Feb 13, 2009

The Lincoln OD

Ok, I am officially tired of hearing about Abraham Lincoln. No more, please. I'm "Lincolned" out.

Barack Obama started something when he boldly embraced the image of Lincoln on his own historic run to the presidency. He rekindled an ongoing interest in one of America's most storied political figures when he wrapped himself in Lincoln. Since Obama's victory Lincoln has been reborn it seems.

We've heard talk about Lincoln's "team of rivals" concept, an issue discussed at length in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book of the same title. Obama, of course, has been busy trying to implement this concept in his own cabinet, though some Republicans--most recently Senator Judd Gregg who withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Commerce due to what he stated were political differences with the President and his desire to continue to be "his own man"--seem to be less enthusiastic about being part of such a team.

While the idea of putting Republicans like Robert Gates and Ray LaHood in his cabinet does demonstrate Obama's eager desire to be bi-partisan, it appears as though many of the Republicans are more interested in blocking and playa hatin' than they are in true bipartisanship as evidenced by the recent shenanigans in Congress over the latest stimulus bill. Since it's impossible to be reasonable with unreasonable people, maybe it's time to drop the bi-partisan experiment and let the dissenting class know who's really in charge? You have extended your hand, Mr. President, and a majority of the Republicans, in turn, have given you their collective asses to kiss. Big ups to Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, as well as Arlen Specter, for acting as though they have some sense. The rest of you can be as obstinate as you want, your party is not in power and your influence wanes with each passing day.

Back to Honest Abe. This week there were two PBS documentaries on the President known as "The Great Emancipator." American Experience aired The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and there was also the Henry Louis Gates' doc Looking for Lincoln.

Looking for Lincoln shows, among other things, Skip Gates getting out a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car as he walks up to Doris Kearns Goodwin's door, along with another scene which depicts the Harvard professor with his shoes off and his feet propped up, while he lounges on a sofa reading some rare Lincoln document. He looked so comfortable, I thought for a minute that he was going to start clipping his toenails. Add to this several sycophantic scenes of Skip jockin' former presidents Slick Willie and Bush 43, while asking their opinion of good ole Abe. For a film supposedly about Lincoln I was starting to wonder why Skip himself was "all in the video" so much? Perhaps a better title might have been Looking for Self-Aggrandizement? Just a thought.

When Skip wasn't gassin' himself up or indulging war criminals, he was droning on and on about what he considers to be the real Lincoln, not the Lincoln of myth, fable, or hagiography, as though everyone else really cared as much about this topic as he clearly does.

Let me say this, I, for one, have no real love for Lincoln. The only Lincoln I like is the old school Continental with the suicide doors! Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves was driven more by economic concerns than racial ones. This, along with the efforts to reintegrate the south back into the union after the end of the Civil War was considered of utmost importance. What to do with the 4 million black people who were no longer slaves was an afterthought. While Lincoln doesn't bare the weight of all this alone, the overall circumstances surrounding slavery, reconstruction, and the legacy of race in this country make it hard for me to see Lincoln as even remotely heroic. Lincoln was perhaps the lesser of evils, but still far from heroic and full of all kinds of racial contradictions, to boot. Like Malcolm X once said, "You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you are making progress."

Slavery was wrong and should have never happened, so it makes no sense to me to give someone credit for stopping something that shouldn't have been started in the first place. It's like that Chris Rock joke about niggaz wanting credit for things that they are supposed to do, with the stated example being "I take care of my kids." Chris' response, "what do you want, a cookie?" seems an apt way to respond to all the praise being bestowed upon Lincoln lately.

To Gates' credit his doc did touch on a wide range of opinions on Lincoln, including the assertion by some that Lincoln was himself a racist. Yet, the overall tone of the piece was too obsequious for my taste. I could very easily substitute Lincoln's name for Elvis in that famous Public Enemy lyric that begins with "Elvis was a hero to most...".

Enough already. Let's put Lincoln to rest now. And while we're at it, maybe somebody can tell Skip to play his position, "stay out the video," and let the subject matter speak for itself next time.

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