"We must not be enemies," Lincoln once said!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 2022

Next year in Sarajevo: We well remember, with great clarity, the first time we read Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

We were standing in the Lincoln Memorial with a group of Baltimore fifth-graders. The full text of the short address is carved into one of the building's walls.

We were stunned to think that anyone had ever said any such thing in public. Essentially, Lincoln said this:

We in the North did this too.

As Lincoln delivered that address, he had only a few weeks to live. In search of balance, we should note the miscalculation this president made at the end of his First Inaugural Address.

Lincoln's more famous second address was delivered in poetry. The first was delivered in prose. 

At one point, he almost seemed to affirm the "revolutionary right" of the Southern states to attempt to secede, if they so chose. But at the end his speech, he said this:

LINCOLN (1861): I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

We are not enemies, Lincoln said. Within a matter of weeks, the nation was at war, with an astonishing death toll to follow.

For better or worse—consider the outcomes!—the better angels of our nature didn't keep us from mounting that war. In the present day, those better angels are perhaps being tested again. 

Meanwhile, can anyone here play this game? As a people—as a species—do we have the moral and intellectual skills to maintain a grossly imperfect "democracy" under current circumstances?

We'd planned to suggest that the answer may be no. But we think we'll leave it there for today, with this added note:

In the end, any large nation has to run on the fuel of comity. At least to some minimal extent, its citizens have to fall back on the sense that they constitute an actual "people," that they are fellow citizens. On the sense that they aren't enemies, but are something a bit more like friends.

"We must not be enemies," Lincoln advised. For today's most interesting news report, we recommend a fascinating profile of filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic, who is negotiating questions like these within the deeply fraught Bosnian context.

The profile appears in today's New York Times. The types of dilemmas we're wrestling with obtain all over the world.


71 comments:



  1. Your 'Lincoln' novelizations are old, dear Bob; no one cares.

    Now, what about the nuclear codes in the hands of someone with greatly diminished mental capacity?

    We are concerned... Could you advise on that, dear Bob? Please...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump is out of office now, no need to worry about the codes.

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    2. Indeed. But we wanted to hear it from dear Bob, the oxymoronic "honest liberal", himself.

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    3. Well, credit where due; Mao answers you better than any of us could. “We” didn’t produce a spoiled, repugnant would be bully sitting in his parents basement all day waiting to own the Libs of his stilted fantasy life. “We” didn’t produce this useless parcel of semi human flesh. The American right did. They must answer for it. You can ignore the Oath Keepers, Bob, but it looks like we are stuck feeding a bunch of them for the rest of their wasted lives.

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  2. Somerby talks at us liberals as if we are the ones who are persisting in considering others enemies. That is wrong. He should be lecturing to the right wing because they are the ones engaging in bad behavior, just as they did when the South seceded and started the Civil War by firing on Northern troops.

    Kevin Drum today describes a study of who has been spreading disinformation. It won't come as surprise to any of us that it is the right doing that too:

    https://jabberwocking.com/misinformation-is-mostly-spread-by-chaotic-evil-conservatives/

    I am tired of being told that we are to blame when we liberals have acted in good faith and done nothing worse than try to benefit our nation by doing our jobs. It is an insult whenever Somerby raises this kind of instruction, as if we on the left could single-handedly end conflict without a major change in attitude by the right.

    The problem with preaching to the wrong people is that by doing this, Somerby implies that the left is to blame for our current political impasses. We are not.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. "We in the North did this too."

    Somerby claims that Lincoln invented both-sides-ism.

    Why are we still so concerned about pandering to the people who go around in t-shirts proudly proclaiming "fuck your feelings"?

    Elsewhere in the news this morning are articles about how Trump's mishandling of covid is killing his own voters; how Trump is starting his 2024 campaign with today's rally; how Trump low-balled the valuation of his Westchester golf club and forced parents to pay higher school taxes as a result; how the Proud Boys expected to be mobilized as a militia when Trump declared martial law during the insurrection.

    Does any of that sound like the liberals did it too? The only way to construe such a sentence as true is to believe the misinformation being spread on the right -- and that supporting liberal programs is somehow as immoral and illegal as what the right continues to do.

    But the more important question today is "why is Somerby pushing such a lie?" I, for one, will not concede that liberals have done anything equivalent to the malfeasance of the right wing. The right owns this one and with justice, they will be held to account for it.

    Somerby feels at liberty to borrow Lincoln whenever he wants a moral authority to support his opinions. Lincoln would never support insurrection or the blasphemy that has become the Republican party. It desecrates Lincoln's memory to invoke his name as Somerby does. But Somerby, like the right, has no shame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And of course, the five hundred pound Oath Keeper in the room: where did his other worldly compassion get Abe? Or the rest of the Country when we tried to forgive the South?

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  5. It is wrong to take Lincoln's words out of their historical context:

    "In his second inaugural address, Lincoln is more forward about his distaste for slavery than he had been as a candidate four years earlier. In the speech, Lincoln goes so far as to present the Civil War as a divine punishment for the nation's centuries-long history of slavery."

    When Lincoln says that "We in the North did this too" he is referring to the slave trade, which the North participated in and benefitted from too, even if slavery was not legal in the North after 1804 (when the last Northern state abolished it).

    What comparable wrong have we liberals been complicit in today that can justify applying such a statement to our current situation? None that I can see.

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    Replies
    1. If we could only get rid of those damn conservatives everything would be just perfect!

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    2. If only we had conservatives that had not let their Party degenerate into gangsterism.

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    3. Exactly! That is the only thing preventing Democrats from focusing solely on the common good.

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    4. Common good -- such as passing BBB with its extension of the child tax credit and measures to address climate change. Seems like a good idea to me. Why would anyone be opposed to that -- especially given that it is entirely paid for and wouldn't affect our national debt?

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    5. Totally! The most important thing is we remember that we are better human beings than conservatives, who are all racists.

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    6. 1:17,

      That's right, we are the better human beings. Glad you understand. Throughout my political lifetime, it has been the "conservatives" who have been proven wrong about every fucking thing, starting with civil rights in the 60's. So you can take your smirky sarcasm and stick it up your ass.

      Delete
    7. We just have to figure out a way to get rid of all of them. They are our only problem. Once we eliminate them, a glorious Utopia will emerge.

      Delete
    8. 9:43,

      No, we don't have to get rid of all of them. We just have to stop giving them political power because they are incapable of governing when they're given power.

      Delete
    9. Yes, good idea. We will just take away their rights because of their incapability to do the right thing with them. Once subjugated, the benevolent impulses of our human superiority will overtake and eliminate most of the major political problems we face. We are the master humans. They are the inferiors. Let's draw the line and get this done.

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    10. First we need to figure out how to encourage Somerby to get rid of the spam and trolls.

      Delete
    11. We have to eliminate free speech and the ability to comment for all people who are not in the master party. Once they are censored and silenced, the glorious benevolent Master party will assert its natural right to power and a universal fairness and brotherly, human form of politics Will awaken from its slumber and we will finally be living in a fair society free of corruption and discrimination.

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    12. The most important thing to remember is they are the problem. No need to look anywhere else.

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    13. The most important thing to remember is they are the problem. No need to look anywhere else.

      You're damn right, for my entire lifetime the "conservatives" given political power have been the problem. They seem to have this crazy notion that the laws don't apply to them, that they are the only legitimate rulers, and anything is fine and necessary to prevent the other party from holding power. Plus they're a bunch of whiney sonsabitches always playing the victim while they hold all the power and a knife at our throats. You're damn right.

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    14. Others are the problem. Without them, there would be no problems.

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    15. 9:43,
      We can let the conservatives who believe in something other than bigotry stay.
      Same result as your idea.

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    16. Yes the racism of the others is the primary political problem of our time.

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    17. We have to eliminate free speech and the ability to comment for all people who are not in the master party.

      Open your eyes, jackass, the "master" party is the republican party backed by their extreme right wing billionaire backers and having a chokehold on the nation's superior court. The fucking republicans are the people passing laws banning teaching history and giving a single parent the right to sue schools if the schools don't remove books they want removed. So go fuck off with your false strawmen.

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    18. We could begin to constructively address our nation's problems if the conservatives would stop being obstructionists, concerned with nothing but regulating other people's behavior and preserving their own power. Meanwhile, our planet is enduring climate changes that will upend all of our lives, and we are doing next to nothing to adjust to it, much less prevent it. How many people will have to die because of Republican intransigence. This isn't a joke or a game to be played by trolls.

      Delete
    19. Yes the racism of the others is the primary political problem of our time.

      Wrong, asshole. the primary political problem of our time is white minority racists fucking with all American's right to vote, in order to maintain minority rule in our democratic republic.

      I don't care if you're a racist, asshole, just don't fuck with our right to democratic representation.

      As the "conservative" titular head to the republican party said last night, "it's not who votes that counts, it who counts the votes". Right, fuckface.

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    20. We are the true master party. The ideals and morals of our superior leaders who have always eschewed billionaire backers and corporate influence by will lead us out of climate change and all other political problems when the racist chokeholders are finally abolished.

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    21. Our billionaire corporate backers are so much more moral than their billionaire corporate backers. We have to fight for the rights of our corporate billionaires.

      One day in my lifetime I am confident we will prevail. I may even live long enough to see the the dream of a $15 dollar minimum wage become a reality for all.

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    22. I was watching Kamala Harris's speech about adjusting to and preventing enduring climate changes the other day just thinking about how much she could accomplish if it wasn't for Republicans.

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    23. Paragons of morality and leadership like Kamala Harris give me hope for the children.

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    24. 11:32,
      All none of them.

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    25. @12:17, Soros is doing less damage to the environment than the Kochs. And look what Bill Gates has been doing! You think you are making some point about billionaires being interchangeable and just as bad on the left as on the right, but that isn't factually true.

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    26. In a room full of Republicans, the shit I took this morning would look like a paragon of morality and leadership.

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    27. "We are the true master party. The ideals and morals of our superior leaders who have always eschewed billionaire backers and corporate influence by will lead us out of climate change and all other political problems when the racist chokeholders are finally abolished."

      The point is not to convert Republicans to Democrats or vice versa but to elect representatives who work constructively with members of both parties in order to accomplish compromise legislation for the common good. THAT is what Republicans are refusing to do. Democrats are willing to be bipartisan (witness Biden bending over backwards to find some compromise with Sinema and Manchin). Democrats have historically been willing to be bipartisan. It is the Republicans who have adopted a strategy of never yielding and doing everything they can to obstruct Democrats. As a result, there is no progress at all and that hurts the American people of both parties. This has to stop and it is up to the Republicans to change. Democrats cannot do this unlaterally. So cut out that Master Party crap.

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    28. See the bottom chart, the one with Fox News in it:

      https://jabberwocking.com/chart-of-the-day-anger-in-the-united-states/

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    29. Totally! It's is versus them. Hope for the children lay in our billionaire donor class and laser focus on the common good. Our superior morality and focused, visionary leaders, like Kamala Harris, will lead to maybe even one day, a $15 minimum wage.

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    30. That chart is 110% about this not Fox News and it is far more in line with the rise of anger and relevant than the Fox New scapegoat.

      http://cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/913.jpeg

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    31. It's most important to just remember how great we are and how bad they are.

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    32. It's most important to just remember how great we are and how bad they are.

      Democrats: Some men see things as they are and ask, ""Why?"" I dream things that never were and ask, ""Why not?""

      Republicans: "She does have a very nice figure... If [Ivanka] weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."

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    33. Exactly! That's a great example of the difference between our two political parties.

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    34. 2:31,

      You're damn right.

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    35. Political parties are a tool of WHITE SUPREMACY.

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    36. 1:37,
      What exactly have YOU done to make the USA more Marxist?
      Put up, or shut-up.

      Delete
  6. "we recommend a fascinating profile of filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic, who is negotiating questions like these within the deeply fraught Bosnian context."

    She is making a film about 1995, not anything current.

    She is being criticized for blaming individuals for atrocities instead of the sides those individuals belonged to.

    Perhaps Somerby wishes to argue that Trump is responsible for his own atrocities, not the millions of people who voted for him.

    In the case of the Republican party, they are not acting as individuals because they have a leadership structure for deciding what it will do. There are no mavericks on the right, which makes the Republican leadership responsible for what it chooses to do and for what it tolerates among its members, including Marjorie Taylor Greene siccing people with guns on Democrats and Ron Johnson telling people to drink their own urine.

    What is happening in Bosnia today? Not genocide. It is dealing with Serbian separatists:

    "In a report to the UN seen by the Guardian, Christian Schmidt, the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that if Serb separatists carry out their threat to recreate their own army, splitting the national armed forces in two, more international peacekeepers would have to be sent back in to stop the slide towards a new war."

    We in the USA are dealing with separatists too, in Texas, Greater Idaho. Does that mean we are contemplating an imminent return to fighting and another Civil War? Only in the fever swamp's imagination. It is irresponsible for Somerby to pretend that (1) Bosnia is on the brink of war, or (2) the USA is on the brink of war because of its extremists.

    This kind of exaggeration is unhelpful in any serious discussion, but Somerby is not expressing opinions -- he is spreading propaganda and disinformation in his daily essays.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  8. Digby's Denis Hartley describes a film about black kids in the Baltimore inner city schools, and efforts by teachers to help them. There but for fortune, Somerby might have gone. Would he still have his faith in progressive effort, had he not abandoned these kids for the spotlight of standup comedy?

    "The Boys of Baraka (2005) – Co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady have fashioned a fresh and inspiring take on a well-worn cause celebre: the sad, shameful state of America’s inner-city school system. Eschewing the usual hand-wringing about the underfunded, over-crowded, glorified daycare centers that many of these institutions have become for poor, disenfranchised urban youth, the filmmakers chose to showcase one program that strove to make a real difference.

    The story follows a group of 12-year-old boys from Baltimore who attended a boarding school in Kenya, staffed by American teachers and social workers. In addition to more personalized tutoring, there was emphasis on conflict resolution through communication, tempered by a “tough love” approach. The events that unfold from this bold social experiment (filmed over a three year period) are alternately inspiring and heartbreaking. "

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    Replies
    1. A few years ago, I visited an elementary school in rural Zimbabwe. Although the area was dirt poor, the syllabus was most impressive. It included two languages: English and the local tribal language. Based on the syllabus, it was comparable or superior to the average American school at that young age.

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    2. I think the point of teaching black American kids in Africa was to remove them from their dysfunctional neighborhoods and show them a more positive image of black society. That wouldn't apply to the school in Zimbabwe teaching African kids, no matter how good their curriculum. Note that American teachers and social workers staff the school in this film. The Zimbabwean kids would not have been subjected to gangs and drugs, presumably, so less damage to be undone there.

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    3. All foreign countries I am familiar with, European and South American, have public school systems far superior to USA. They reason is they don't tolerate affirmative action for the christo-fascist right wing nuts in their country.

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    4. Also, they spend more money on building their kids' futures.

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  9. "We must not be enemies," Lincoln once said!"

    I don't think he was talking about us.

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    Replies
    1. And by “us” Bob means liberals he expects to walk the line.

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  10. Somerby has been talking about the "Experiment's End" and how things are falling apart in our nation. Who else has been doing that? Q-Anon and various Trumpies:

    Mike Lindell said ""Can you feel the storm building? It’s America," he said using the allusion of "the storm" which is part of the conspiracy group's messaging.

    "The storm, "refers to excessive social conflict that is predicted to occur prior to society reaching the point of 'The Great Awakening,' explained Murray State University."

    And, of course, David Brooks said something like this in his column which Somerby discussed last week.

    But I don't hear Democrats, much less liberals, referring to a social end-times (or a religious one either), predicting doom and gloom. Democrats are mostly frustrated because we cannot roll up our sleeves and address problems to get our country back to normal and on a better path.

    Somerby's despair is much closer to right wing thinking than to the left these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, police? Yeah, someone on the internet has despair.

      Delete
    2. Rodney D,
      Tell the cops that the someone on the internet with despair is black, if you want them to lift a finger about it.

      Delete
  11. Bob’s program: ask everything of one side, nothing of the other. What strange faith would we need to acquire to imagine he wants the best for anyone?

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    Replies
    1. If you only invoke morality when it benefits you then that's not morality. Getting offended by being asked to be a moral person is a constant throughout human history.

      Delete
  12. "people should be nice, said a president once" isn't that deep, man

    ReplyDelete
  13. "I think it will take people, true patriots, on both sides of the aisle to say "enough of this nonsense, we should work together for the good of the people of the United States."

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So … again…. Why does Bob only work one side of the aisle?

      Delete
    2. I think it is because we listen and the other side doesn't.

      Or maybe it is because we can read...and they can't?

      Delete
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