ADVICE FROM ABRAHAM LINCOLN
By John B. Isom
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. Our present is piled high with difficulties. We must think anew and act anew- then we will save our country." That quotation is from a short speech Lincoln made near the end of the American war between the states. That war was an effort to solve our nations' greatest problem the old fashion way - by fighting and killing one another.
Lincoln knew enough history to know that just winning the war would not abolish slavery. He said as much in his short speech at the time when he said, "We must think anew and act anew - then we will save our country." Lincoln did not spell out the dimensions of his new thinking and acting. For master and slave those dimensions would be determined when congress passed, and the President signed, a law making slavery unlawful anywhere in the United States.
Try to get the picture. One morning the master gets up and prepares to play the role of master over a number of slaves. On that same morning a slave gets up and prepares to play the role of a slave, hopefully well enough to avoid being sold down the river or killed by his master for saying "no sir" when he should have said "yes sir". The next morning master and slave learn of the new law declaring slavery no longer legal in the United States. Hence forth all now former slaves and masters must learn to think of one another as being equally entitled to all the rights and liberties as any other citizen of the United States. To think and act anew would require new ways of thinking and acting not less than one hundred and eighty degrees contrary to the way masters and slaves had been thinking and acting all their lives.
During the years since 1865, by our economic and political activities, we have created for ourselves a human world society. Now we, the living, must learn to think and act in new ways that are 180 degrees different from those that have dominated our economic and political activities since 1865 and even before.
By 1944 the United States had created two atomic bombs. During the summer of that year they were dropped in Japan, destroying two cities, killing or seriously wounding the people who lived there. The killing and destructive power of those bombs persuaded Japan to surrender, thus ending the Second World War.
In the past there have been world leaders who wondered out loud if none military means could create and maintain peace among the people of the world. Today we are armed with weapons of war with wholesale killing and destructive power, more deadly than history can reveal. Some of the most deadly are within easy reach of unknown many scattered all over the world. Unable to hide from such weapons, from where I stand I can see no future human society in which people would want to live, if they could live there at all.