With Malice Toward None

A quote from Lincoln contained within an Esquire piece titled The United States of Cruelty:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

That is a necessary reminder in this day and age, because the author of the Esquire piece is on to something with this paragraph:

We cheer for cruelty and say that we are asking for personal responsibility among those people who are not us, because the people who are not us do not deserve the same benefits of the political commonwealth that we have. In our politics, we have become masters of camouflage. We practice fiscal cruelty and call it an economy. We practice legal cruelty and call it justice. We practice environmental cruelty and call it opportunity. We practice vicarious cruelty and call it entertainment. We practice rhetorical cruelty and call it debate. We set the best instincts of ourselves in conflict with each other until they tear each other to ribbons, and until they are no longer our best instincts but something dark and bitter and corroborate with itself. And then it fights all the institutions that our best instincts once supported, all the elements of the political commonwealth that we once thought permanent, all the arguments that we once thought settled — until there is a terrible kind of moral self-destruction that touches those institutions and leaves them soft and fragile and, eventually, evanescent. We do all these things, cruelty running through them like hot blood, and we call it our politics.

Here’s the thing; our political debates lean towards us vs. them. We agonize over paying taxes that we perceive to be too high because we think that others are riding our coattails. Are some folks slackers? Sure, but many others are victim of circumstance just like those who are beneficiaries of circumstance. In the end what we need to remind ourselves is that a “common good” does exist, that in the end it is better for ALL of us if people have access to good healthcare, clean water, healthy food and a place to lay their heads. We can debate the details about how its done, but we shouldn’t be debating about whether it’s done. That, to me, is the definition of a divided and sick society.

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