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Archive for January, 2017

The man newly elected president is about to be inaugurated.

He has been much opposed and yet, too, much celebrated. Throughout his campaign he promoted controversial positions, especially when it comes to what so many would even call basic human rights; in other ways, he has been demonized for his radical views and proposals – and many argue unsophisticated and untried, inexperienced, even naive perspective. He is in too many ways an unknown quantity and yet is already reviled intensely and in other quarters seen almost as a savior of the country – finally.

Yet, with the fallout from the building troubles and looming destruction (some, perhaps many would say) of society and even the country, and the building storm and the fears of what is surely to come next, he hasn’t even taken office yet.

Yes, he may be loved in many sections of the country, but the greatest publicity surrounding him seems to have been up to this point negative, and many would say rightly so. Fear – or anticipation – of the unknown can be a powerful thing. We as a nation have lived it for as much as a decade, building to this great crescendo; it almost seems to have been inevitable.

It seems we stand literally on the brink of drastic, fantastic change. Change that may shake our security, our confidence in the future. In fact, that is perhaps the one thing we know without doubt: Things will change, we will change as our country, its direction and all affected by it and reliant upon it will change.

And here we are, the very night before his inauguration.

It is March 3rd, 1861.

For better or worse – and who can really tell? – Abraham Lincoln will be sworn into office tomorrow. Truly, if there be a God, surely then we plead, whether in joy, fear or even anger, God help us all.

– – –

That morning in Washington City, one-hundred-fifty-six years ago, it was just as this one is expected to be: cold and rainy.

Our nation was on the verge of tearing itself apart, and so the mood of the skies reflected perfectly the inner-workings of people’s very hearts and minds. Lincoln bore an awesome weight that day, speaking much directly to the citizens of the South and speaking both eloquently and technically of those points of our National Constitution that addressed the issue of slavery, whether directly or indirectly.

Yet he spoke broadly to all the country as well, already feeling the weight of his assumed responsibilities and of the looming future; we could say now, in hindsight, impending doom.

From Lincoln’s first inaugural address:

“. . .In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

– – –

And even with these impassioned, almost pleading words, it was just one month later, April 12th, that the first shots of our Union’s great and devastating Civil War were fired and that eventually took more lives than all other wars in American history combined. In those moments that Lincoln stood on the very steps that the man to assume the office of our 45th President stands now – in those moments, he surely knew what was to come and could not be stopped.

He won the presidency with only 40 percent of the vote; he did not even appear on the ballots of 10 southern states. And when he finally arrived in the capital city after his election, he was under threat of death and came on under the cover of disguise and darkness. And a great war was still and only one month away. Even then he had thoughts, perhaps premonitions of death, even assassination. Yet he was compelled to go forward, to assume the mantle and carry the great burden.

– – –

Only four years later, but perhaps the longest four years in American history, Lincoln being a much older man in his body and spirit than his actual age would reckon, he saw the fulfillment of the promise of a united republic . . . but perhaps only from a distance. Like Moses, who was to only see the Promised Land from a distance, Lincoln too, never saw the fruits of Emancipation or of Reconciliation or of Reconstruction, but he saw them and knew them from a great distance, and believed in the promise that they would someday be realized. And they were.

lincoln_last

From his second inaugural address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

And yet even after this, as before just one month later, on April 15th, great violence was visited upon the nation. In that moment the course of history was both fixed and altered.

Perhaps the very people who would choose not to attend such a momentous occasion as the inauguration of our next President will reflect on the fact that the incalculable sacrifices made those seven score and seventeen years ago afford them even now the liberty to choose such a course freely.

donald-trump

Surely they and we all will reflect on this and celebrate this great thing. Though some, even many, still feel a sense of living under threat for their future, by virtue of the fact that they live under these Stars and Stripes and are both bounded by and set free by our Constitution, there remains the hope for and promise of a better future.

And for each and everyone of us as individuals, perhaps if we try hard enough, we will remember that “. . . we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

– – –

– – –

Lincoln photo: last known photo of Lincoln
President-elect Donald Trump photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Trump photo source: Article, IT’S OFFICIAL: The Electoral College makes Trump the president-elect, by Rebecca Harrington, for Business Insider

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