Waiting for Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln
STONE the crows! The laurels go to Lincoln.
The Crows discovered many remarkable things in Tennessee last week. One was realising they had completely misunderstood the Battle of Stones River.
Another came from watching Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, in Steven Spielberg’s new biopic, (there’s not much on in Chattanooga of a Sunday night.) [i]
But even more interesting was the image of Barack Obama hugging Aung San Suu Kyi on the news. Although the Lady appeared embarrassed by the 44th president’s presumption, this was a hell of a thing, demonstrating what a great moral leader can accomplish in the cause of democracy[ii] It would have delighted the 16th president, although he probably did not have Myanmar in mind when he wrote the Gettysburg Address.
Especially the bit about the war testing whether any nation based on the idea of equality, “can long endure”. [iii]
There is a substantial literature on Lincoln’s speech and boundless studies of the man himself, some 16,000 books are about Lincoln or at least include his name in their title.[iv]
Which is what makes the new film so useful for all but the obsessed – because this parliamentary procedural about rounding up enough House votes to pass the 13th amendment gets the history right-enough, while demonstrating Lincoln’s genius.[v]
Abraham Lincoln was both a superb number cruncher, who knew how to assemble the numbers for a vote by pleading, patronage and politicking as well as a man with an abiding faith in the electorate and their representatives to do what is right and defy the specious shonks who assume politics is never anything other than a fight for the spoils.
In essence, Lincoln believed in the enduring power of democracy, the belief that all individuals are equal before the law and possess the same right to have their say. And the Crows guess the present president from Illinois was channelling the first president from the prairie state when he told an audience in Rangoon, “There is no question that your country will be stronger if it draws on the strength of all of its people. That’s what allows nations to succeed.”[vi]
Certainly Mr Obama invoked Franklin Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” – expect to hear a lot of FDR as American advocates of the welfare state celebrate Republican defeat.[vii] But the Rangoon speech was grounded in Lincoln’s Gettysburg hope – that the United States would ensure government for the people, by the people “shall not perish from the earth”.
As Mr Obama put it; “History shows that governments of the people and by the people and for the people are far more powerful in delivering prosperity,” (FDR’s three other freedoms help.)
And as Lincoln called on the country to take up “the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure”, so Obama challenged Burmese. “In the end, you, the citizens of this country, are the ones who must define what freedom means. You’re the ones who are going to have to seize freedom.”
Stirring stuff and, while Australia is no audience for orators, we could do with a reminder that it sullies all our rights to leave politics to the insiders – especially given too many of us have decided democracy does not work so well anymore. [viii]
The Lincoln movie will not screen here until February which means ICAC will provide the political theatre for a couple of months.[ix]
I imagine just about everybody in the politics industry will be looking for something uplifting by then.
[ii] CNN, November 19 @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkljSxVOFHE&NR=1&feature=endscreen recovered on November 24
[iii] Gettysburg Address: Nicolay copy, Library of Congress @ http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/P?mal:14:./temp/~ammem_rdzL::@@@mdb=mcc,gottscho,detr,nfor,wpa,aap,cwar,bbpix,cowellbib,calbkbib,consrvbib,bdsbib,dag,fsaall,gmd,pan,vv,presp,varstg,suffrg,nawbib,horyd,wtc,toddbib,mgw,ncr,ngp,musdibib,hlaw,papr,lhbumbib,rbpebib,lbcoll,alad,hh,aaodyssey,magbell,bbc,dcm,raelbib,runyon,dukesm,lomaxbib,mtj,gottlieb,aep,qlt,coolbib,fpnas,aasm,denn,relpet,amss,aaeo,mff,afc911bib,mjm,mnwp,rbcmillerbib,molden,ww2map,mfdipbib,afcnyebib,klpmap,hawp,omhbib,rbaapcbib,mal,ncpsbib,ncpm,lhbprbib,ftvbib,afcreed,aipn,cwband,flwpabib,wpapos,cmns,psbib,pin,coplandbib,cola,tccc,curt,mharendt,lhbcbbib,eaa,haybib,mesnbib,fine,cwnyhs,svybib,mmorse,afcwwgbib,mymhiwebib,uncall,afcwip,mtaft,manz,llstbib,fawbib,berl,fmuever,cdn,upboverbib,mussm,cic,afcpearl,awh,awhbib,sgp,wright,lhbtnbib,afcesnbib,hurstonbib,mreynoldsbib,spaldingbib,sgproto,scsmbib,afccalbib,mamcol recovered on November 24
[iv] James M McPherson, “Lincoln off his pedestal,” The New York Review of Books, September 24 2009
[v] Harold Holzer, “What’s true and false in ‘Lincoln’ movie,” The Daily Beast, November 22 @ www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/22/what-s-true-and-false-in-lincoln-movie.html recovered on November 24, For a convenient summary of the legislative process of adoption see, The Lehrman Institute’s Lincoln Institute, “The 13th Amendment: Congressional debate,” @ http://mrlincolnandfreedom.org/ recovered on November 24 http://www.mrlincolnandFreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=58&subjectID=3
[vi] The White House, “Remarks by President Obama at the University of Yangon,” November 19 @ www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/11/19/remarks-president-obama-university-yangon recovered on November 24
[vii] freedom from want and fear, freedom of speech and worship set out in President Franklin Roosevelt’s State of the Union statement, January 6 1941 @ http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=70 recovered on May 24
[viii] Imre Salusinszky, “Faith in political leaders collapses according to Newspoll survey,” The Australian, November 17
[ix] Anne Davies, “Obeid businesses in ICAC spotlight,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 11 2012