November 1, 2016
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The great man did not blink at the necessary blood, death, and devastation needed to defeat the Union’s slaveholding foes. The bloodletting worsened with Grant as General in Chief and this deepened the furrows on his saddened face during all his final weeks and days. Lincoln meditated on Macbeth, “Duncan lies in his grave…” and yet he eagerly approved of General Sherman’s scorched earth march through Dixie, to the sea. Among his companions he veered back and forth from melancholy reverie to mirth. Whenever not aloof he railed them with jokes and funny stories.
Today resembles not those days except perhaps by way of crude analogy. Then, Walt Whitman sang of an America encompassing myriad nations — “Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations.” But then only two de facto coalesced for war whose outcome bound them into union, leaving a bitter vengeful south, obdurate and wicked. We remain today two nations still in union thanks to Lincoln, evenly divided, even as the north spills south southwest, the south west and north midwest, led by a Black statesman.
Someone smartly called Barack Obama “Jefferson’s heir,” an introverted cosmopolitan who lives by mastering the written word. This is incorrect for our president is Lincoln’s heir and no one else’s. Unlike laconic Jefferson, Lincoln was a wordsmith and an orator too who sometimes made great songs even of state papers. Obama is among the most consequential English speaking orators since the end of World War II. Kennedy, Reagan, and even Thatcher — fine politicians all — do not come close to matching his fierce intellect, never mind the poetry of his own pen.