Lincoln, Southern style

In our opinion
02-12-2009

It’s understandable that the state of Alabama would have an uneasy relationship with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, who was born 200 years ago today.

Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, believed wholeheartedly in the preservation of the Union and the upholding of the U.S. Constitution.

Alabama, as secession fever spread across the South, was no friend to the unlikely American president from Illinois. Once Lincoln was elected in the fall of 1860, Alabama quickly fell ill to the irrepressible secession bug.

The Birthplace of the Confederacy. The inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis as he stood on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. The first Confederate White House. They are only parts — though critical elements — of the state’s deep and passionate Civil War heritage.

Alabama is one of only two former Confederate states that took the advice of the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and created a panel to plan commemorative events. Louisiana is the other.

But guess how many Lincoln events Alabama’s commission has planned for today, his birthday?

Zero.

"I wish I could report more activity," Alabama’s coordinator of Lincoln events, Sandra Schimmelpfennig, told the Associated Press.

It’s sad, if not slightly embarrassing, that a state so intertwined with Civil War history has a Lincoln commission with no planned Lincoln events for the day of his birth. (Louisiana’s commission has scheduled 10 days of Lincoln events.)

More than 150 years after the war’s end, reconstruction still hasn’t taken hold here.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, where the CSA’s capitol moved when it left Montgomery, the keepers of the lost cause — state lawmakers, who voted down the creation of a Lincoln commission — made sure that state wouldn’t take part in this Lincolnfest. A Richmond attorney, the AP reported, told lawmakers that Virginia shouldn’t celebrate a president who "sent armies into Virginia to lay waste to our land."

Some can’t simply let it go.

Of course, Lincoln’s 200th birthday isn’t being totally ignored in Dixie. As the AP has explained, individual museums in several Southern states planned exhibits or lectures, including one on the Gettysburg Address by the Alabama Human-ities Foundation. Lincoln’s memory hasn’t been barred below the former border states.

Nevertheless, it’s more than interesting that so many of the former Confederate states had tepid efforts to commemorate Lincoln’s birth. There’s nothing wrong with holding dear one’s Confederate heritage, but there’s also a need to embrace the legacy of the president whose wisdom and leadership shepherded this nation through the bloody years of the Civil War. Why can’t both exist?

Once again, parts of the South missed an opportunity to teach, to learn, and to make a statement. Actually, the South did make a statement — whether it wanted to or not.

Copyright © 1998-2009 Consolidated Publishing

On The Web:  http://www.annistonstar.com/opinion/2009/as-editorials-0212-editorial-9b11t5110.htm