Saturday, February 12, 2011


Yes, it is Abraham Lincoln's actual birthday. For a good many years I worked several days a week in an older office building in NYC across from Grand Central Station named The Lincoln Building where the rather magnificent marble lobby was graced with one of the bronzes cast from an early model of French's sculpture that is the heart of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington -- the photo above -- that is familiar to almost everyone who ever visited Washington, D.C.

More than the somewhat cold and distant George Washington, I think Lincoln will always be our most beloved President. He was down to earth, he was eloquent, his ideas were grand, he preserved the union and signed the Emancipation Proclamation and he was martyred. At a literary gathering last night one of the men recited from memory, "Lincoln Walks at Midnight." Not a moving recitation in itself but because the man is 70-ish and has held the poem in his memory since boyhood, because it is that meaningful to him.

Today may also go down in Egyptian history as the day they gained democracy. The many who have been on the streets for three weeks, are rejoicing and believe they have won democracy. Those of us who have read newspapers and watched revolutions in many other countries are not so sure -- certainly not when the government is now in the hands of the military. It was not a bloodless coup but far less bloody than it might have been. It is easy to be comfortable here, watching the news unfold and being sanguine about it and not very emotional. We who are comfortable have the habit of letting distant events disappear from our thoughts -- we would not be able to function if we were constantly emotionally involved in what's going on in the world.

After seeing a documentary yesterday about the 1970 strikes at the mines in Kentucky fighting Duke Power [by then already owned by BP] one woman spoke of being stunned that she was ignorant of it. She had been involved in the Civil Rights movement but by the '70s was a contented young wife and mother and so this civil unrest did not penetrate her consciousness. I think one of the reasons Lincoln is so well loved is that events of the Civil War touched everyone in the US, there were no pockets of ignorance or un-involvement. So his leadership became legendary, and beloved. Although he was not universally loved in his life time. Unfortunately, being martyred polishes the gold of the reputation.

1 comment:

Kass said...

We can only hope that Egypt has a Lincoln-like leader to pave the way to Democracy.