A Trio of Brothers: Joseph, Mandela, and Lincoln

By: Saturday December 7, 2013 9:02 am

Back in 1987, I came to know Tshenuwani Simon Farisani, a South African Lutheran pastor who had been imprisoned and tortured by the apartheid regime in South Africa. Today, his words about what black leaders might say to whites in a post-apartheid South Africa might look like have come back to me. “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into slavery.” Nelson Mandela, like Abraham Lincoln, was firm both in his fight for justice and in his rejection of revenge.

Rest in peace, my brother. Rest in peace.

 

To Care for Him Who Shall Have Borne the Battle…

By: Saturday November 9, 2013 10:18 am

The world is filled with monuments that celebrate the generals who led the armies the men and women who fought in them. Some are local, devoted to the local folks who fought or the battle that took place right here, and others are national in scope, devoted to the entire effort of that particular war. There is one monument, however, that speaks most powerfully to the time after the battles are over, when the guns are silent and those who fought go home. On this Veterans Day weekend, it has a message we need to hear over the pageantry of a basketball game on an aircraft carrier and the noise of the flyovers at football games.

Fifty Years After King’s Dream Speech, Nullification Keeps on Marching

By: Saturday August 24, 2013 9:00 am

Each time I read or hear Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a different piece leaps out at me. Today, as we come to the fiftieth anniversary of that speech, it’s this:

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

The language of nullification — the thought that state laws can trump federal laws — is still a part of our national lexicon, despite the fact that the Nullifiers lost the Civil War. Indeed, here in Missouri, it’s become a very large part of the state political conversation.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften, Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason

By: Sunday February 17, 2013 1:59 pm

Approximately 16,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln, arguably our most revered President. Is there possibly anything new to say about him? Surprisingly, the answer is: yes! In this highly original book, David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften offer a fresh perspective on Lincoln’s oratory, as a lawyer and as a politician. The conventional wisdom is that Lincoln used colorful phrases, flowery oratory, and funny stories to persuade and charm his listeners. Hirsch and Van Haften offer a radically different perspective: that the key to Lincoln’s success was intellectual fidelity to the principles of Euclid, the Greek mathematician and logician.

Does Anyone in DC Remember *All* of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural?

By: Saturday January 19, 2013 9:05 am

On the eve of President Obama’s second inaugural address, I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s, delivered on the eve of both the end of the Civil War and his own assassination. Lincoln packed more into four paragraphs than others can deliver in forty pages, and every president since him dreams of trying to get even close to his eloquence. The last paragraph of that speech gets enormous attention — as it should — but if one doesn’t see what Lincoln does in the first three, that last immortal paragraph is robbed of its full power, and the powerful vision of the future he paints remains just that: a vision of the future.

Morals as a Tool for Ideologues

By: Sunday December 23, 2012 11:00 am

The problem is that the demands of conservatives are out of control. They utterly reject the power of the mind to reason to a plausible understanding of moral values and their application to complex circumstances. Conservatives only use reason to extend by remorseless logic the demands of their primal moral feelings. They do not see that their views, when pushed to their logical limits, are incoherent.

The Newtown murders are a perfect demonstration of that incoherence.

The Danger of Analogizing About Politics and Compromise from “Lincoln”

By: Monday November 26, 2012 1:23 pm

And now, here’s my entry in the “Why the movie Lincoln is not a plausible model for political debates of the recent past and future.”

The President Has Options to Raise the Debt Limit

By: Monday July 25, 2011 9:00 am

Just a gentle reminder that the President doesn’t actually have to wait around for the political mess on Capitol Hill to sort itself out before he ensures an increase in the debt limit. The first thing he could do is demand a clean bill. The politics of the debt limit are such at this point that asking for a clean bill isn’t as fanciful as it was before.

Please Don’t Call It Justice

By: Monday May 2, 2011 9:45 am

“Justice has been done,” proclaimed President Obama last night.

I beg to differ.

Justice is not simply someone getting what they deserve. “He did X, and deserved his punishment” may be a verdict and a sentence, but these two things alone are hardly justice.

Bin Laden did not face justice last night; he faced death.

There is a difference.

Despite Union Busting and Budget Cuts, Still the Teachers Teach

By: Saturday February 26, 2011 9:00 am

In one of the local Kansas City area school districts, a proposed levy increase that would have put an end to three years of major budget cuts failed, and so the cuts continue even as enrollment rises. In Wisconsin and elsewhere, cuts are driven not so much by the economy but by union-busting politicians. Elsewhere in the US, teacher layoffs are being announced. ‘Tis the season . . .

And yet, despite all this, the teachers still teach.

I am so grateful for those who taught me, and even today I am still realizing just how much of a gift they gave me.

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