The Arc From Lincoln To Trump

During an emotionally turbulent period of my life—and of the life of the nation—I was fortunate to be living just three blocks from the Lincoln Memorial.

I made countless trips to that monument, often late at night, when Washington, D.C. was a quieter town (despite Vietnam War unrest) and many times the only company I had on those visits was the awesome marble presence of Abe himself.

He would sit there mute and solemn while I read the words of his Second Inaugural and the Gettysburg Address chiseled into the walls.

And as I would stand looking at his stone face, the power of his presence spoke to me, as it has spoken to millions, about nobility and integrity and justice and truth.

Two blocks from my home, in the other direction, was a modern, multi-story apartment complex called the Watergate, and it too was becoming a monument of sorts.

The moral distance between Lincoln, on the one hand, and the Nixon cabal, as embodied in the Watergate scandal, was a chasm of the soul that comes back to mind as we approach the 210th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in the midst of a tragically misguided and desperate ploy to distract the nation with a partial government shutdown.

Abraham Lincoln was a melancholy man. There is pain clearly etched in every likeness of his face, a face that tells you at once he has suffered, that he has had to ask tough questions of himself and listen hard for answers. Which helps explain the depth of his character and the humility that made him a great man.

At this point, the Trump presidency can never be redeemed; it can only be endured and ultimately defeated. But the tragedy of Trump is cast into ever sharper relief in contrast to the greatness of the 16th president with whom he has childishly presumed at times to compare himself. 

Lincoln’s greatness is a quality Trump will never understand, in part because it grows from a man who stood naked in his pain, the better to understand and endure it. Lincoln’s life, seen in stark relief, for all its pain and self-doubt, is a gift to the nation, a model for us to follow. And a bulwark against the tide of Trump’s petty, pompous and preposterous presidency. Oh alliteration, where is the sting? Sorry, the candle is flickering.

— David Bolling 

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