Man Without Qualities

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Against The Misguided

Critics of the United States spend a disproportionate amount of their time and effort attempting to cast one aspect or another of the nation's history in an unflattering light.

But those who formed it well understood that the very legitimacy of this nation tetered precariously over its tolerance of slavery, and they formed it anyway. And Abraham Lincoln, a political genius of the highest order, who brought the deeply flawed nation through a Civil War that transfigured it yet left it with the same principles, Constitution, government and founding heros, also realized that a thing is worth fighting for not because of what it is or has been, but for what can be made of it:

I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has. It is in order that each one of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright. ... That nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.

- Address to the 16th Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864

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