Better Angels

Published: July 30, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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This will be my last commentary until September, but before I go, some final thoughts.

While Congress and the country seem to be both divided and divisive, there is much that we should reflect on during this long, hot summer. The chaos and slaughter in the Middle East has come about due to a lack of freedom and basic human rights.


Not in this country.

Tyrants and dictators have ruled with murderous control over their people.

Not in this country.

Inspite of a massive terrorist attack that took place on September 11, 2001, we remain strong and unified. We are about to complete a new monument to our resilience aptly named, The Freedom Tower which is literally rising from the ashes of that downtown site in New York that was first attacked.

Much of the Middle East remains in turmoil.

Inspite of fraud, greed and abuse, we have survived the greatest economic decline since The Great Depression, and our markets are slowly returning to something resembling normal.

The scandal at Penn State University reminds us to never take integrity for granted and that the character of any organization is only one shocking secret and cover-up away from destroying a track record of honor.

Alleged Colorado gunman James Holmes showed us how fragile life is; and YES, we really DO need to have a rational, intelligent conversation about gun laws in this country. Avoiding such a discussion is akin to avoiding the need for more lifeboats after the Titanic disaster. Rights should never trump responsibilities.

During his first inaugural, Abraham Lincoln focused his address on those seven Southern states that had already seceded from the Union. While a great Civil War loomed on the horizon, Lincoln’s words struck a balance of responsibility and reconciliation in an effort to bring the South back into the Union.

“…the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”

Lincoln reminds them of their duty as signatories to the constitution, as well as his own duty to preserve and protect that constitution:

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not inmine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’ ”

The newly inducted 16th president then closes with words meant to calm an imminent rebellion; words which remain just as vital today:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

During my time off, I leave you with a question on which I seek your best thoughts:

What are the better angels of our nature, and how can each of us more ably demonstrate their spirit?


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