Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'LINCOLN': A Must-See Historical Masterpiece

With the nation having just concluded what many believe to be one of the most acrimonious presidential elections in history - which even had 4-year old Abigail Evans in tears - I strongly recommend seeing the new Spielberg film, 'Lincoln'. More than anything pundits can say, the film (based on solid history - see the dozens of sources in the end credits)  would show upset citizens just how really nasty politics used to be! In the case of 'Lincoln', all the political furore is over the effort to get the 13th Amendment passed - the one to abolish slavery -  in the House of Representatives. The momentous (and divisive) amendment was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864 and finally - after much arm twisting and even "payola"- by the House on January 31, 1865. It was then ratified by the states and adopted on December 6, 1865 - which was nearly eight months after Lincoln was assassinated by the Reb traitor John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater.

The text of the amendment reads:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.  

The movie is largely about the single-minded effort, directed at Lincoln's behest, to find the additional 20 votes in the House needed for passage. Most of the effort had to be directed at roughly 14 lame duck Democrats, and Lincoln commandeered the boozing, Democratic party operative William Bilbo to get the job done, most often plying the recalcitrant dems with patronage offers, including heading up tax jurisdictions or even post offices. (Bilbo gained freedom from prison for his fine efforts.)

What most struck me was the attention to historical and physical detail, from the way the House conducted business including the language used, to the scenes of Lincoln reading by whale-oil lamps to his 12 -year old son, to the burning wood fires in the streets. The battle scenes are brief (i.e. at the very beginning) but as striking as the first minutes of Spielberg's film 'Saving Private Ryan' - when D-Day arrived and GI's stormed the beaches of Normandy. (Southern sympathizers and current Johnny Reb  suckups - those that love to fly the 'stars n' bars -  best not go to see it, however - hear that, Bro Mike? - especially as they will be aghast as the Black Union soldiers bury their bayonets deep into white Confederate flesh until the blood runs in pools. The soldiers proudly proclaim to Lincoln, visiting the battle scene - that they took no Reb prisoners, on learning the Rebs killed all the black Union soldiers they had captured after one battle.)

The next to final scene of the dead Confederates and Union soldiers near Petersburg, VA will be emblazoned in everyone's mind's eye. There must have been ten thousand extras assuming the roles of piled up dead, like cordwood - as far as the eye could see.  (Note: Nearly 600,000 were killed in the Civil War, or about twice the number of Americans killed during World War II.)

Most astonishing, when viewers hear the House arguments debating the 13th amendment - they will hear many of the same things we've heard the other side say about African- Americans in the current election cycle. A common refrain: "What we gonna do if 4 million nigras is set free? They will take our jobs, and who knows what else if allowed to vote!" Or: "Don't you know, these n------grs will just take and TAKE! Our property, our wives, our wealth!"

And note, this was from the Democratic side! The side of Lincoln, the side of Republicans, was then the side of principle and honor as embodied in Tommy Lee Jones character, Thaddeus Stevens.  It was left to the THEN honorable Republicans who then had an honorable and principled party to argue on the side of amendment passage against those like George H. Pendleton - who dared Stevens to proclaim during closing arguments that "all men are created equal".

The sets, the principal actors and the arguments thereby deliver the images of a powerful political juxtaposition to what we behold now, with the Republicans now sided with vote suppressors, race bigots and traitor secessionists, and the Democrats on the side of principle and honor, having carried the 13th amendment to its ultimate conclusion with the re-election of the first African-American president. (Made possible by millions of African-American votes which the then Confederates and most House Dems feared, but now most Confederate-sympathizing Reepos in the Deep South do.)

There is no doubt that if the Republicans- GOP of today had even one fourth the principles of the Republicans in Lincoln's era, they might be a commendable opposition or even governing party - as opposed to a pack of drowning rats displaying all the outrageous features of the Confederates they now side with and fight for, and which - if Lincoln were around today - would have him barfing.

A side note: When Lincoln meets the three Confederate commissioners on a docked steamship (the River Queen) near the end, to discuss what he demands are terms of surrender (he never agreed to regard the South as a separate country) we behold three true slimey weasels. Especially, Jefferson Davis' VP Alexander H. Stephens -  played by Jackie Earle Haley (who appeared in the last 'Nightmare on Elm Street'  movie, as 'Freddie Kueger' - need I say more?)

Young people, especially seniors in high school, need to see this film as well as citizens invested in their country's history just for the sake of historical accuracy. The young people, most of whom have been brainwashed by false narratives in mushy American History texts (see, e.g. 'Lies My Teacher Told Me') will now see history as a living, breathing manifestation that has led to the nation we have today...and the people. Missing this film, in my opinion, would be a tragedy for young and old alike!

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