The Receding Figure of Lincoln
By Xian Wen
Translated By Stefanie Zhou
27 November 2012
Edited by Keturah Hetrick
China - Sohu - Original Article (Chinese)
President Barack Obama of the United States purposefully gave the new film “Lincoln” a screening during a movie reception at the White House a few days ago. In the movie theater, located at the Tysons Corner business center, spectators, some of whom are members of the U.S. Congress, joined the long line to watch the film. During the part in which the Democratic and Republican lawmakers have a fierce fight over the 13th Amendment, some of the current congressmen whispered to each other or laughed knowingly.
This movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis, did not give a full description of the rough life of the legendary 16th president of the United States. Rather, it focused on the mentally—and physically—exhausting final four months of Lincoln’s fight, as the tragic Civil War was coming to an end and Congress was endlessly engaged in a fierce battle about abolishing slavery through the Thirteenth Amendment. At that time, President Lincoln was not able to rally multitudes at one call. His strategy was facing many obstacles within the internal government and Congress. President Lincoln can couple hardness with softness; he can make a decision in the most urgent times, as well as prevail over all dissenting views through “storytelling.” President Lincoln either brought in reason or spread out emotion to win over the 20 votes needed from the Democrats in Congress to pass the amendment. At such a critical moment for safeguarding national unity and promoting civilization and progress of human society, President Lincoln exerted all his strength and wisdom, and ultimately, reached success with a cavity of ardor. Of course, the movie did not shy away from the usual dirty tricks and backroom deals of American politics. The flood of tactics, such as lobbying and persuasion during the amendment process, also left a strong impression on the viewers.
The release of “Lincoln” right now has the intension of alluding to the past. Somewhat similar to the period of history 100 years ago, the United States today is also at a critical moment to respond to multiple crises. In dealing with the series of directional issues such as the “fiscal cliff,” the two parties clash intensely while President Obama is faced with the test of his second term. After World War II, U.S. domestic politics formed a pattern that was almost turned into a curse: With the continuous decay of aura coupled with dreadful reality, almost all presidents in their second terms will encounter scandals, dilemmas and mistakes of every hue. Nixon had a complete victory during reelection but was impeached due to the Watergate scandal in less than two years. Reagan had large loss of reputation after the Iran-Contra Affair. Clinton suffered the hubbub around the extramarital affair scandal, while George W. Bush received much criticism in his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now, can Obama avoid this vicious curse?
At the end of the movie “Lincoln,” the figure of President Lincoln walking to the White House appears. The figure is a little stooped and filled with fatigue. The receding figure led to a realistic response. President Obama highly praises Abraham Lincoln, who also served as a representative from Illinois. Even his inaugural ceremony—slowly riding the train from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.—was an imitation of Lincoln’s. However, after nearly four years of practice, President Obama, who once vowed to change D.C., has repeatedly expressed helplessness. Now, after the chaos of the general election, standing at a new starting point, what can Obama, who has always wanted to “do great things,” leave in history and what kind of figure will he display?
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