Mary Beth Writes

Instead of marinating in the political dysfunction around us, let's watch how an imperfect but worthy politican acted in his time and his crisis. 

Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington February 23, 1861 by a secret route because he couldn’t drive straight into town. He was already despised by too many people; it was dangerous to let his whereabouts be known. He had been elected by less than 40% of the vote in a long, exhausting election filled with lies and slander.

March 4th would be his Inauguration Day. Seven southern states had already seceded from the Union. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated president of the Confederacy two weeks earlier.

Lincoln’s First Inaugural does a good and lawyerly job of explaining why southern states and southern citizens should not leave the union. He says he will honor and uphold all United States laws, including the law that returns escaped slaves to their owners, a law most non-slaving owning people abhorred. Lincoln spends most of his speech carefully explaining and then allaying fears that the country is now up for grabs.

We think we live in awful times and we do. But we do not get up in the morning to face people of color who are slaves, who are owned. Our Republican and Democrat legislators are at dysfunctional loggerheads, but they are still under the same dome. We face a lot, but we should not be so arrogant as to think we live in the worst of all times.

The end of Lincolns’ speech is this. “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 chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone 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.”

Lincoln called us to address the evil that is around us – not with ire, self-righteousness, arrogance, or belittling conceit – but with “the better angels of our nature.”

This is how Lincoln celebrated the Fall of Richmond four years later. The war itself was not declared over, but on April 3 a telegram was received in Washington saying the city of Richmond had fallen. Everyone knew this meant the end, so rejoicing was immediate and loud!   Lincoln wanted to see the capitol of the confederacy. He took a boat from DC to almost Richmond. The river was alarming; still jammed with the debris of war including floating corpses of horses, and even unexploded ordinance. Lincoln and his 12-year old son Tad (whose birthday it was that day) were rowed from the bigger boat to shore, when they climbed out into the filthy mud of the riverbank.

There were a few black people on shore, when they realized the tall guy was their Lincoln, news spread like wildfire and soon dozens and then hundreds of newly freed men and women were around him. They knelt in the mud, lifting their arms to him, calling out their praises and gratitude to their “Father Abraham”. He told them to get up, “Only kneel to your God, not to me.”

Then Lincoln, accompanied by less than 12 soldiers (in this dangerous capitol of the confederacy that had fallen less than 2 days earlier) walked and rode a wagon through the decimated city. When they came to Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ house (he and his family had abandoned it the day before), Lincoln went in. He looked around a little, then went to Davis’ office and sat down in Davis’ chair. He didn’t gloat, he didn’t take anything, he was simply quiet until he asked for a glass of water, which he drank.

Lincoln would be assassinated within two weeks. That day was his “victory celebration”.

We best honor fighting and fallen soldiers with when we consider their service and sacrifice and then do our best to think, care, and respond with our wisdom and compassion.

“We are not enemies but friends.”

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.

...

 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.

 …

Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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