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Posted January 1, 2008
Many ways to see an icon
You will see Lincoln from about a dozen different perspectives, a man who still excites people yet is often oversimplified or iconized. This book deepened my understanding of Lincoln's actions and inactions, how he played politics as the art of the possible. The presentation of a Southern viewpoint helped -- a fair presentation by the way since I read that author's own book later. The Land of Lincoln is an enjoyable read, combining good fun about how we Americans operate with well researched food for thought.
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Posted November 10, 2007
Andrew Ferguson's book is not a light-hearted romp through 'Abe's America' as advertised. It is a mean-spirited book with a political agenda. Ferguson eviscerates numerous well-meaning individuals, along with museums and historic sites that present a human Lincoln. This is because he wants us to embrace Lincoln as a saintly 'icon,' a spiritual presence. His book even ends with the story of a ghostly Lincoln appearing to a concentration camp inmate urging him to persevere. Was it really divine intervention? Ferguson gets chills just thinking about it. Full disclosure requires a note that Ferguson's book critiques two articles on New Salem that I co-wrote (although I think he only read one). Nobody likes bad reviews, but his comments didn't bother me (much) until I read his buddy Bill Kristol's commentary in Time magazine (June 18), which makes clear the political agenda informing 'Land of Lincoln.' Kristol plugs the book, then uses it to urge that contemporary Americans emulate Lincoln by persevering in the worldwide struggle for freedom, presumably by supporting George Bush's foreign policies. Not coincidentally, Kristol co-edits with Ferguson the Weekly Standard, a prominent neo-conservative journal. 'Land of Lincoln' is a brief on behalf of neo-conservatism's religion of imperious Americanism, an attempt to endow aggressive nationalism with transcendental validity. It was neo-conservatives like Kristol and Ferguson who most articulately and forcefully resurrected the hoary belief that America has a divine mission to use force in spreading democracy. Sadly, our president swallowed this idea whole and has used it to justify some of the most catastrophic foreign policy decisions in American history. Ferguson has denied in interviews that his political views influenced his book. Now he's finally got me laughing. Hear the Apostle Paul: 'Claiming to be wise, they became fools and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for impages resembling a mortal human being...' (Romans 1:22). Richard S. Taylor Springfield, Illinois
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