Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lincoln

Stephen Spielberg's film "Lincoln" is yet another masterpiece from the master. It is one of the best snapshots of our 16th president and the social milieu in which he lived that I have ever seen. It concentrates on Lincoln as president toward the end of the Civil War and the machinations between Congress and him to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution eliminating slavery from our national reality.

Daniel Day Lewis as President Lincoln and Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln are brilliant as is Tommy Lee Jones in the part of Thaddeus Stevens the great orator of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and fierce proponent of abolition.

A refresher course on the 13th Amendment content:


Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

One can understand by attempts to pass present-day legislation how difficult it actually is and the compromises it takes to pass it as events on the ground unfold. Outlawing slavery by passing the 13th Constitutional Amendment was, to say the least, a Herculean task. Our racist past still even now digs its heels into the cement of our national architectural construct. It lives on in generational perpetuity gumming up the works in our attempt to create a more perfect union. Through this excellent film one can see the nature of our racist roots, the brilliance of Lincoln as he overrules many in his own party to force Congress into passing the 13th Amendment. One can see that which divided us then still divides us now albeit in different form through a quite different Republican Party hardly, now, the party of Lincoln.

This is a must see for those who love watching the arc of history as it bends, slowly, towards justice. The film's creators spared us the view of Lincoln's assassination but rather cut to an announcement of its occurrence at another Washington theater. We hear Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, at the president's bedside uttering history's memorable quote: "Now he belongs to the ages." And so he does as history marches forward from then to now and our election of the first African American president not once but twice resoundingly so. Not surprisingly it made me cry as I thought about my own efforts to support our first African American president and how thrilled I am to be apart of this nation's efforts to perfect this union.

This film presented the Civil War era and the Lincoln presidency as a reflective mirror of our nation's past that lives today and is not only relegated to the south but occupies a major wing of a major party continually seeking immense power in every state taking advantage of the lesser angels of our nature to do so. It is up to us, in my view, to make sure they do not attain power so as Lincoln in his Gettysburg address so artfully said about the massive amount of Civil War dead … "that these dead shall not have died in vain!"

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