How Lincoln Gave Us Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is imminent, but Im planning to observe the holidays in a more traditional manner, curling up with The Snoop Dogg Christmas Album. Mutatis mutandis, Snoop Dogg is this generations Nat King Cole, and I look forward to his interpretation of that old chestnut The Christmas Song.
Yes, there are obvious superficial differences between Cole and Dogg. Cole relied more heavily on vibrato and orchestral backing, and he was never arrested for packing heat and illegal drugs in an airport. But then, it was a more laid-back age. Unlike todays rap artists, Cole didnt have to worry about being offed by his rivals, such as Perry Como. These days, rap has given the ancient maxim new relevance: ars longa, vita brevis. Snoop Dogg has already surpassed the normal life span of a rap artist. Ask any actuary.
Meanwhile, the bipartisan James Baker commission has finally issued its report on Iraq. Bipartisan is the usual term for a bunch of old white guys, even if they include an old black guy like Vernon Jordan, who has probably never heard of Dogg.
The report says we need to send more troops to Iraq (but of course!), yet it dodges the real issue: whether Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein than under George W. Bush. True, Saddam was not what we think of as a democrat, but he was a good supply-sider. Though he may have eliminated a lot of people, he had too much sense to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. You could get hummus and tabouleh without risking life and limb. Thomas Hobbes would have liked him.
Is it time to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq? Back in 1862 you could have been arrested for saying U.S. troops should be pulled out of the Confederacy, because Abraham Lincoln insisted that they were fighting for a new birth of freedom. Lincoln is the subject of yet another new book worshipful, naturally called The Gettysburg Gospel, by Gabor Boritt (Simon and Schuster).
This is the second recent book about the Gettysburg Address, the previous one being Garry Willss Pulitzer-winning Lincoln at Gettysburg. Both books treat Lincoln as a national savior, overlooking his fallacious appeal to the Declaration of Independence. According to Lincoln, the Declaration brought forth a new nation. That is plainly not true. The Declaration says nothing about a nation; it speaks only of 13 Free and Independent States. It is, in fact, a declaration of secession! The 13 states are serving notice that they are pulling out of the British Empire.
Lincoln even contradicts himself. In his first inaugural address, denying the right of any state to leave the Union, he had said that the Union is older than the states. That is like saying that a marriage is older than the spouses. Apart from being nonsense, it implies that the new nation didnt begin with the Declaration after all.
But Lincolns worshippers, bewitched by his eloquence, rarely notice these little things. They overlook not only his lapses in logic but his gross violations of the Constitution: usurpations of power, suspension of habeas corpus, arbitrary arrests of dissenters and even elected officials, crackdown on the free press, the Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln himself doubted his authority to issue it but finally yielded to Republican pressure), and so on.
Some of the worshippers, such as Wills and Harry V. Jaffa, strain to defend these measures, but Boritt seems not even to notice them. He sounds like Tony Snow explaining Bushs Iraq policies: the king can do no wrong. Lincoln always praised Thomas Jefferson, but under his administration Jefferson, the ur-secessionist, would have found himself in the clink.
Unless the North conquered the South, Lincoln said at Gettysburg, self-government itself would perish from the earth. Balderdash, of course. Yet most Americans still take Lincolns war propaganda as self-evident truth. He ranks among historys most durably successful humbugs.
Too bad, because Lincoln is much more interesting when you read him critically. Boritt is at best a readable storyteller, but this book is nothing but celebration, and its disgraceful nay, inexplicable that such scholars as David Herbert Donald and Harold Holzer should supply it with enthusiastic blurbs and panting praise.
But dont waste your time trying to explain even to Bushs partisans that Lincoln was a much worse president than Bush. By a consensus I can only call bipartisan, Lincoln is a god, to whom we all owe our freedom you, me, and Snoop Dogg alike.
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