Tuesday, January 27, 2009
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Lincoln, a Rail Splitter Then—Obama, Our Lincoln Now
By TED RUHIG
Yes, yes—it’s time and the occasion to note the high and low of the Lincolnesque qualities of President Barack Obama and his times. Take their fathers, for instance. Note, for example, a History Channel ad about a Lincoln movie. In it, the ad notes, “Thomas Lincoln was NOT father-of-the-year material. He was cold, rejecting and physically abusive. He was not a believer in education and saw his son as basically a day laborer—a piece of personal property.”
This non-relationship with his father would NEVER be repaired with Abraham Lincoln, even refusing to visit his father on his death bed.
Now to Barack’s father relationship. Barack’s father was said to be an alcoholic and certainly not a homebuilder. After his Hawaiian marriage, he got killed in an African auto accident. He was not in any way providing a home and example for Barack to measure up to. Barack had to depend on grandparents in Hawaii for a decent home. And the loving responsible grandmother died during Barack’s election campaign.
On the high side, Lincoln fortunately could rely on his own internal drive. It has been said that Lincoln’s New Salem Illinois experience, during which he was postmaster, was his college. He even individually read up in the law to pass the Illinois Bar examination and become a good enough lawyer to be a lawyer for the Illinois Central railroad.
Not a rail splitter, Obama became a community organizer in Chicago. He could have done much better fiscally as a graduate in law from Harvard. But he chose not to. This choice endeared him to his wife-to-be.
It was on the first day of January 1863 that President Lincoln (during the Civil War) finally chose to issue an historic proclamation, a momentous decision that day to emancipate the slaves. It was viewed not only as a humanitarian measure, but also a war measure to deprive the South of its labor force.
As the proclamation established: “That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, shall be then, hence forward, and forever free and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act to repress such persons, or any of them in any efforts they make for their actual freedom.”
“Now then, I, Abraham Lincoln, order this as President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion.”
Lincoln’s proclamation superseded all previous legislation on slavery and property rights in a single bold stroke. Three and a half million African Americans who had lived enslaved for generations were now given freedom.
That final political freedom is now first becoming an actual full reality with Obama’s election victory. As a pioneer, he still has a rough road to travel. But travel it he promises to do, and become a badly-needed new modern Lincoln.
In 1861, between Lincoln’s election victory and actually assuming the nation’s presidency, there was a time lag. Now Obama, while not facing an internal civil war during his time lag to office, is confronted with two external wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the nation’s global prestige in tatters, with an internal depressed economic situation and unemployment growing apace, it will be most challenging for Obama to properly confront this Lincoln-like situation. All we can do is wish him God Speed as he faces his inauguration day.
Aging in place may very well be the chosen way in the future.
— Capitol News Service