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Lincoln as a progressive

By Michael Moriarty
web posted January 19, 2009

What Abraham Lincoln said about slavery, I will paraphrase: "If abortion is not wrong, then nothing is wrong."

Would, however, our sixteenth president have agreed with me?

Not according to the accepted, third millennium version of what Time Magazine calls "Our Greatest American".

Abraham LincolnAccording to the Democratic Party's belligerent proprietorship of "Honest Abe", he never should have been a Republican. It's rather like the very Irish opinion of Shakespeare, that the Bard must have most definitely been a Catholic.

At any rate, both Time and Newsweek hold forth periodically on Abraham Lincoln. Two points of view  on Lincoln, most recently from Christopher Hitchens and one from Barack Obama before he became President-elect, carry, at least from my own apparently romantic and naïve point of view, a cynically tougher and, in the eyes of Progressive historians, more realistic appraisal of Lincoln, particularly in regard to the issue of slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation, despite the noble intent of its title, was, according to both Hitchens and Obama, more intended as a weapon of war than a decree of liberation, an instrument to throw the Confederate South into even deeper wartime chaos, rather than a sincere commitment to enact liberation.

Hmmm … oh, well … discovering the true intent in the minds of men is, at least according to the television series, Law and Order, the primary domain of gifted defence and prosecuting attorneys – something I know a little about. A point of view can be interpreted and aimed in two, entirely different directions, by the same lawyer. If he's any good as a lawyer.

One wonders if either Obama or Lincoln, both lawyers, would offer a simple answer on the matter of "true intent". However, Abe's belief that "if slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong" would seem to be fairly conclusive.

Not in the eyes of either Obama or Hitchens. Other evidence extenuates the circumstances of Lincoln's position as a politician and, as Hitchens clearly enjoyed sharing, as an "opportunist"; albeit, as historian Richard Hofstadter qualifies his own accusation, "a deliberate and responsible opportunist".

"How nice," adds Hitchens, "to see opportunism given such a good name."

When Hitchens finally comes to the hidden message within his article, we sense this sidewalk supervisor body-Englishing his pupil, Barack Obama, into Lincolnesque "opportunism".

Does Obama need any instruction as an opportunist?

"How fervently," continues Hitchens, "may we wish to see the same fusion of courage and pragmatism in our own day."

This is not only as close to prayer as an atheist can get, it sounds like a very, very strongly worded, Dutch-uncle order!

However, while Hitchens certainly goes on at greater length in Newsweek than Obama did in his Time Magazine remarks about Lincoln's ultimate gift to us all - the title of Hitchens' editorial is The Man Who Made Us Whole - one senses that Obama might not agree with the Hitchens title, nor that author's "true intent", which, I dare say, is to render our sixteenth president even more implacably unforgettable than he already is as "this craggy and wretched and haunted man, invoking of all things our ‘better angels'".

This wretchedly haunted man, if you'll forgive the suggested correction ("wretched" is more than mildly a pejorative in America …. well, forgive me, in anti-Marxist America), this once "common man" elevated by the monument in Washington to his now, mythically "craggy" size in our third millennium minds, would he agree with me about abortion, that it is undeniably akin to slavery?

Such a possibility would prove an utterly homicidal antidote to Progressive illusions, some of which, I dare say, Christopher Hitchens himself entertains. He is, after all, a proudly, self-confessed atheist. At least he's more consistent than the Clintons who are brazenly proud, Progressive Christians. Only Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi as Progressive Catholics outdo the Clintons as a walking, oxymoronic pair of Progressively religious pals..

Hitchens has, in the past, endorsed Obama; and, although he recently defended President Bush before, of all people, Bill Maher – claiming Bush to be more intelligent than not only Maher but his audience as well (there's always something about Hitchens that you just have to like) – I doubt if Christopher Hitchens or other great fans of Lincoln such as Gary Wills, would ever agree with me about abortion. Therefore they couldn't possibly agree that Lincoln might endorse my anti-abortion views.

Lincoln, even in the Hitchens article, sounds like a Democrat, and increasingly a Marxist one at that.

If, therefore, the Civil War president was as much an "opportunist" and "pragmatist" as the contemporary, intellectual elite now say he was, anti-slavery was merely the growing American passion which this "opportunist" best exploited in the Gettysburg Address in order to drive his real agenda which was saving the Union.

As for the Declaration of Independence, without which there would be no Gettysburg Address, Lincoln the lawyer just came up with the best defence he could for his "client", which was not the African-American community but rather the American Union itself.

As for the former lawyer, President-elect Obama, he says that determining the moment when life, or an actual "person" begins is "above (his) pay-grade".

Clearly the Illinois senator must believe that a seat upon the Supreme Court, the author of Roe v Wade, would be beyond his qualifications, even as a lawyer. Whereas being perched before The Intrepid – name of the President's desk – in the Oval Office? Born for the job!

There's something wrong here, isn't there? Either that or my sense of humour just can't include abortion as a joke.

A senator, similarly from Illinois, Stephen Douglas, debated Lincoln for a Senate seat and defended slavery much more eloquently than Obama defends abortion. The President-elect avoids the subject of abortion as often as he can. He cleverly veils his real message which is that the entire issue of personal morality is, well, personal! Yes, he tosses us the bold hat of brazenly false humility – "That's above my pay-grade!"

"It works!!", as they say in the theatre.

As opposed to the President-elect, Stephen Douglas later lost the presidential election to Lincoln.

Obviously Douglas should have done an "Obama-Charmer", the abortion, or in Douglas' case, the slavery double back-flip. Lincoln's debating opponent might have then been our sixteenth president. Were that the case, Douglas might have proven to be our first Progressive President instead of what began as an increasingly vibrant, pre-war, profoundly Leftist movement in the FDR administration headed by vice-president Henry A. Wallace, who, I have no doubt, would have been an abortion advocate if the question had ever been asked of him.

But, as I repeatedly quote from the Declaration of Independence, in the same way that "opportunist" Lincoln did, "all men are created equal!"

Not gestated as possible candidates for abortion.

And if that's not good enough for you, try the Bible and the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Tell me honestly now, would you prefer to have been aborted?

Hillary Clinton might say, "If I were that 15 year-old, poor prostitute in the Philippines I met on a tour of the Far East, I certainly would have preferred to have been aborted."

Yes, but Mrs. Clinton is not that 15 year-old, poor prostitute in the Philippines who eventually became a photo displayed in the senator's autobiography. The former presidential candidate is now the nouveau-riche, millionaire-wife of a former President of the United States. Soon to become the new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, like her husband, is a proud Progressive Protestant who must know that Christ said, "Blessed are the poor."

Not the rich.

"Blessed are the meek." Not the ambitious.

Is the Clinton idea of God's blessings on the poor and the meek an opportunity for these underprivileged to be lined up by Planned Parenthood at an abortion clinic? Why must this become an increasingly common privilege for the dwindling hosts of Common Man and Common Woman? It's "Progress".

Abe Lincoln said, answering his own question: "Why did God make so many common-looking people? Because he prefers common-looking people."

Does that sound like a Progressive?

"No," Christopher Hitchens might say, "but had he lived, Lincoln could certainly have become a Dickensian socialist!"

With some people, you just can't win.

Oh, before I leave you, God bless Canada and Stephen Harper for voting "No" against the U.N's desire to condemn Israel! I knew my continued faith in Canada was not misplaced. ESR

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at rainbowfamily2008@yahoo.com.


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