[Lincoln’s first codename was “nuts” – not that there’s anything wrong with that]
I once heard someone ask Isaac Asimov, one of the most published individuals of all time, how could he possibly write all those books? Asimov responded: “It’s simple. I never rewrite anything.”
It would be nice if our culture followed that advice with regards to historical figures.
But no. We must mythologize them. If they are hated, we will be able to hate with impunity and without apology. They are the perfect movie villains. No one complains about the portrayal of Hitler in the Indiana Jones’ movies or Inglourious Basterds or as a subtitled parody of this scene. And we assign these hated individuals to the opposition. Godwin’s Law was invented specifically for this phenomenon and states “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”
The converse is also true. Our heros are lauded and feted beyond human recognition. Hence, we now have Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter:
(Apparently Lincoln wanted to rid the US of vampires… but he wasn’t successful if you look at the current members of Congress. Still, we should be thankful that there can’t possibly be a sequel to this film — unless Ulysses S Grant ends up fighting zombies.) And, just as we claim Hitler to be part of the opposition, we love to take our heroes and make them one of us.
In science, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Andrew Sullivan makes his radical case by time-traveling gadar and proof by intimidation. I mean, how many times does one need to say “obvious” in lieu of citations before you don’t need to cite the citations? (Perhaps part of the problem is that Sullivan’s “scholarship” may be based on a book by Larry Flynt, a man so confused about US history that he is quoted as saying Thomas Jefferson wrote the US Constitution.) Sullivan claims Lincoln slept with men but conveniently omits that Lincoln also had boys in his bed. Then again, homophobes often relate the two anyway and maybe Sullivan didn’t want to be redundant.
Curious, too, that Sullivan states Walt Whitman to be the other greatest gay American. After all, Eleanor Roosevelt had a more profound effect on the nation than Whitman — and there is far more hearsay evidence that Mrs. Roosevelt dabbled in a gay relationship than is available for the case of Lincoln. Mr. Sullivan: don’t lesbians count? Are you a gay chauvinist pig?
Still, these observations don’t explain the need for Sullivan to promote Lincoln as gay. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Andrew Sullivan, a proud Republican, endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Sen John Kerry in 2004 and Democratic presidential candidate Sen Barack Obama in 2008. Sullivan is not a self-hating homosexual; he’s a self-hating liberal. Why is he still in the
closet log cabin?
Is this just a case of GOPness envy?
In truth, Sullivan wants to somehow equate a great President with homosexuality. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s a slippery slope. Because implicit in that discussion is that somehow Lincoln’s greatness was because he was (allegedly) gay.
Which brings us to Mr. Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan.
There is far more documentation that President Buchanan — a life-long bachelor (not that there’s anything wrong with that) — was gay. In fact, while Sullivan discusses cryptically how Lincoln had a “breakdown” when a male companion left (specifics please!), there is plenty of evidence that Buchanan lamented over the loss of a man moving away. Even more significant: Buchanan, like Lincoln, was born in a log cabin — allowing the Log Cabin Republicans to keep the more important aspect of their organization’s name.
So why celebrate Lincoln’s supposed gayness while ignoring Buchanan’s better documented orientation? I think it has something to do with the fact that Buchanan is routinely ranked as one of our worst Presidents. Neither clever enough a politician to stay ahead of events that directly led to the Civil War nor resolute enough to convince the States they were not allowed to leave the Union, his attitude after South Carolina’s secession was the defeatist: “I am the last President of the United States!”
And we can’t have that coupled to homosexuality!
Of course, gay men and women are usually making the argument that being gay has nothing to do with how they work their job. There is really no need to retrocouple Lincoln and homosexuality any more than Lincoln and vampire hunting. After all, what’s really important is that Abraham Lincoln was America’s first black president.
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