Today, in 1809 Abraham Lincoln was born. He is celebrated in this country because of his efforts as a president to: emancipate slavery and, among other things, officially dub Thanksgiving day the last Sunday of November. He also gave the Gettysburg address during the Civil War, at the turning point when the North began to win over the South. I remember learning about ole Honest Abe in school, how awesome he was. After having read People’s History by Howard Zinn, I gained another perspective of Lincoln.
Provided by Zinn, here are quotes from the politician, Abraham Lincoln: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinnslaem10.html
Zinn says, “In his 1858 campaign in Illinois for the Senate against Stephen Douglas, Lincoln spoke differently depending on the views of his listeners (and also perhaps depending on how close it was to the election). Speaking in northern Illinois in July (in Chicago), he said:
Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man, this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal.
Two months later in Charleston, in southern Illinois, Lincoln told his audience:
I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races (applause); that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people..
And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
What I have gained from this information is this: History is written by the victor. This not to say that all history is a bogus concoction of rhetoric meant to defy the faith of the learner (not always..) but to say that if someday we are going to challenge this oppressive system we are living in, and it IS oppressive no matter how many TV channels you have, we MUST find a different history to use as our tool to a new future. We MUST create for ourselves a community of skeptic citizens who yearn for a different version of what truth we have been given, to dig deeper. What we’re taught in school isn’t adequate to inform us about what is and has been really going on in the world. I think that Abe Lincoln was a person, just as Barack Obama, just as Nixon and Gengrich, as Clinton and Romney: they are all in a long line of people who have brought up and continued a system which at is heart is exploitative and hurtful to “the people”. They say what they need to say to us to be elected. Here’s the Gettysburg Address: Read this as you would any politician who wants to be elected:
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
PS – Disclaimer: People take others’ opinions personally if they differ from own. Please don’t do this, it makes for difficult discussion.
On a different note, today in 1947 For Sentimental Reasons, by Nat King Cole topped the charts. I love that song. Here is a link to a beautiful live version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs8wKxezNn8 I wonder what Nat King Cole thought about Abe Lincoln.