Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lincoln, Obama, Land of Immigrants and Equality for All!

My husband and I saw the film “Lincoln” this week. It was a story I thought I knew from History class. Lincoln freed the slaves. He was assassinated by John Wilkes Boothe. We had a civil war. The North won. The slaves were freed.

We’ve read countless books and seen countless movies about Lincoln and the Civil War. My husband has seen and loved most of them. He loved Gettysburg and I loved Gone With the Wind. We walked into “Lincoln” expecting the same. We were wrong.

We were stunned and amazed by the film. While the acting was brilliant, this film also told a new story. “Lincoln” focused on the politics of the time which is very similar to the politics of today. Do you remember the saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” This movie epitomizes this. While party names have changed, the politics have not.

In Lincoln’s time, politicians in the southern states advocated inequality. The rich and the powerful southerners (Big Business) advocated the use of Slaves to work the land and expand their businesses. The Northern Liberal/Humanitarians opposed Slavery and instead advocated Equality for ALL and a fair wage for workers. The Northern Liberal/Humanitarians voted President Lincoln into office.

The heart of the film is Lincoln’s fight to find the votes to pass the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. In 1864, Lincoln realizes that as the South was tiring of war and the war was about to come to an end, it was urgent that the 13th amendment be passed before the war ended. His point was cleverly illustrated when he asked citizens who supported passing the 13th amendment why they supported it. They responded “to end the war.” He asked them if they would support passing the bill if the war ended. They said no. He asked them why. They said, “Well, you know. Ni—ers.” Their answer convinced his Secretary of State, William Seward, that Lincoln was right. They needed to move forward with passing the bill immediately.

Lincoln also discussed with Seward his belief in States’ rights, however sometimes, States were wrong and there were times when Federal law must rule. Abolishing Slavery – or any time State Laws promoted Inequality – were times when Federal Law must step in.

While Lincoln was a great orator, prolific in fact, it wasn’t his words that passed the 13th Amendment. It was his negotiation skills and behind the scenes tactics that passed the bill. While I’ve heard of these tactics, I didn’t know they were used to pass this bill. Lincoln used some shady characters to coerce and in some cases buy votes. This was nasty business, but this bill was important and no tactics were too low.

The opposition continually challenged Lincoln, using unscrupulous tactics, often misrepresenting his words and his actions. They insisted that states had the right to rule as they wanted. Lincoln’s Mission was to support the message of our Founding Fathers that All Men, including Blacks/Minorities, are Created Equal and no State Law could deny them that right. President Lincoln often quoted the words of Thomas Jefferson.

While the Slavery argument had been going on for decades, the Southern States seceded from the Union just weeks after Lincoln was elected – before he was actually sworn in on March 4, 1861. A month later, April 12, 1861, Civil War was declared.

On January 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed by the House. General Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. On April 15, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated – a direct result of the passage of the 13th amendment. On May 9, 1865, the Civil War ended.

The President was killed because the Southern states were angry and remain angry – to this day --- that the 13th amendment was passed, slavery ended and President Lincoln ensured that Blacks and ALL Minorities are EQUAL under the Laws of our Land.

After watching this film, I thought of Lincoln and other Presidents like him. Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton and Obama have faced EXTREME adversity by the SAME groups that advocated against Lincoln for the SAME reasons --- All Men Are Created Equal! .They claim it is about States’ rights. The reality is, they do not accept the argument that ALL PEOPLE are created equal.
We are a Land of Immigrants, Yearning to Breathe Free. ALL PEOPLE -- ALL OF US are EQUAL and have the right to seek to achieve the American Dream.

As we move forward in our society, and as our President Barack Obama moves forward to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Dream Act, it is imperative to understand, we are STILL fighting the same fight and we MUST support OUR PRESIDENT as he struggles to pass these very difficult laws into fruition.

1 comment:

Ross Williams said...

This is a movie. It is entertainment, not history.

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