Saturday, February 14, 2009

The truth about Abraham Lincoln is far from the news media spin; it's the same with Barack Obama

People of the South are more studied in history, because they have had to live it more directly than their brothers and sisters in the North.

And so they know everything about Abraham Lincoln, his greatness and his great flaws as president. And they know he was not the greatest president of all -- a fact to consider as the nation celebrates President's Day on Monday.

The news media, however, has hyped up the Lincoln myth with the presidency of Barack Obama. But this celebrity treatment does little to affirm the truth with either man.

Lincoln did not believe blacks and whites to be equal intellectually. And he stated as much to assure the white crowds of voters he spoke to.

Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to give the North something more emotional and passionate the fight for than preserving the Union. I don't think preserving the Union would motivate many folks today, either. The measure freed no slaves outside of the South. And he had no authority to free slaves in states under Confederate control. It was simply a political move, not something out of great morality.

Lincoln publicly stated that if he could preserve the Union by keeping slavery in the United States, he would do so.

Lincoln assembled a great army before any shot was fired on Ft. Sumter in order to indimidate the South out of succession. He even asked Robert E. Lee to command it.
Lee refused. Assembling a great army is tatamount to declaring war.

There is more contradiction to the media's myth-making. But take it from Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, who wrote last month:

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and take an oath making him the nation's first president of African heritage.

The statue of Abraham Lincoln, which sits facing the Capitol in a temple two miles away, will not give two thumbs up. Neither will it weep, commune with the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. or dance a Macarena of joy.

The point is obvious, yes, but also necessary given that when Obama was elected in November, every third political cartoonist seemed to use an image of a celebrating Lincoln to comment upon the milestone that had occurred. Lincoln, they told us, would have been overjoyed.

Actually, Lincoln likely would have been appalled. How could he not? He was a 19th century white man who famously said in 1858 that "there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which ... will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality.''

How do you reconcile that with all those cartoons of Lincoln congratulating Obama? You don't. You simply recognize it for what it is: yet another illustration of how shallow our comprehension of history is, yet another instance where myth supersedes reality.

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