It was probably a good thing that I took Tuesday off looking out at all the snow now on the roads. That storm which has gone as far south as Texas is now hitting NE Ohio as well. It looks very pretty outside, as long as you don’t hav eto drive in it. Ironicially, because of the ice mixing in, snow totals are now going to be a bit less than originally predicted.
Anyway, I came across an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Henry Olsen that seems quite apt for this holiday. Probably in light of the overkill various cities, universities, and other entities have done in regards to change names of places due to the person’s historical connection to racism (for example, the San Francisco School Board), Mr. Olsen’s piece titled “This Presidents’ Day, let’s reaffirm that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are heroes” does raise some very good points. We are looking at these men with out 21st century eyes and the world is so different from 1789 or 1860 (let alone 1910 in the case of say Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson). In the case of Lincoln, once can see in his political life that he changed many of his views. Obviously, his views on race in 1865 were not only a far cry from his Vice-President Andrew Johnson (who only became his running mate in 1864 because Johnson was the only sitting southern senator who opposed secession), but different from what he espoused in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates a decade earlier. From supporting the voluntary resettlement of blacks to Africa or the Caribbean while debating Stephen Douglas to eventually issuing the Emancipation Proclamation as president during a civil war to preserve the Union, this shows real personal growth. There is a reason why Washington and Lincoln are two of four presidents whose likeness is carved on Mt. Rushmore (which, admittedly is another complicated result of our history..as any member of the Lakota nation would tell you). We have a complicated history, it’s not black and white but more shades of gray.
Mr. Olsen ends his op-ed with the following paragraph, “Real racial equality, social as well as legal, remains a work in progress. That progress would not have occurred without Washington and Lincoln. Let all of us honor them on this day without reservation.” Just like everything else in this American Experience.
Happy Presidents’ Day from Mad Man on a Great Lake.