"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, to bind up the nation's wounds..."
President Abe Lincoln
Second Inaugural Address
Most of us studied this very famous speech by President Lincoln which was given during his second inaugural. This speech was of critical importance, as this nation had just gone through a gut wrenching and bloody war of state against state, neighbor against neighbor, and sometimes even brother against brother. Many thought the nation would never recover from such division, from such a wound. President Lincoln on the other hand, knew we had to. He needed to set aside the fears and trepidation that many in the South had now that the war was over. Lincoln knew that without healing, this great nation was doomed to fail.
Thinking of this historical event, and then thinking about today, I feel as if I live in parallel universes. On Sundays, I go to church and am reminded of love, charity and forgiveness. On Monday's, when I step foot back out into the political landscape, I often see anything but. I see division, constant division. Many times by folks on the same side of the political spectrum. It is not that disagreement is bad, and often times spirited discussion is necessary before consensus - it is when we forget the phrase "with malice towards none".
I have thought many times about the similarities and differences between President Lincoln and President Obama. What they have in similarities are few - 1) they both cut their political teeth in Illinois and 2) they both preside over a very divided country. The differences are how they are handling the divisions within the country.
Some people look for a conspiracy within our current President. Some think he is fanning the flames of discontent and hatred in order to further divide the country. Although I don't think that is true, our current President has shown markers this might be his intent. In the past five years, we have been further divided by race, by income, by race, by location, and by race. We have looked past the kind and healing words of Dr. King and latched onto the fiery rhetoric of Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson and Jerimiah Wright. In fact, Dr. Wright has replaced "God bless America" with "God **** America".
Even though we no longer have President Lincoln to lead us, we can remember his words and his leadership. We can eschew the dividers, shun the race baiters. We can practice seven days a week what we learn on Sundays. We can love our neighbors, even when they are ever so unlovable, as we love ourselves. Even in disagreements, we can address each other with kindness, courtesy and respect. We can treat each and every one of us the same, with malice toward none.