Abraham Lincoln

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Abe.jpg
My interest in Honest Abe, was always about the darker parts of his history, that the High School History books skimmed or skipped. People are complex, so the more I heard this caricature of the Greatest American President, the more I wanted to know his humanity. And it turns out that he was a racist orator (just less racist than his contemporaries), with a an ego large enough to get over half a million men murdered (more Americans died in the civil war, than in WWII), and freeing the slaves was a vindictive byproduct of the war his election victory started.

Those are the parts I focus on, the myths about Lincoln, the Civil War and Slavery.

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As the Jewish Marxist Walter Benjamin said, "History is written by the victor", which is another way of saying, "don't believe what you've been told".

When I hear people talk about the civil war and slavery, it reminds me of a movie, "Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", because I often feel that's as based on reality as their perceptions are (they were believing what they'd been told). A few facts that escape their version of the telling:

  • The first shots in the civil war were fired over taxes and tariffs (Morrill Tariff), not slavery
  • The Corwin Constitutional Amendment (passed by Congress) offered the South to keep slaves forever, the South declined
  • The South offered to give up slaves if the North let them go, the North declined
  • The 3/5th clause was more limiting slavery than condoning it
  • Lincoln was a racist, not an abolitionist
  • Lincoln violated the Constitution more than any other President
  • Lincoln fought for pride and conquest, the South for freedom and self government: slavery was a catalyst, not the cause
  • And so on.

History is rich and complex, not this shallow flat "good vs. bad" or the North was righteous and the South was evil bullshit. Since I care about the uncomfortable truths, more than the comforting fictions, I often discuss these things. Not to diminish what happened, or deny the points of either side, but by remembering the truth of what really happened (from both sides). Of course, since my family came to America, long after this, I have no dog in the fight, and can look at it more objectively than many. But if we care about learning from history, we first have to give up our comforting fictions (caricatures) and learn what really happened. more...

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