Friday, December 5, 2014

Our National Strife

I have just made it through Vol. I of Shelby Foote's Civil War - A Narrative, and it's absolutely captivating. Foote is a remarkable storyteller. I've always enjoyed history because, to me, good history just reads like a story, and most of the time the truth is more dramatic than fiction. Towards the end of the first volume (which is just about the winter of 1862), a passage struck me. 

Foote recounts a speech that Lincoln delivers to Congress in 1862, just as it had become clear to him (and others) that the Civil War was not going to be easily or quickly won.
Our national strife springs not from our permanent part, not from the land we inhabit, not from our national homestead. Our strife pertains to ourselves, to the passing generations of men, and it can without convulsion, be hushed forever with the passing of one generation.
                                                                                -Lincoln's Second Annual Address

To me, the idea that our national problems can be solved with a new generation  has an optimistic sound. Essentially, we may have troubles now, but the future generations of Americans can solve them simply by coming into existence. I guess it's a faith in the moral arc of the universe. The flip side to that coin is that it only takes one generation to lose what we presently have.

I guess the both are true. Anyway, it seemed particularly relevant to all of the national strife that we seem to have today.

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