Monday, March 11, 2013

Civil War II

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." - Lincoln

During the Civil War, a mother watched all four of her sons march off to battle to defend the Union. None them returned home alive. When President Lincoln learned of that mother, he sat and wrote a personal letter to her - about her loss, and about her sacrifice to her country. There was nothing particularly fascinating about the letter, except that the president of a nation - during the gravest time in that nation's history - took the time to write it. Years later, that letter has surfaced as an icon of presidential leadership, and presidential compassion.

Today, Ms. Chapman of Chicago's southside, buried the last of her four children, all of whom were gunned down before their thirtieth birthdays. President Obama, who may feign to be a modern-day Lincoln, could not see into a window that had opened upon a parallel moment at a tryst in time. He wrote not a note extolling the full measure this woman's family has paid to America's modern-day civil war.

This is not a shot at Obama - he is as distraught as any of us. No, it is a cry at a moment missed - unlike the unmisseded moment that defined Lincoln; more like the missed ones that have left most American presidencies "bound in shallows."

And we worry anew that President Obama, too, is bound for those same "shallows." We worry that he is not the man to satisfy our congenital need to be saved - that there are no more Lincolns to be had; Lincoln died forever. We only get one whose intellect and wit, who courage and resolve steered this nation from self-degradation to a "rebirth of freedom." He showed us; we did not learn.

Today, the self-degradation has returned. A great nation is in the throes of arming itself against itself. And our president is unable to reconcile his humanity with the power vested in his office long to do anything about it.