We are slowly dying. We are slowly melting in the blazing heat of never-setting noonday sun. We are dangling helplessly as our democracy dies around us seemingly powerless to stop it no matter how many times we use the hashtag, Resist, and have the opportunity to vote.
The Deep Compassion of Abraham Lincoln
On Wednesday night the ever brilliant Rachel Maddow juxtaposed the eloquent, touching, consoling letter from President Abraham Lincoln to the daughter, Fanny McCollough, of an old friend, William McCullough, on the occasion of her father’s death in a battle of the Civil War in 1862. The letter is even more poignant when you realize that he wrote it just ten months after the death of his much-loved 11-year-old son Willie.
The Lincoln’s led lives filled with tragic death: The Lincoln’s had a son, Eddie, who died before the age of four in 1850. Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died suddenly when he was nine years old. There were the hundreds of thousands dying in the Civil War. And, then, he was assassinated. I guess many people’s lives were filled with sudden and unexpected deaths back then. Meh, they knew what they were signing up for, amirite? It still hurts, though, I guess.
Washington, December 23, 1862.
It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.
Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.
Your sincere friend
This letter is moving in its sheer simplicity and reach for this man’s daughter. It has a homespun folksy quality to it, but also an eloquence beyond time because it reaches that simple truth for all of us: death and tragedy will touch all of our lives and in the throws of it, it will feel like we cannot recover, but over time raw grief turns to bittersweet love and remembrance.
To be wrapped in the kind, understanding, loving words of your president at one of the darkest moments of your life must’ve been a powerfully healing experience. These are words that can be dwelt upon, meditated upon, and returned to again and again to deliver a soothing balm to the raw pain of grief as it ebbs and flows.
This letter is the standard against which all presidential consolation are measured against.
The Consoler-in-Chief, Barack Obama
Too often during President Obama’s tenure in often, he was called upon to console the nation. Too often during his presidency mass shootings occurred. And, time and again, he rose to the occasion allowing his rhetoric to carry our heavy hearts to the heavens and help us feel the hope that such tragedies had violently removed from our national psyche.
Two of these moments stand out for me: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting remarks and his eulogy of State Senator Clementa Pinckney murdered in the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Let’s watch them both. Each drive me to tears, but it is a grief that is healing and well worth experiencing.
President Obama’s Speech after The Sandy Hook School Shooting
Those poignant pregnant pauses and subtle lifting of his eyebrows, that slight nod of his head as he acknowledges his own grief to himself, they join us all in our grief and healing. It is a bonding moment for the country. It is a moment that we all are feeling the same damn emotion, and it is embodied by our president, and it makes us one as a country.
I feel my bitter grief understood and accepted by our president. His grief is my grief is our grief. And, at such solemn moments, it is the duty of the president to embody the nations grief in order to lead us through.
President Obama’s eulogy of Clementa Pinckney
There were several places where the intensity of the words and our emotions draws our tears forth. But, when he sings Amazing Grace at the end, how could that not melt even the most hate-filled racist hearts? How could it not draw even the most intransigent partisan cynic into the spirit of compromise? How could it not imbue the good people on both sides of the gun issue with the spirit of accomplishment?
He not only eulogized Rev. Pinckney by reviewing his life and his personal qualities, he built a context for the murder in the Black Church, the Black community. He built upon the living Christian spirit in the families of the slain, in congregation of Mother Emanuel Church, in the citizens of the City of Charleston. He demanded that we, too, live that Christian spirit of forgiveness and love. And then, he elevated it all by extending his eulogy to grace, amazing grace. Noting that God had used this tragedy to visit grace upon us. God has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. God has given us the chance to be found when we’ve lost our best selves.
In the end, he brings us back down to the corporeal, and applies grace to our national issues: guns and race. That grace requires an open heart and an open mind when we address these issues and each other. And, yet the other side, still resisted any compromise, any movement on any of the issues.
And when he says:
The alleged killer could not have anticipated how the families of fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief with words of forgiveness.
He includes us. All of us, who react with anger and hate.
The alleged killer could not have imagined how the City of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the State of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil act but with big-hearted generosity and more importantly with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life. Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Rev. Pickney so well understood, the power of God’s grace.
He means all of us. We have all missed the power of God’s grace whether we are religious or irreligious. Whether we squirm at the mention of God or embrace the notion of God, he means us. He means turning to respect for human beings and reaching to the other side and seeking commonality and assuming good will. He means all of us who have forgotten how to compromise in order to build a more perfect union.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief.
He means all of us share in the humanity of our citizens. Our patriotism is never more crystal clear than when we mourn as a nation for our fallen citizens.
I Guess He Knew What He Signed Up For
And now we have a new “person” squatting in the Oval Office taking over the role of consoler of the nation at times of tragedy and for our military families when injury and death are visited upon them.
Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.
— Rep. Fredrica Wilson CNN affiliate WPLG
But, maybe the worst thing that happened, though, was that Myeshia Johnson believed that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber hadn’t known her husband’s name. He didn’t use Sgt. La David Johnson’s name. She remarked to her friend, Rep. Fredrica Wilson, that he hadn’t remembered his name. It hurt her deeply. How can you feel understood if the person you’re talking to doesn’t even know the deceased’s name?
Now, though, he has dug in his heels and engaged in petty bickering over the clearly established details of the conversation. My god, there is a woman six months pregnant with child and mother of two very young children grieving her dead husband, but I guess she knew what she was signing up for when she took the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s call.
United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid
How are we not all so utterly disgusted by this episode of narcissistic personality abuse and gaslighting that he remains in a position to continue shitting upon us? How have we let the office of our presidency fall so far below what it should be? How have we allowed our democracy to grow so rotten or decrepit?
And then, I realize that there is a poll reporting 46% of Americans believe the media makes stories up about the Ol’ Pussy Grabber! Makes this shit up! Who in their right mind would make up these unbelievable inanities and think they could peddle them as true? Who believes that these unspeakably crass and indolent stories could be made up?
And, we not only elected the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, but we’ve elected the Repubes to majorities in Congress again and again and again. We’ve elected the Repubes to be majorities in state houses and governorships where they wreck state economies, defile our franchise, and force their constituents to live in Cancer Alleys created by industries that do little to benefit the state.
So, maybe we deserve the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and the Repubes. Maybe we deserve the cancers, the medical bankruptcies, the prisons filled with non-violent offenders, innocent people on death row, 30,000+ gun deaths a year, institutionalized racism, institutionalized sexual assault and harassment, increasing inequality. Maybe we deserve them if this is all the better we care for our democracy.