While reading this article from Time, I began to reflect upon and wonder why Abraham Lincoln continues to fascinate so many people both here in the United States and around the world. We see this fascination when books such as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team Of Rivals” and David Herbert Donald’s masterpiece “Lincoln” become best sellers. In our current presidential election cycle, candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties fall over themselves trying to make themselves into Lincoln’s political image. One Republican candidate, Ron Paul, even excoriates Lincoln in a stunning revision of history. President Bush and his supporters try to align the Bush legacy with Lincoln’s. Movies such as the latest “National Treasure” and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming flick deal with Lincoln or the myths surrounding him. Dictators such as Pakistan’s leader Pervez Musharraf try to justify their suppression of freedom by comparing their own actions with that of Lincoln’s.
So why does Lincoln have a hold on the nation’s collective conciousness to this day? Is it because he was assassinated just as he was seeing the end of the greatest tragedgy to strike our nation, the Civil War? Is it because he came from poverty with almost no formal education to rise to become what many historians consider to be our greatest president, thus giving the impetus for the belief that anyone can grow up to become president? Is it because of his humility and humanity for the ways in which he dealt with his enemies? Perhaps we as a nation are longing so much for a true leader who can help us to “bind up our nation’s wounds” and overcome the petty political bickering which divides us while solving nothing.
I would be interested in any comments and replies to my questions.