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Conflicted Choices

I found Michael Gerson's column in today's Washington Post about the movie "Lincoln" well-written and thoughtful. I haven't seen the movie, but his reflection makes me want to go. He ends:

The union would be well served today by herding all 535 of its legislators into a darkened theater for a screening of Lincoln. The issues they face from public debt to immigration are less momentous than slavery but momentous enough for discomfort. They might take away a greater appreciation for flexibility and compromise. They should also note that the dramatic culmination of the movie is a roll call a list of forgotten legislators whose hesitant, conflicted choices were as important as the outcome of battle. Their shared profession may lack in dignity but not in consequence.

Have you seen it, and what is your take away?

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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I saw it. It really should have been titled "The Thirteenth Amendment."

Worth seeing as "The Thirteenth Amendment?"

Instead of shopping on Thanksgiving Friday, we went to a local theater and found a sizable audience for the 1 p.m. "Lincoln." Unfortunately, the viewers dispersed afterwards instead of having a big discussion of the many valid issues raised. For me, a major topic is the continued segregation of many schools, neighborhoods, parishes, and lives. For most viewers, however, the thoughtful essay by David Brooks on 11.23.2012, "Why we love politics," is on target.Link: read the comments that follow that essay.

Spielberg and Kushner must have had our present dysfunctional Congress in mind when they made this movie which is -- to a great extent -- an argument for the art of compromise in order to serve the greater good. What is extraordinary for us moderns also is the way in which during the debate on the 13th amendment, members addressed a packed House -- a startling contrast to the speechifying to empty seats visible, say, in the Congressional clips shown on programs like the Lehrer news hour.I'm always suspicious of movies claiming to teach us history, but though I don't know my US history well enough to tell how accurately the film follows the historical record, I think it's pretty good. And while I was surprised to see Thaddaeus Stevens, the Radical Republican leader, climb into bed with his African-American (actually a quadroon, it seems) housekeeper, Wikipedia tells me that Washington knew about their 23 year long relationship, took it in stride, addressed her as Mrs. Stevens. She was (thus speaks Wikipedia) a woman of high character, and a Catholic (Wikipedia also says that two African-American nuns were present at the deathbed as Mr. Stevens breathed his last).

I thought it was wonderful. We took both our children (14 and 12) to see it and it sparked some good discussions. Daniel Day Lewis fully inhabited the role as is his wont, but he was supported by a number of other excellent performances. The movie raises good questions about the uses and abuses of political power and the hard choices that presidents have to deal with. I highly recommend it.

E. J. Dionne's column about the movie is also interesting.

Bob, I thought it was okay. I think that it would have been better had it been framed more exclusively as a political procedural about the Thirteenth Amendment (which was the heart of the movie). That would have allowed it to be more of an ensemble drama. By titling it Lincoln, and by attempting to do Lincoln as a man more broadly--as a family man, the focus was shifted: we had his sons, and his wife: but they were bits and pieces of another story. SPOILER ALERTI also would have ended it with the passage of the amendment; tacking the assassination on the end didn't add to what we know (most everyone knows about that) and wasn't sufficiently treated to be good drama.

I agree with Cathleen about the ending... made it either want more about it or just jarred...though I am glad they didn't show the scene. Just finished listening on disc to Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln"-- the most I've ever put up with his voice. While it has been properly critiqued by many, I'll admit to being engged.I yet really enjoyed the movie as did my teens, but I think it didn't show enough of Lincoln's own evolution about the slavery issue as Team of Rivals had iluminagted well, though he had settled it more or less in his own mind by that time, I realize. Its illustration of Lincoln's cunning with the strategy with the Southern emissaries shows the "art of the possible".. righting wrongs with crooked lines?

I haven't seen the film yet, but I just want to note that Michael Gerson is the very best of the syndicated columnists carried in our local newspapers. Always worth a read.

Jim,I think the op-ed writers of the "Washington Post" are an excellent group for variety and insight.

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