Imagine, my eyes
moist as the U.S. Congress does the right thing. Pride in a U.S. president as he
puts the hammer down to get his way.
Not over anything
going on today, of course. I was viewing Stephen Spielberg's " Lincoln ". The film centers
on just a few months in the fight in the U.S. House to pass the 13th amendment
that would abolish slavery. I had not realized how close the issue was. The
"Emancipation Proclamation" only freed slaves in the areas under rebellion and
might have been overturned by the Supreme Court. Lincoln wanted a
Constitutional Amendment to set it in stone and he tried to do it with a lame-duck Congress. He was in a hurry because once the war ended he feared the
restored southern state governments would block the amendment.
The movie has been
criticized because it makes the struggle seem as if the victory was all due to
the efforts of white politicians and ignores all the efforts of abolitionist
blacks like Frederick Douglass, the black general strike among Southern slaves,
etc. Point made.
Still the movie
begins with two black soldiers talking about how after the rebels massacred
captured "Negro" soldiers after a battle, in the next battle blacks made sure
there were no Confederate prisoners. Thaddeus Stevens, the most "radical" of
Radical Republicans, is shown in a very positive light, and at the end of the
movie there's a surprise scene of interracial affection. This is not your
My trouble is not with the movie or the real Lincoln, but for the people
who think what Lincoln was doing in 1865
is directly relevant to what's going on today. The movie is supposedly based on
the book "Team of Rivals" by Doris Goodwin, who writes about Lincoln's perfect timing as he waged war and abolished slavery. She argues that immediate application of
Radical-Republican ideas might have driven away the border states and led the Union to lose the war.
Obama famously said
he would model his cabinet and politics after the "team" described by Goodwin.
But instead of using presidential power and Lincoln-like brilliant timing to
push through something grand and century-defining he rebuilt the Wall Street
casino, encouraged the "Drill Baby Drill" carbon criminals, and stood squarely,
"unshakably" with Israeli apartheid. Yet, the screenwriter of "Lincoln", the
playwright Tony Kushner, has said Obama is a "great
Give me a break.
also told an NPR reviewer that Lincoln would have treated
the defeated South in a "humane" way and thus prevented the "bitterness" that
led to the rise of the Klan. I haven't heard that dumb-ass notion in 50 years.
It's history in the wrong order. The Klan arose right after the Civil War to
terrorize the freed slaves so they'd accept "their place" again under white
domination. President Andrew Johnson gave the Klan a free hand until he was
impeached. Then Reconstruction came in and for a time protected Black rights.
It didn't go far enough. It didn't do what the U.S. did in Japan after World War
II (and what Thaddeus Stevens advocated), breaking up the large estates and
giving land to the ex-slaves so they had the property and the means to resist.
at the same time Lincoln was wrestling with
the 13th Amendment Karl
Marx wrote to Lincoln on behalf of the International Working Men's Association.
He wrote, "The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as
the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the
middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes.
They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of
Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his
country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and
the reconstruction of a social world. "
Marx had confidence
that Lincoln would reconstruct
the American social order to ensure the "ascendancy" of the working class. That
was a fair judgment. Lincoln, after all, had
just sent General Sherman to burn his way to Savannah. You think Abe would
appoint Robert E. Lee to become his Defense Secretary?
Alas, as the U.S. terrorizes the
world, festers in inequality, keeps a million Blacks in prison and leads the
carbon-burning orgy, there's no Lincoln anywhere on the
Stanley Heller writes about the Middle East at www.TheStruggle.org. He writes about the economy, teaching, politics and labor at EconomicUprising.com
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