Mehdi Hasan: Today We Remember Lincoln as a Great Redeemer - And That Should Give Obama Hope
Mehdi Hasan is political director of The Huffington Post UK and a contributing writer to the New Statesman.
Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is a spectacular movie - "less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson... alive with moral energy", in the words of the New York Times review. Sitting in a preview screening in Soho Square, I cried. I couldn't help it: the story of how Lincoln pushed the Thirteenth Amendment through a divided House of Representatives in the space of just four months, thereby abolishing the institution of slavery for ever, only to be assassinated, was too moving and melodramatic for even this cynical writer to bear.
The film presents Lincoln as an eloquent and noble commander-in-chief, an intensely moral man and a champion of black America. In this sense, there is nothing new in Spielberg's depiction of 'Honest Abe.' Lincoln has long been considered the greatest ever leader of the United States; he is the Great Emancipator, Preserver of the Union, Redeemer President.
Spielberg joins a long line of Lincoln sanctifiers such as Leo Tolstoy, who breathlessly declared that "the greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln." His film is based in part on the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography (or hagiography?) Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
But is the Hollywood take on Lincoln - emancipator of the slaves, assuager of America's racist past - the whole story?..
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