Saturday, March 25, 2023

Lincoln, Meacham, and a Sense of Hope in these Times


In these divided political times, it's easy to lose hope. An old friend emailed me this message. 

"I am really fearful for the first time of the direction our nation is taking—my level of hope is waning.  I have placed a quote from the epilogue of Meacham’s book on Lincoln that does provide a little insight for me though."


“Abraham Lincoln did not bring about heaven on earth. Yet he defended the possibilities of democracy and the pursuit of justice at an hour in which the means of amendment, adjustment, and reform were under assault.  What if the constitutional order had failed and the durable oligarchical white Southern slave empire, surely strengthened and possible expanded, would have emerged from the war; and, as Lincoln saw, the viability of popular self-government would have been in ruins.

In life, Lincoln’s motives were moral as well as political- a reminder that our finest presidents are those committed to bringing a flawed nation closer to the light, a mission that requires an understanding that politics divorced form conscience is fatal to the American experiment in liberty under law.  In years of peril he pointed the country toward a future that was superior to the past and to the present; in years of strife he held steady.  Lincoln’s life shows us that progress can be made by fallible and fallen presidents and peoples – which in a fallible and fallen world, should give us hope.” 


And there was light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggles, Jon Meacham, p. 419, 420, Random House Books, 2022, ISBN 9780553393965

I share my friend's sense of despair and worry.  Not just in terms of unjust immigration policies and enforcement, but in terms of other important social justice matters. I sincerely hope that those in the middle from whom we do not often hear are generous and kind people with open hearts.

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