Monday, February 16, 2009

The Unifinished Work

On President's Day, 200 years after his birth, it is worth thinking about Lincoln's second inaugural address, which ends, of course,

"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."
The phrase "let us strive on to finish the work" is very similar to the words
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,
" from his Gettysburg Address delivered three months later.

"With malice towards bind up the nation's wounds," these do seem to be the notions guiding Obama's bipartisan approach. Are they more than nice words? Are the wounds we have now scars from those of Lincoln's time? Is the unfinished work we have now the same as that Lincoln envisioned? Do the political realities allow for the wounds to be bound?