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Happy Bicentennial, Mr. President

Timothy Kincaid

February 11th, 2009

History has its favorites. Circumstances and personality sometimes meet in such a way as to forever bind a name with world changing events. And time strips away those conflicting realities that may contradict the myth leaving us with an untarnished champion, someone greater than their experiences, a symbol of an ideal.

One such man who stands for an institution greater than he made it is President Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe is the American Hero, the greatest president that ever presided; a poor boy who though hard work and humble wit advanced to save the nation in its most perilous hour. And although there is a current movement to rehumanize the man, in the minds of most he will be the Great Emancipator, the one who held the Union together and freed the slaves.

Four years ago, C.A. Tripp (posthumously) published The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, in which he argues that Lincoln was primarily same-sex attracted. This book was met with a flood of indignant rebuttals.

I found Tripp’s book to be fascinating, though not necessarily proof. Tripp presented only circumstantial evidence and, though there was a lot of it, there was no smoking gun.

But I found those who argued against Tripp to have but the flimsiest of denials for Tripp’s strongest points (“there was a bed shortage and men often shared beds for years and wrote flowery love notes to each other”), accompanied by an absolute silence on his subsidiary evidence (surely there was no bed shortage in the White House). They seemed more motivated by protecting Lincoln’s image from such a ‘vile slander’ than they did in applying any professional curiosity to the matter.

But there is a lesson to be learned. We all want to own a part of President Lincoln and his legacy. Lincoln – a flawed man all too human – took the right positions on the right issues and transcended his own mortality.

On this, the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, let us all strive to live so that others in distant decades will want to claim us as their own.

Comments

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Emily K
February 11th, 2009 | LINK

Yeah, I heard about all that crap surrounding lincoln’s SSA, but for me, it all came down to “who cares?” admired men and women in history have been CONFIRMED to be gay and that doesn’t make a difference for either a) their perceived “greatness” by others or b) proving to the anti-gays that gays can be great contributors to society.

So other than “losing” the ability to say “HA! see? he’s one of US!” I don’t think it’s any kind of “loss” not to know whether Abe was gay. But I can see the appeal to want him to be on “our side.” I know that as Jews we’re always going, “ah, he’s one of the tribe!” when we find out a great or famous person is Jewish.

grantdale
February 12th, 2009 | LINK

A man who did do the right thing, when he needed too; and when he could.

That’s not faint praise, either. It’s a reminder that a common man can rise above common prejudice if given the circumstances.

Thanks for the reminder Timothy. Wow, 200 years; and still so much to do.

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