I promised myself that I wouldn’t do this. I haven’t even seen the movie, but I have seen the trailers for it.
If you haven’t already heard, I have been an unabashed Abraham Lincoln fan for many years.
I tried without success to affect the actual birth date of my oldest son to land on Feb. 12, Lincoln’s birthday. I am here to tell any future fathers to never, I mean never, try that. All I needed was two-and-a-half hours, but alas, his name was never to be Abraham or even Lincoln.
So when I learned that a movie would be coming out around Thanksgiving portraying the last months of Lincoln's life, I was excited.
Not to fear, the lines won’t be nearly as long as at other holiday films. True Lincoln nuts tend to be a little more slow-moving and ponderous.
Concentrating the action on the last four months of his life is an important decision and, I think, a good one. Lincoln rightly feared that once the Civil War fighting stopped, the central issue of the conflict would be lost. He had signed an executive order ending slavery in the states that were in rebellion, a sort of war provision that he could rightly enforce.
With the end of the war in sight during the winter of 1864-65, Lincoln knew that he had to put the extinction of slavery on a permanent track. To win the war and yet lose all those lives so that the U.S. could fall back into the same order as before the war would have been a tragedy of historical proportions.
What I hope that the movie accomplishes is to put the death struggle that the U.S. was in during that time in greater perspective. Lincoln knew on a level that probably no one else did that to put the nation back together without addressing the central issue that separated North from South would be a fool’s game.
Four years of war, personal tragedy and critics circling him could not deter this fascinating historical figure from seeing better than anyone else that if this war was to be fought for anything other than a rebirth of freedom, that the blood was shed for not much more than the status quo.
His push to pass the 13th Amendment was indeed his crowning achievement and life’s work.
By all means, read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book "Team of Rivals," the basis for much of this movie. But don’t forget that there is an incredible trove of great literature out there about Lincoln and his times.
All around us are reminders that the war left an indelible imprint on the nation’s history. It was an event that cast a long shadow across the land and you will find as you cross the greater Chicago Metropolitan area, Northwest Indiana included, that landmarks dot the area as testaments to that sacrifice.
Just north of downtown Chicago you can find a wonderful bookstore devoted to Lincoln, the Civil War and history. The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop is at 357 W. Chicago Ave., about three blocks west of State Street. Closer to home, our bookstores and libraries have shelves bulging with books about this time period, and 150 years later, the debate still echoes.