Saturday, March 8, 2014

Our Father...Who art in Washington

His name is indeed hallowed by many...whether with the little community's youth orchestra performance of Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" or in the temple where they enshrine him in Washington, his name is almost universally numbered among the prophets of history.

Lincoln taught us about fathers, and through it, Steven Spielburg has established new traditions around fatherhood.

Here is the father in the home, imperfect and arbitrary in so many ways, unreasonable and distant, even harsh in neglect and a failure to communicate coherently...yet somehow occasionally tender.  He ultimately casts a strange kind of shadow over the lives of his children.

In an article in the Washinton post entitled "The Comfort of Lincoln as Imperfect Father" Tracy Grant wrote: "Even for the Great Emancipator, parenthood was the great equalizer."

Here is the father of his nation as so many like to call him, and no one asks of him a reason for the terrible things he does, or even tries to understand the complex reasons for all his simple acts of blatant tyranny or thinly veiled dictatorship.  The reason is in himself, it would seem.  He accomplished what he was meant for ..."fit his time" as you might say and payed his dues to humanity by obliging them with their desired ends.  So we take interest in the machinations of a radical, power-hungry madman as if they were the impersonal footsteps of the march of progress through time, somehow inviolate and above the common way, "blest with divine right" as you might say.

If anyone notices the inconsistency in all this, the blatant touted inconsistency, "they do not understand".  Understand what?  That a father can wage an ungodly bloody war with other men's sons and then unabashedly withhold his own?  That a man can strive to grip the jurisdictions of almighty God in his hand and then fail to grasp the rightful jurisdiction of his own home?  Or that things which would be wicked in other men are hallowed on the score of the one whom men favor?  Can the tyrant be generous to a subject without making a mockery of justice?  Can he be forgiving to another, a respecter of persons rather than God, without spurning his victim in the dust?  God keep us from the great idolatry...self...from such unreasoning passion for our own ends.

I suppose in one sense one could, with reservations in plenty, recommend the circumspect perusal of a film that manages to elucidate some historical truth because it is not quite philosophically self conscious.  ...Or perhaps it is and we would rather not believe it to be so?