I recently finished reading “And There Was Light,” by Jon Meacham. Being a book reader and not a book critic, I can only say that what Meacham has done for me is to open windows and doors and allow light to pour in on a critical moment in our nation’s history. And he’s given me insights too numerous to count regarding Abraham Lincoln.
And one more thing, well, two: first, I’ve learned that people paid more attention to their language and utterances back in Lincoln’s day. The prose was elevated, expressive, flowing like honey at times, stinging like a bee when necessary, offering balm as well, but mostly concise and indicative of people who placed value in communicating well, who had a command of the English language, remarkably beginning with Lincoln himself, he of little formal education until much later in life. And even back then, a command of the language could provide enemies and friends alike with a potent and persuasive tool, painting one issue with differing palettes in service of opposing ends.
Second, Marjorie Taylor Greene and her recent crass, bilge water utterances about the country needing a divorce reminded me that we have not moved beyond, or have circled back to a dangerous time in our history, with echoes of what Lincoln and others were facing during his Presidency. The blindness, the shallowness, the single-minded, unmasked Christian nationalism, and racism– the irrational fury couched in comments by Greene and her ilk are indicative to me that the North’s victory of 1865 has done little to cool the passions or neutralize the venom and hard feelings that have been nursed and nurtured for almost 158 years.
Meacham wrote the book in part to address this very dynamic: that what we’re seeing with the emergence of Trump and Bannon and Greene and Scott and Boebert and Lake and other election deniers, along with Fox News and the sentiments fomenting the events of January 6, 2021, are what’s been seen before– in the years and decades leading up to April 12, 1861 and the firing on Fort Sumter.
Namely, an affinity for autocracy, a deep conviction, informed by religious faith, that all people are not created equal, a visceral fear among white people over a loss of power and control, and a good dose of hubris, a hard-headed pride and stubbornness, just not wanting to be told what to do.
Lincoln’s goal was to preserve the Union. Sadly, there are still many who would prefer it torn apart.