Dear Mr. President:
However, you and President Lincoln are uniquely connected. First, in an obvious way: he passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which enabled your election 150 years later. He prosecuted a war intimately connected with that amendment, a war to legitimize the idea that all men, and ultimately all humans, are absolutely equal. But where Lincoln had to make a war, you are tasked with ending one. That is my second point.
This is the war we wage in our schools and streets, the epidemic of guns in the hands of deranged individuals like the young man yesterday who killed 26 people and himself. I grew up in a town south of Newtown, Connecticut, where the shooting took place. I haven’t been there in more than 50 years, but I remember Newtown as a bucolic village of shady elms and white farm houses. As a family we would pass through there on Sunday drives.
I can’t imagine a place less likely for such an awful thing to take place.
Except for the Columbine community in Jefferson County, we quickly turned away from that tragedy, put our heads in the sand until it happened again and again and again…until it became apparent that it was not about wackos but about all of us.
That root grows deep and stretches wide in our American culture. It has spread and strengthened with every war we’ve fought, including Mr. Lincoln’s war, however necessary it may have been.
Unlike that war, many of them have been greedy and aggrandizing. I am thinking of the wars and atrocities against Native Americans fought to take their land. The same can be said of the Spanish American War, the war in the early 19th century against Mexico which gave us Texas. The wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq fought for ideology continued our long tradition of soldiering in the name of freedom.
This tradition is not without merit.
We should not lie down before the likes of Hitler or the leadership in Noorth Korea today or Iran. But we pay a price for being the world’s premier soldiering nation because war is violence, and violence is a learned behavior that does not confine itself to the battlefield.
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