Thursday, November 23, 2006
Lincoln's Holiday is a Prayer for His People
When the United States of America was mired in the nightmarish throws of the American Civil War, the horrible realities of warfare became brutally apparent for a weary President Abraham Lincoln. Previously favoring a "soft war," concentrating on destroying armies and minimizing civilian strife, the events of 1862 proved cathartic for the embattled war time president. He realized that the disastrous Union defeats at Bull Run, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg foreshadowed the possibility of a bloody and endless generation, precluding expeditious American reconciliation. Worse still, the Union was losing its will to fight under the weight of mounting setbacks and casualties. Lincoln fully expected to lose the 1864 election, and America was on tract to surrendering the South to history. A losing war was ripping the United States asunder.
Considering his options under the dim candlelit glow of White House nights, Lincoln resolved that his only remaining solution was to wage an all-out"total war" against not only the armies of the Confederacy, but to take that war to Southern towns, farms, cities and plantations. The Civil War ceased to be exclusively about reunion, as battle alone seemed unlikely to accomplish the task. This was to be a war to remake the South, shattering the southern slavocracy perpetuated by a backwards social and economic system. It was to become a war to set men free, and create a new union that would fulfill the lofty promises of the Declaration of Independence yet unfulfilled. The proud South would not yield to arguements for brotherhood and peace; the sword alone would rescue America from Europe's fractious fate.
As contemporary Americans cram turkey and stuffing down their gullets, they seem to have decidedly less for which to be happy than this time last year. America looks dangerously weak in the world, and superpowers cannot afford to appear weak. Our leaders and generals are fighting a losing strategy, our enemies around the globe are emboldened, and morale on the home front is more frigid than the holiday cranberry mold. What would the great leaders of the Civil War, which killed nearly 1,000,000 American civilians and soldiers, impart to us in these uncertain hours of self-doubt, concern, and indigestion? The Thanksgiving commemoration began at Lincoln's initiative, declared as a national day of prayer in 1863 in the interest of restoring national unity, morale and purpose in the middle of the bloodiest and most devastating conflict in our entire national history. Today, this beloved feast renews its original meaning as a moment of clarifying grace for a wounded country. Lincoln reaches across the fabric of time to remind Americans of all the blessings, advantages and opportunities the nation he saved continues to offer its citizens and the world. Yet these benefits are not idle treasurers to be squirreled away and squandered within the safety of our walls.
Engaged in a modern war against the tyranny of bellicose Islamicism, America's only option, as Lincoln determined over 143 years ago, is to recognize and boldly pursue the necessary course to save American civilization. Sherman was relieved of duty early in the Civil War, believed to be crazy for suggesting the measures and cost in lives and fortune required to preserve the union. Now, those that suggest the War on Terrorism is a global struggle that must cripple radical Islamicism are castigated as the sanguine stalwarts of a discredited conflict. Yet not one critic of this war has been able to intelligently challenge that we are in real danger. Forward thinking Americans are coming to realize nothing short of resolute commitment to a total war in Iraq and Afghanistan will win a war for which there is no turning back. As Sherman stormed to the Sea to break the spirit of as Grant described it "the worst cause for which men have ever fought," western armies must breathe fear into the hearts of terrorist organizers and radical theocrats that will respond only to bullets and bombs shredding their empire of death and lies. "Enshrined" in the hearts of his countrymen, Lincoln's Thanksgiving prayer cries out for his nation to collect the resolve to do what it must to deliver his cherished Union from new threats.
To make good on Father Abraham's historical call to arms is to start fighting for our values like we mean it, with fully engaged measures and full-throated words of defiance to retain the reigns of our American destiny. Sherman observed that "War is Hell," and so it must be for those who challenge our liberties and values until their end.