The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary
The greatest fact of Lincoln’s career is the war he imposed upon the nation, a conflict that changed the nature of war in the civilized world. As one of Lincoln’s favorite generals observed, “war is hell,” and it has been hell at least since General Sherman gave us the example of total war.
I might begin with the vernacular observation that, like all of Saint Thomas’s five ways, the argument from design seems rooted in human imagination. At some point we wake up and look around and see that the world is wonderful. We may be the Hebrew psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1), or Saint Francis, who sang of brother sun and sister moon
The modern American regime under which we live has only a few heroes, most of them entirely bogus: a pair of womanizing presidents–Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy–a philandering plagiarist who betrayed his country, Martin Luther King, jr., and the second founder of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
It’s a sobering recollection, actually, in the time of coronavirus, which is said to have carried away some 300,000 lives, mainly of the elderly or the infirm, in the span of a hundred days, causing a global commotion unseen since the last world war. Yet during the same hundred days, in the spring of 1994, nearly one million people died in Rwanda…
The other night I had a long and tortuous Corona-inspired dream. I had finally managed to get out of Illinois and the good old USA. I was in Paris at some kind of event or function I had helped organize, but it was in a strange part of Paris that looked more like Chicago or Minneapolis. It was one of those boring “procedural” dreams where you find yourself in the wrong room and cannot seem to locate the correct floor, and when you do, your number is nowhere to be found. Miraculously, I got everything straightened out, and it was...
Stalin is said to have told Lenin’s widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, that if she kept making a nuisance of herself he would “appoint another Lenin’s widow.” Similarly, Bashar Assad is the Kremlin’s exarch in Syria because the Russians have appointed him to this position, and if he continues to make a nuisance of himself he may be replaced with another, better Bashar Assad.