Lincoln, a Man of Complexity

Young Lincoln

Young Lincoln

People think they know Abraham Lincoln. Many grew up hearing the story of Abe born in poverty, raised on the frontier, self-educated, employed as a lawyer, and engaged in politics until he successfully became President of the United States. Of course, all of that is true. People like to categorize others by nicknames. The treatment of Lincoln in that regard is no exception. He has been known (as still is) as “honest Abe”-even when he was alive.  For most people, I think, the conceptualization of Lincoln fits in their minds in some neat box-Lincoln was this-or Lincoln was that. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking about Lincoln-or about anybody- does not accurately describe the person. Lincoln, like all people, has complexity. He wasn’t just “this or that.”  At times he was inconsistent. He could be inconsistent and consistent together. It’s especially difficult to pigeonhole Lincoln. If one holds to a one-sided, one-dimensional view of Lincoln-the view is of necessity going to be skewed. This is why there exists some popular (but flawed) views of Lincoln today-“Lincoln was racist” or “Lincoln was gay,” to name a couple. Even if those statements were true, they do not describe Lincoln in his totality-and that is what those kind of  pronouncements tend to do. I’ve seen it many times.  Those who hold that Lincoln was this or that-are then able to dismiss Lincoln- as far as being anything else. I knew someone who thinks Lincoln was racist-so he “has no use” for Abe at all. By the way, in order for someone to say that Lincoln was “nothing but” something-a whole lot of evidence to the contrary is typically not considered. That kind of thinking is not truthful; is it? Do they apply the same standard to other historical figures? Do they apply that standard to their friends and family? I don’t think so. Is it fair to give some a “pass” and not others? That would be inconsistent-but it also proves my point-people are complex. Lincoln  was complex. Don’t assume you know him. Don’t necessarily believe what you have heard about him. If you read a book about Lincoln that portrays him a certain way, ask yourself: “Do others think about Lincoln in this way?” Sometimes there is truly safety in numbers. And remember, no human being, including Lincoln, can be simply “written off” as this or that without losing the very essence of the person.
 Mail this post

Technorati Tags: ,

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply