Friday, May 20, 2011

THE WORDS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Now that we are all positively giddy with the prospect of yet another election season - only seventeen months left before the election - we can't wait to see what a crop of political geniuses will enter the ring and which will stand victorious before the nation next November. (Or as my southern friends would say, "November a year.") Will it be Newt? Sarah? Jim? Jim. Jim who? Yes, it always begins like that. From 'Jim who?' to Mr. President. In this way I am announcing my own bid for the White House.

And why not? Every four years we hear the we have need of change. Well I say we are tired of change. We'd rather have dollars. We're tired of spare change. Give us dollars or give us gold!

And why not? I really am the common citizen. Others make a mockery of our commonness by claiming their own commonness. This when they are anything but common. They are common to one another. They are not common to me.

Campaigns are a war of words and images. Slogans. Speeches. Radio and Television and Internet spots. And words are the stuff of literature. The one candidate I believe transcended words to achieve literature was Abraham Lincoln. I'm not sure how that happened. He really was a common man and he spoke in the common language and he lacked the classic education of other gifted pols. Further, his words were few. All of his speeches were incredibly brief. In that fact may be the key to his literary greatness.

In his 'Farewell to Springfield' he summed up his sentiments in this way: "To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything."

His 'First Inaugural Address' was longer, but for good reason. Only two weeks earlier Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederacy. He made his case again the division of the Union in part in this way: "Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. ...no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination." "...if the destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be law full possible, the Union is less perfect... having lost the vital element of perpetuity."

His most famous speech is, of course, the 'Gettysburg Address'. Who has not heard the words, "Four score and seven years ago..." "...we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract." And in conclusion: "...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

And finally his 'Second Inaugural Address', delivered little over a week before his assassination: "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, t 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 lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

As I was looking at Mr. Lincoln and his work this past week I found that it was important to keep in mind the time in which he lived, and the pressures that he was under. Pressure is what turns carbon into diamonds under the earth. Pressure is what makes the need for a few well-chosen words a must. We live in a world that is filled with words, words, words. There is no pressure. Words can just be glibly reeled out, one after another after another. Everyone knows they don't mean anything. They may even be lies. That's just the way it is.

What if we began to apply the pressure of the spiritual to our words? What if, as in other days, words were seen as sacred? What if our lives had to live up to our words, and our words live up to our lives? Would that not bring a different and more pressurized meaning to our words? I believe it would. As I am writing my latest work, I am keeping in mind that each word is sacred. That should make all the difference.

In closing I will use these words spoken by former Presidential Candidate Pat Paulsen: "If you vote for one of the other candidates, don't blame me!"

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