By Joe White
On April 15, 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln, 54 years old, was assassinated. After surviving assassination threats, starting with his first arrival in Washington D.C. in 1861, then enduring four years of civil war that he described as “… the fearful strain that is on me day and night…,” a civil war that took over 600,000 American lives, and finally ended on April 9, 1865 when General Lee surrendered, Mr. Lincoln died in a nondescript boarding house in an ill-fitting bed having been shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth. Only a very few amongst us can actually imagine the weight that was lifted from this one man’s shoulders with Lee’s surrender one week previous.
Lincoln was a rural farm boy raised in poverty and rural isolation in America’s Bible Belt. His life is a reminder that from humble beginnings, great things, profoundly great, historical things, can emerge. Lincoln, first amongst his team of rivals, saved a nation that at his time had “Four score and seven years ago… brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In this speech, his Gettysburg Address, given just four months after the Battle of Gettysburg where 165,620 Americans clashed leaving 51,112 casualties in three days, President Lincoln articulated eloquently his conception of America and his dedication as Commander-in-Chief of the United States, “That this nation, under God, shall experience a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.” Government of, by and for the people, are WE there yet?
Today, in the United States of America, slavery is illegal but racism, sexism, ageism and doses of good old fashion xenophobia persist. Today, slavery is illegal in all nations, but there are estimated to be tens of millions of humans still enslaved illegally. Today, in the U.S., we remain divided over the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people who seek a new birth of freedom while assuming they too are part of that saved-through-civil war government that is of, by and for the people. Today, in too much of our world, not only are minorities punished and executed for simply being a minority, but a person is not allowed to leave some of these rigid ideologies without threat of execution. Capital punishment for apostasy is still practiced in many countries. All of these countries tend not to be governments of, by or for the people. So much for this obviously minority opinion regarding government of, by and for the people. See for example the U.N. Arab Human Development Report of 2002, with the authors saying recently, and little has changed. Did you ever wonder why Boko Haram calls itself, “boko haram?”
At 2020 AYWW, it is also time for a new birth of freedom. A freedom from the now widely recognized waste and irrationality of modern war. War has become the tool of choice for those stuck deeply in the past, in some cases a past centuries old. Let us at least allow a new birth of freedom from war for just one year, 2020. The sheer exhilaration resulting from the global success of such a collective action of one year without war would unite humanity in a unique historical achievement in the realization that it was of, by and for the people that 2020 was a year without war. The technology, the social media are all there for us, the people, to tip history in 2020. It is OUR choice!
On March 4, 1865 just a month prior to his assassination, Lincoln gave his Second Inaugural Address in which he famously concluded, “With malice toward none, with charity for all … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” With malice toward none, with charity for all, WE can make 2020 a year without war. Please JOIN, LIKE, SHARE, PARTICIPATE, DONATE.