Abraham Lincoln was a deep reader and thinker. He wrestled in his mind and with his pen about the grave injustices at that heart of the American enterprise. He understood the dangers of tribalism, identity politics, and the threat of disunion. He respected reasoned arguments. He was careful and temperate in his words and deeds. He sought out dissent and valued when others challenged his own preconceptions. I would argue that none of these traits are on wide display with much of the current national leadership of the current Republican Party.
It does not bring any joy to say this. And I think there are deficiencies along these lines with many Democratic leaders as well. In this frantic environment, I see citizens being stirred to follow the herd of their own political identity at the disservice to the nation at large. Meanwhile the bigotries and small mindedness that have plagued our national story from the beginning are being stoked and prodded for cynical political gain.
Near the end of my new book What Unites Us, I reach back to Lincoln for some perspective on our current state of affairs.
"On March 4, 1865, with the bloody Civil War almost over, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his second term as president. His eyes were on the hard work of peace that would follow. "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Lincoln understood that the United States had to be a land of compassion and empathy, but a lasting peace had to be a just one. A little over a month after he gave that stirring speech, he would be dead and the work of which he spoke far from finished. It always will be."
This is the time in which we find ourselves today, one where the work that stretches back to Lincoln is not only far from finished but we seem to be sliding backwards along the path of justice. And yet I remain optimistic that despite the dark clouds of the present we can continue to make progress. I believe in the basic decency of the American people. I think it was reflected in the recent elections. I have seen it on this Facebook page. I am seeing it from all of you who I am meeting on the the book tour and with the response from those who have read WHAT UNITES US. My goal was always to create a conversation worthy of our nation. And I think, thanks to all of you and countless others, we have begun.
I am off to Miami, Nashville, Dallas, and onward for the tour. Hope to see some of you along the trail. And I thank you humbly for your support and encouragement.