

Is he so afraid they’ll get a fair trial and be found innocent? What would he do then?

Another thing that was abundantly clear from reading this book is that perspective on issues requires context. As the issues of the times were presented, I was able to see that sometimes what we see after the fact can be construed differently considering what else was going on. While we see that slavery is so clearly wrong, the issue was so much more complicated at the time.

Lincoln had a keen sense of timing and had his finger on the pulse of the people. He didn’t present the Emancipation Proclamation until just the right moment. If he had done it sooner (after a string of lost battles) it would be seen as a sign of weakness. If he did it earlier in the war, he would have lost support of many (immigrant) Northerners who believed that fighting to save the Union was a just cause and freeing slaves was a matter that didn’t apply to them.

There is a difficult balance when the country is fragmented. Lincoln was recognized – even in his own time – as a man capable of weighing the balance and presenting brilliant strategies for the greater good.

In the aftermath of Bush giving “Scooter” Libby his Get Out Of Jail Free card, I’m heartbroken that our country is being led down a path of immoral indignity, when the current administration does not think that the laws of the land should apply to them. Outing Plame was a crime and those involved should be punished. That crime is not partisan.

I think that impeachment would be ineffective, but what I’d really like to see is an investigation after this next election into the antics of the Good Old Boys in Washington and when the indictments are presented, and trials closed, those guilty verdicts should not be pardonned. Even if Bush is one of the roasted pigs.

I teach my children that all actions have consequences. And while sometimes the consequences are good, sometimes they are not. I’d like to see the guilty parties held accountable for delivering this great country to a place quite a bit too far away from the place the Constitution intended for us to be.

And I hope that there are some children out there eating their Campbells Soup so they can grow up to be a president like Lincoln. And heaven help the social studies teachers who have to manage the debate of the Bush presidency. Either that or we do what the Japanese did after they lost in World War II: We expunge the shame from our history books.

Happy Birthday, America! We miss you Lincoln!


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