Prior to the Civil War, America called itself “these United States.” After the Civil War, America called itself “the United States” – the United States of America. It was only after six hundred and twenty-five thousand soldiers died and four million slaves were freed that America became one thing: a union and not simply a confederation of states. And it was a union, Lincoln reminded us, because, unlike any other country on earth, it was founded on one basic principle: that all men are created equal. Which, as Lincoln also pointed out, was a lie – masking America’s original sin: slavery – the sin that brought on the Civil War. But, despite the lie and the sin, Lincoln believed that the principle, the underlying principle, the unifying principle of America, was also a promise.
As President Biden said in his Inaugural Address, we have been engaged these last number of years in an uncivil war. And his message, like Lincoln’s, was simple: let us tell the truth and stop creating fear and division so that together we may solve our problems. Now, I know, I’m supposed to listen to the “other side.” But what “other side” could there be to that simple request? What “other side” could there be to the need for common sense, common decency, and common action?
Lincoln believed in hope and reality. He believed that a country could have at its core a lie, and yet strive for the truth. He also knew that rights required responsibilities. Watching the inauguration last Wednesday, I began to cry and smile uncontrollably. I thought of all the doors I’d knocked on and all the people I’d called. Ordinary people.
And I could feel it in my body: a lightness, an ease, a spreading out and I could sense it in the back of my mind and in the back of the mind of the whole country. I could take a deep breath for the first time in four years. If not a shared purpose, might we now at least have a shared reality? And the question isn’t whether it will it be easy. But whether it will it be worth it. In his Second Inaugural Lincoln said “…if God wills that (the war) continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,…so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’” So, let us now tell the truth…and work together. © Jon Pearson 1-24-2021 firstname.lastname@example.org