I was born on February 12, Lincoln's birthday, leaving me little choice but to love the man and everything he represents. I had Lincoln-themed parties as a kid, and in elementary school my Dad came in one day with a beard and stove-pipe hat, carrying a log-cabin cake for my class. I memorized the Gettysburg Address in fifth grade, and later stood awestruck before the Lincoln Memorial, reading and re-reading the Address and the Second Inaugural inscribed on the walls.
Even with that background, I was stunned by my emotional response to Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. I wept briefly when the 13th Amendment passed, to cheers and peeling church bells, and then shook with sobs as the final credits rolled.
Part of my reaction is a tribute to the performances, particularly Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. (Message to the Academy: There is no need to nominate anyone else for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.) Those are towering performances -- I felt I was watching a documentary following Lincoln around in January 1865. That's how convincing it was.
But that's only one part of why I wept.
I also wept because I remembered the faces of the free blacks rejoicing in the gallery when the amendment passed, and thought "do they have any sense of what's in store for them and their descendants in the next 150 years?" Any sense of the struggles they faced against vicious efforts to undo what had been done in 1865? Jim Crow, the Klan, the Scottsboro Boys, Brown v. Bd. of Educ., the '60s and Civil Rights Laws, Martin Luther King, Jr., his assassination, the "Southern Strategy," President Barack Obama, racist backlash to President Obama.
I also wept because despite those struggles, the 2012 Election and the "War on Voting" showed that we still need to fight against the voter suppression tactics of loathsome, cynical politicians like Jon Husted, Tom Corbett and Rick Scott. It is a disgrace that they are still seeking to overturn the very progress that cost 600,000 lives 150 years ago, and it is the media's lasting shame that they have not properly branded them as rogue racists.
I also wept because I continually thought of the struggle to pass Obamacare while watching the tactics used by Lincoln and his allies to get the votes to pass the 13th Amendment. The overt bribery and questionable deals made the supposed Obamacare "scandals" like the "cornhusker kickback" look like models of honest governance. The cornhusker kickback was no worse than thousands of provisions inserted into thousands of bills throughout American history. And yet it became such a symbol of supposed "corruption" that the "brilliant" Justice Scalia revealed at Supreme Court oral argument that he thought it made it into the final law.Finally, I also wept because I believe that Lincoln is my (and your) spiritual ancestor. That we here are part of a multi-century continuum of progress toward a better country and a better world, and are willing to work, struggle and persevere to keep going in that direction.
Update: Thank you to the Rescue Rangers, who put this up on the Community Spotlight, and enabled it to be Recommended!