Monday, January 28, 2013

A Powerful Message

“A Powerful Message”
By John Alexander Madison
January 27, 2013

“Lincoln,” the movie, great lessons from American history. Intense drama. “The fate of human dignity is in our hands.”…and…“If things are the same as other things then they are equal.” Mixed with comedy. “It is not illegal to bribe a congressman. Otherwise they won’t survive.” …and…“As a congressman, I’ve worked my whole life for the good of the people, while I don’t care about any of them.” Set amidst a great tragedy. The Civil War.*

From “When the American Civil (1861-65) began, President Abraham Lincoln carefully framed the conflict as concerning the preservation of the Union rather than the abolition of slavery. Although he personally found the practice of slavery as abhorrent, he knew the neither Northerners nor the residents of the border slave states would support abolition as a war aim. But by mid-1862, as thousands of slaves fled to join the invading Northern armies, Lincoln was convinced that abolition became a sound military strategy, we well as the morally correct path. On September 22, soon after the Union victory at Antietam, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “Shall then, thenceforth, and forever be free. While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave, it was an important turning point in the war, transforming the fight to preserve the nation into a battle for human freedom.”

Through the lens of history it is easy enough to understand President Lincoln’s compassion, to agree with his vision and appreciate his commitment to the truth, that all men are created equal. While President Lincoln is arguably the most quoted president in U.S. history, he was also a man of action. How refreshing. Had Lincoln been alive in 2009, there is little doubt in my mind that he would have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, rather than the actual winner whose hollow and insincere rhetoric was all it took to garner the NPP medal and the accompanying $1 million prize.

Abraham Lincoln was a great American and a great president. Lincoln hated slavery and he knew that the Emancipation Proclamation (a war measure) would not hold up under constitutional scrutiny. Thus his push to draft and adopt the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states in part: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The plot is set, let the acting begin. Can you imagine Mary Todd Lincoln playing Carrie with Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit,” or starring in the mid-1960s TV Series “Gidget.” Casting Mrs. Lincoln as the “Flying Nun” is as much a stretch as it was casting 66 year old Sally Field as 46 year old Mary Todd Lincoln. (I am reminded, however, that Ms. “You like me. You really like me” Fields was nominated for an Academy Award in this role.) Casting errors aside, “Lincoln,” was very well cast with such luminaries as Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gloria Reuben, John Hawkes, and many others. But save your applause for the absolutely brilliant and scene-stealing performances of Tommy Lee Jones, as Congressman Thaddues Stevens (R-Pennsylvania) and Daniel-Day Lewis as our 16th President.


“Lincoln,” the movie was based, in part, on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” My hat is off to the genius of Director Stephen Spielberg and the political courage of President Abraham Lincoln and the 38th Congress of the United States.

One lingering message from the movie was when Daniel Day-Lewis said “Democracy is not chaos. There is strength in the unity of people.” How true. I long for the day when we are, once again, the UNITED States of America.

“Lincoln,” the movie, is a must see. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

*NOTE: These quotes from the movie were transcribed from memory and are a rather accurate representation of the movies actual lines. #115

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