Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Governance

Updated 31 Dec 2008

Our times are dire; they call for a man for the ages; Is Barack Obama such a man? Important among his mentors is Abraham Lincoln; it remains to be seen if Obama can rise to Lincoln's stature. Our bet is that he will, in spite or reactionary forces and political stasis. The two have much in common. Each had/has an awareness of reality that is profound for mere politicians. Each was/is eloquent in his own way. Each was/is beset with savage foes. Each sees all human beings as equally deserving respect. Each studied history, looking for their way. Neither shrank for strong personalities. And each motived/motivates political foes while appealing to the many. There is one most-critical difference: Lincoln dealt with a nation splitting apart while Obama is challenged by a world splitting asunder. Once, only a nation was involved. This time, it is humanity itself--our very humanness, in other words. Still the Words of Lincoln are relavent.

Obama may just be the timely messenger for our times. In any event, he needs all the help he can get from each of us. Let us hope he will never have to emulate Lincoln and visit battlefield slaughter. The Gettysburg Address is an easy read. Perhaps too easy. One may be so struck with both its grandeur and emotion, that one fails to see its deeper and enduring meaning.

Abraham Lincoln

Gettysburg, PA, November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. [All means all, regardless of color, ethnicity, belief or other classification system. Those who demonize a whole people, or even a class of people, are those Lincoln fought so hard against. Unfortunately, some are still around.]

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. [In our time, we are also beset by civil war, just in a larger sense. The forces of bigotry are still with us, exploiting the have-nots individually and group-wise. Alienation and humiliation leads those demeaned to hate their tormentors and seek means for redress--ultimately, any means at all, including terror. Seen in this light, labeling terrorists as evil, may be right if the perpetrator is truly psychotic, but otherwise it is an exercise in denial.]

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. [This passage still lives. As in Lincoln's time, we need an uncommon blend of courage, restraint, and wisdom in both our leadership and our votership. We need altruism of the highest order in all of us in all levels of society, nation and world alike.]

Most of all we need to look in the mirror for the most-basic roots of violence. Terror has always been with us, but it need not be. Only in recent decades was it labeled. This unhappy conclusion is not general of course, it is only that 1-4% of all of us that is the problem. Our problem is to recognize these psychopaths in our midst and deal with them properly. We prevent them from hijacking families, organizations and even nations to further their reigns of humiliation that beget hatred at best, terror at worst. Acting upon the danger begins with each of us. The life we save may be our own--because at the end of the day, we are our own worst enemy. The membrane separating civilized from jungle behavior in too many of us is egg-shell thin. Many of us are more comfortable in denial than facing this truth, but face it we must, no matter how scary. Overcoming that fear is the challenge facing most of us. If denial wins over logic, we will continue to have "wars and rumors of wars" for all time. See Peace Via Nature's Way for an option.

Have you ever felt like spanking an unruly child?
Can we rise to the challenge of exploring where that comes from?
As individuals?
As a people?
As world citizens?

Why as a nation do we persist in spanking the child without first asking and exploring the question:
Why is it s/he or "they" behaving that way?

For a consistent and compelling rendition of our basic behavior that leads to violence, see:

Theodor Adorno, first to publish on Authoritatrian Personality, AP.
Stanley Milgram, demonstrated Americans are Authoritarian Personalities.
Jerry Burger confirmed Milgram.
Phillip Zimbardo found emotional controls are paper thin in hierarchies.
Bob Altemeyer simplified the AP description in political setting.
Marhta Stout presents case studies of extreme APs.
Justin Frank labels Bush as psychopathic, extreme AP, and
Robert Hare gives more case studies of psychopathic, extreme AP behavior. Jessica Stern points to humiliation / alienation as motivating terroprism.

For what we might do about violence, given that violence is in our genes, see the series: Peace Via Nature's Way.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.