A film of interest for the coming year …

Coming a few years later than anticipated is Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln.  The first trailer was released this week, and it is slated for a full on Oscar blitz release on November 16, 2012.

Spielberg originally purchased the rights to Doris Kearns Gooodwin’s book back in 2001 (4 years prior to publication), and it was originally to be targeted for a release to coincide with the Lincoln 150th birthday commemoration in 2011 (the bad economy severely curtailed much of the planned activities in Illinois).  It has an all-star cast (Daniel Day Lewis is the living embodiment of the image of Lincoln) … Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, and James Spader among others), and the usual 5 -star Spielberg production team.

If the film is going to be true to the spirit of the book, then I am disappointed that it isn’t going to be released earlier, as in weeks before election day.

I have read some excerpts of Goodwin’s book that this is based on (Team of Rivals …), and I think this book (and I hope that this film) speaks volumes to the politics of 2012.

The main thrust of Goodwin’s book is not so much a tale of the hero Lincoln defeating the Secessionists, but Lincoln creating what might have been the most divisive cabinet in history at the most divisive time in American history, and how he took that divisiveness and won over his rivals … not by ostracizing them from the political process, but by putting them in the middle of it.  Here is Lincoln in the midst of trying to guide the country through insurrection (mostly behind borderline competent or fully incompetent military commanders, such that he has to take considerable charge of day-to-day moves of the military), and the three most powerful members of his cabinet (Secretary of State Seward, Attorney General Bates, and Secretary of the Treasure Chase) are all men who lost to Lincoln in the 1860 election, an election so divisive as to make our current problems seem trivial by comparison.  Within Congress you have the far right Republicans calling for the complete destruction of the South, while the far left calls for an immediate abolition of slavery, all while the anti-war pacifists demand Lincoln take advantage of opportunities to sign a cease fire and let the South go on its way, or bring them back into the nation with slavery intact.  All the while, Lincoln is trying to navigate the nation with a sense of pragmatism between these contradictory forces.

If this sounds familiar, that is because you have been awake for the past 12 years.  The problem is:  where is our Lincoln?  The extremists on both sides are easy to pick out … but where is the leader willing to either engage both sides (which may in fact not be a possibility), or the leader that reaches out to the moderates on both sides and brings them to the forefront to force the extremists back to the fringe.  It says something about the leader we need now, and the leadership we are severely lacking everywhere.

Something made even more amazing given how Lincoln is one of the few people universally lionized on either side of the aisle, even though his real-life actions would have made him a target of both parties today.


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