My non-citizen husband has some advice to offer all Americans:
Go see “Lincoln” right now.
Becoming a U.S. citizen is a lengthy and expensive process, and my husband, Harrie, had been procrastinating a bit.
Unlike some immigrants who have fled horrible things in their homeland and are eager to become Americans as soon as possible, my husband moved here to be with me, not because of anything less than positive about living in the Netherlands.
Though he always intended to pursue dual citizenship, it was easy to push into the future all that difficult paperwork.
Then he went to see “Lincoln.”
The movie is likely to have a profound effect on anyone who sees it — and I agree that everyone should.
After watching the movie, my husband said it was the first time he realized what it must feel like to be an American — and more than anything else ever has before, it made him want to be one.
Abraham Lincoln was one of those pivotal leaders who through luck or providence happened to be in place when his people came to a fork in the road. Through force of will, Lincoln and certain other historical figures (Winston Churchill comes to mind) somehow found a way to lead their people onto the right path. It’s a path that looks inevitable from today’s vantage point, but was considerably harder to discern when in the middle of history.
In watching the movie, it’s very clear just how easily things could have gone otherwise. Even knowing full well the 13th Amendment was going to pass, you watch the movie feeling a certain amount of worry for the outcome of the vote. It looks like such a long shot. Even Lincoln’s closest advisers urged him to drop the folly of pursuing the amendment and to use his political capital to address any number of other pressing national problems, like the little matter of ending the Civil War.
I assume the usual spoiler alerts aren’t needed here. Yes, the North won the Civil War, yes, the amendment did pass, yes, Lincoln was shot. You know all this.
What you might not know is that the revered Lincoln wasn’t afraid to make some dirty deals to get the votes he needed. But even aside from those deals, the ultimate victory depended more on him appealing to the basic humanity of each member of Congress. Their hearts were convinced — or at least enough of them were convinced to finally end slavery.
t’s hard to see how outlawing slavery was to Lincoln’s political advantage, or to his party’s advantage. That isn’t why he did it. He was trying to better the union. He was trying to better us all as Americans. And he did.
This isn’t a movie just for history buffs. It is a movie that every member of Congress should see. It is a movie every school child should see. It is a movie every American should see.
The colorful insults the members of Congress sling about during this movie are pretty entertaining — but even so, the wild and raucous Congress of Lincoln’s time was able to come together and do the right thing … unlike today.
Some members of Congress today would far rather put their party or their personal ideology above the common good. Maybe if they were to watch this movie, they’d be reminded that they were elected not to further the goals of their particular party, but to serve their country.
Maybe they’d also be reminded that history remembers, and history judges.
Michelle Teheux may be reached at email@example.com.