samedi 24 juillet 2010

Lincoln's Great Depression

[The Atlantic] Lincoln's Great Depression:

 Un article passionnant: Abraham Lincoln souffrait de dépression, ce n'est pas une information nouvelle pour ceux qui s'intéressent un peu à ce grand personnage. Il était sujet à des crises et a des pulsions suicidaires qui, de nos jours, le caractériseraient comme souffrant de dépression nerveuse. Comment alors Lincoln a pu accomplir ce qu'il a accompli c'est à dire réaliser le rêve des pères fondateurs. Cet article explique que c'est justement sa maladie et la domination de celle-ci qui lui donnèrent les outils pour sauver sa nation.

Opposing the extension of slavery on moral grounds but conceding its existence as a practical necessity, Lincoln found himself in an unenviable spot. To supporters of slavery he was a dangerous radical, to abolitionists an equivocating hack. His political party, the Whigs, was dying off, and a new organization—which eventually took shape as the Republicans—had to be built from scratch out of divergent groups. But Lincoln stayed his course with an argument that reached the primary force of narrative. The United States, he said, had been founded with a great idea and a grave imperfection. The idea was liberty as the natural right of all people. The flaw—the "cancer" in the nation's body—was the gross violation of liberty by human slavery. The Founders had recognized the evil, Lincoln said, and sought to restrict it, with the aim of its gradual abolition. The spirit of the Declaration of Independence, with its linchpin statement that "all men are created equal," was meant to be realized, to the greatest extent possible, by each succeeding generation. "They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society," Lincoln said, "which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for … even though never perfectly attained. "This political vision drew power from personal experience. For Lincoln had long applied the same principle to his own life: that is, continuing struggle to realize an ideal, knowing that it could never be perfectly attained. Individuals, he had learned from his own "severe experience," could succeed in "the great struggle of life" only by enduring failures and plodding on with a vision of improvement. This attitude sustained Lincoln through his ignominious defeats in the 1850s (he twice lost bids for the U.S. Senate), and it braced him for the trials that lay ahead. Prepared for defeat, and even for humiliation, he insisted on seeing the truth of both his personal circumstances and the national condition. And where the optimists of his time would fail, he would succeed, envisioning and articulating a durable idea of free society.

Whatever greatness Lincoln achieved cannot be explained as a triumph over personal suffering. Rather, it must be accounted an outgrowth of the same system that produced that suffering. This is a story not of transformation but of integration. Lincoln didn't do great work because he solved the problem of his melancholy; the problem of his melancholy was all the more fuel for the fire of his great work.

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