Just saw Lincoln for the second time — first time was in theaters. A few quick thoughts.
My immediate thought on watching this again is that we need to change our history books. This nonsense about Lincoln being a Republican, and modern-day Republicans proclaiming themselves as “the party of Lincoln” is absolute bullshit… And in the long run is only providing propaganda for a political party that clearly is heading down an authoritarian road.
The modern-day Republican party was closer to the Democratic party of the 1800’s. This is a fact and has been covered widely. However, because the labels are as they are, it’s sticking. I suggest we change the labels. This may be more important than we think, and could be done simply. I’m not suggesting a totalitarian re-manufacturing of history, but instead to take a more artful approach to the story in history.
One way to solve this would be to standardize text books to re-name the parties of the past, but there’s an editorial note in the beginning that describes why this will be. Kind of like how a contract will shorten somebody’s name and say something like “from here on out will be referred to as…”
This way we learn about Democratic President Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves.
I’m just so sick & tired of these idiot Republicans sanctimoniously defending a past they make zero effort to defend through further pious action. They rub it in your face as a defense for their mistreatment of minorities. When Republicans are called out for their racist policies, they squawk & yell they’re the party of Lincoln… Which is simply code for: We can treat black people bad because we freed ‘em. Enough is enough.
Let’s say this were true. Let’s say the dumb drooling Republicans are right: They freed the slaves and Democrats are evil because they started the KKK. Let’s say that’s true! What the fuck have Republicans done since then to maintain their stellar record? Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act… So, what am I missing? I can not recall anything racially progressive ever coming out of a Republican politician’s mouth hole in my life time. If they truly are the party of Lincoln, then why aren’t they still acting like the party of Lincoln?
BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT THE FUCKING PARTY OF LINCOLN.
It’s time to change the history books to reflect that.
Watch this movie, and note the Senators who balk at the 13th Amendment. Listen to how they talk about Lincoln, and the consequences of freeing the slaves. Tell me: If modern news channels existed in 1865 when Congress was debating the 13th Amendment (to end slavery), which channel do you suppose would be actively promoting the opposition against the 13th Amendment? I can see the chyron now: "Are All Men Created Equal?"
Obviously this is just a film and does not represent true history. However, I’ve researched this era & others like it myself, and have found (especially in parliamentary situations like Congress in the 1800’s) there’s plenty of literature detailing what each individual thought about a given subject, like the 13th Amendment. Senators would make speeches which were written down & preserved, they voted & that record exists, there’s countless newspaper articles about these bills, and so on. One can paint a pretty clear picture of past opinion / waves of thought.
And it’s easy to see people from today in the past. Just compare their values. Oh, sure! Today (most) people think the 13th Amendment is a good thing. But there’s plenty of racists today who don’t. Those racists tend to be Trump supporters. Now, go back in time & read / listen to what dissenters against the 13th Amendment believed. It sounds nearly identical to the people who don’t agree with the 13th Amendment today. And yet those people today are also simultaneously making the claim of being THE PARTY OF LINCOLN, the American political party that freed the slaves. They want to have it both ways.
But they don’t really want to have it both ways. They’re authoritarians. There’s a coup going on in America slowly. It’s fascism. And it’s here. You wait. Anyway, moving on…
This movie’s narrative is curious as it’s about dramatizing the behind-the-scenes legislation / persuasion / negotiation of a Constitutional Amendment. It’s a story of something getting done, and the visionary leader behind it. It’s obviously a pro-American propaganda piece (with a President Obama compass), but a really well made propaganda piece. It’s Spielberg, after all. He makes the finest American propaganda.
The narrative is about one-on-one persuasion at scale to accomplish a giant thing; but the spectacle is about voyeurism — an historical voyeurism. The fetish is our ability to peek into the past and see what it must have really been like. That’s the sexiness behind Daniel Day Lewis’s performance: It’s like a conjuration of Lincoln, in the face contortions & speech mannerisms. And the way Spielberg films him at the very end, it’s all about being in awe of the presence of the true Lincoln… Which is, of course, a contrived fantasy, because it’s not the true Lincoln.
But that doesn’t matter because it’s the next best thing. In this way Spielberg’s Lincoln is about time travel: the colorful dialects, brutality, and precious rarity of witnessing the past unfold.
It’s interesting how he never depicts Lincoln being murdered. It’s a classy touch. Not sure I would have made that choice which is why I guess Spielberg is a master craftsman. He does a sike-out by showing you a theater at the end, and then having a stage manager interrupt the play to deliver the news of the assassination to the audience, an assassination that occurred at another theater.
I also find it interesting this link between presidential assassinations and media… Lincoln was killed at a play, JFK’s is preserved on one film…
Finally, the last thing I felt was a weird sadness. This movie is a celebration of something that really shouldn’t be celebrated. We live in a racist white colonial matrix ruled by oppression & aristocracy. If you’re not a wealthy white land owner, you’re a slave. That’s the way this country is set up. The government that sits on haunted indigenous lands is a foreign occupying object on something much deeper & bigger than it.
And what they brought with them was the violence to acquire more power & control.
We celebrate Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves in one swoop with the 13th Amendment. He is depicted as a rare, angelic hero. But this should’ve been the act of an ordinary person. This isn’t the flaw of the movie or anything like that. It’s just a sad thought… That we deify the person who freed the slaves when it should be a non-point. And what of the slaves themselves? Are they not the true heroes for having endured so much pain?
Any ordinary person should have freed all the slaves. Any ordinary person should self-evidently understand the horrors of slavery. But, no. There was much debate & arm-twisting in order to free people who should not have been enslaved in the first place. Slavery was a true crime against humanity that rips society apart to this very day.
It’s sad that a good hearted impulse enacted by the United States government is seen as an heroic triumph. Is our country so fundamentally cruel that doing a genuine public good can only be perceived as rare & extraordinary?
Anyway, despite all of it, this is still a good movie. Reminds me of Soderbergh’s Che.