Lincoln’s Time Machine

They say the book is always better than the movie, and for the most part that tends to be true. But when it comes to “Lincoln”, Steven Spielberg’s biopic of Abraham Lincoln, I don’t think that’s the case.

The most difficult part of truly understanding history is that we inevitably view the historical figures through our modern sensibilities. Since we didn’t live in the times they were living, it is impossible to fully comprehend the conventional wisdom of that time and the culture they lived in. It is unfair to look back fifty years, let alone a hundred and fifty years, and ask “How could they have done that?” Much like fifty years from now people might look back at our generation and ask things like, “Why was it such a big deal that an African American was elected President?”, “Why did they allow children to play tackle football?” or “They used to sell cigarettes in supermarkets?” You have to live in the times to understand the mindset of those times.

Two years ago I was watching an old “Meet the Press” episode with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was shocked by some of the questions, as they asked him if the restaurant sit-ins were doing more harm than good and whether they had a right to break the law since segregation was legal in much of the south. My immediate visceral response was abject shock. How could they ask Dr. King these questions? Why weren’t they thanking him for his work? Why weren’t they supporting him?


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