Saturday, October 30, 2010
Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War
There’s an excellent exhibit traveling around the country. This month the exhibit arrived at the local library. The exhibit is about Lincoln. A series of seminars are scheduled at the library to coincide with the exhibit. I attended 3 seminars so far which were great. I learn more about Lincoln with the exhibit and listening to the talks than in reading about him. I had a chance to borrow some movie like ‘Gettysburg’ to supplement the experience. It’s a great way to learn about history. What is interesting is the question and answer session after the talks. Everyone gets to say what he or she thinks including uncomfortable questions about the civil war. This is more poignant being in the deep South in an election year.
Last night the talk was about presidential speeches. The talk before that was a visit by Lincoln himself – actually a professor who was re-enacting the former president. So one gets to see Abe himself in the flesh although he was way too short compared to the real person. The kids liked the show I think and the hall was full with some students in the audience. Like last night’s talk, there where prickly questions asked; especially being in the Southern state that started the secession that ignited the Civil War itself. The wounds have not healed yet it seems though these folks where in the minority. I guess from the reaction of the audience most of the folks have accepted the result of that war.
On the way to the library I saw some pretty young ladies waving the flag with some placards. I was not able to read what was written but I heard later that they were actually protesting the talk. This gave the evening a tint of drama and expectations of dread. One person in the audience questioned the right of Lincoln and the federal government to wage a war on a secessionist state. I guess this boils down to the old argument of state versus federal rights. The speaker deftly answered the question in my view by evoking the sin of slavery. The war was God’s punishment to both North and South for allowing the sin of slavery to fester. So the war was a sort of redemption for the country to renew itself and the union. According to the speaker, that was the content of Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural speech.
The vocal opposition or perhaps the remnants of the Confederacy speak about the numbers of people who have died in the war. I can’t help but think of the millions of people who died in the Philippines during the Philippine – American war (or the Philippine insurrection as some here would state). I guess it’s a matter of perspective on who is the victim or victor and who writes history. Perhaps the wars of foreign intervention in places like the Philippines or Vietnam still needs to be paid back and the resulting ‘blowback’ is penance again this infractions. But one cannot help but feel the growth of a great country trying to find its way like a bull in a porcelain shop. I read somewhere that one knows the greatness of a country by its civil wars.
This reminds me of China where literally millions of people have died in its many internal wars. This is why I don’t believe the nay sayers who predict the coming self-destruction of China who will collapse on its own contradictions like the former Soviet Union. It’s a country revolving around its own orbit – unaffected by what other people or external forces would like to inflict. Not even the rise of India will ever reach what it has achieved today. It will always be the ‘middle kingdom’ surviving midway between Heaven and Earth. But this does not mean the exclusion of others because there will be other ‘middle kingdoms’ as well in the Americas and Europe. I guess too much high minded talk can get one loose in his head after attending these talks.