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One of my favorite things about the United States is Federalism.
Federalism is the wonderful American tradition of allowing the individual states to make their own laws and establish their own independent cultures.
It would stink if the people of Utah forced Nevada to ban open containers and gambling. And it would stink if Nevada forced Utah to legalize prostitution and to sell bottles of Southern Comfort at every Circle K.
I love that I live in a country that has a state set aside for awesome decadent partying and a state that it is run by a temperate religious sect that does not allow any decadence at all.
People have a natural yearning for fairness. But our founding fathers rightly understood that fairness is the enemy of freedom and individuality and greatness.
It’s okay that Coloradans will soon be able to buy pot at government dispensaries. And I also think it’s okay that Oklahoma judges are still allowed to hand out life sentences to pot dealers. I don’t understand why Oklahomans want to keep weed away from their daughters so badly. But I don’t have to. I can just move to Boulder.
So, I hope we can all agree that it is contrary to the spirit of the United States for moralizers in Washington, DC to force the people of a state to change their way of life. And I hope we can also all agree that it is morally unacceptable to enslave people simply because they are a different color than you.
This is the dreadful contradiction that America had to reconcile in 1865. “Lincoln” chronicles a few eventful months at the end of President Abraham Lincoln’s life as he lobbied Congress to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The challenge that director Steven Spielberg faced was how to present a beloved martyr as a normal human being. Once you’ve seen a person’s image on pennies and five dollar bills and on the side of the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium, it’s hard to imagine him as a real flesh and blood man.
But Daniel Day Lewis’s Lincoln is a regular man. He is a smart, witty, hard-working politician who has been thrust into difficult circumstances.
Spielberg faithfully shows us the reasonable opinion of the Congressmen who were hesitant to abolish slavery. They knew that the Amendment would infuriate southerners and insure that the war would continue to the bitter end.
President Lincoln, on the other hand, was thinking about the 100,000s of dead and their grieving relatives. He was driven to find a way to make sure that they had sacrificed for something.
Lincoln was convinced that it was necessary to attach a moral meaning to the Civil War. Otherwise, it would be remembered as nothing more than a war of aggression in which an industrialized country invaded and brutally bullied a poor agrarian nation into submitting to its will.
Spielberg has the guts to ask whether the Civil War was worth fighting to begin with.
To a freed slave who got to leave the plantation where she had been forced to live her entire life to reunite with her daughter who had been sold to another plantation, the War and all the suffering that it caused was clearly worthwhile.
To an 18-year-old boy who died on a makeshift operating table from the trauma of having his injured leg sawed off without anesthesia, the War was probably not worth it at all.
As for me, I’m not sure. And neither is Spielberg. And that’s why “Lincoln” is an interesting movie.
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