Uncivil War

I have heard from a number of friends of their disappointment in the American people for the vitriol over the Health Care Reform Bill. During the first day or two after it was passed, as I looked at the number of states that were jumping on board to sue the federal government, I actually had a little fear that we could break into civil war. At some level that is what it is, though thank god, no one has yet taken up arms. But bricks, death threats and bomb threats could be the beginning.

I was just going through a stack of ‘notes to self’ and found these words from the Inaugural Speech of Abraham Lincoln. I had written them down as I watched Ken Burns’ documentary about the Civil War. Lincoln said:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth song all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Interestingly, I had also written in my notes that in order to preserve the Constitution Lincoln had for three months gone beyond it, waging war without congressional consent, seizing northern telegraph offices, suspending habeas corpus. He said, “More rogues than honest men find shelter under habeas corpus.” Obama and his administration are accused of going beyond the Constitution. Whether or not they have will yet be established, but it might be worthwhile to put their actions in the context of our history in such matters.

I hope and pray that the better angels of our nature will take hold sooner rather than later, and that the uncivility will turn to wisdom and the desire to work together even when we are on the losing side of an issue. I hope we can make history by finding new ways to bridge our gaps and renew our bonds of affection. That kind of outcome would be a greater victory than any bill that could pass through government.

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