Ex-Stribber Eric Black "launched" his two-month-old blog this week with a post on the Lincoln-Douglas debates that also drew from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. The piece, "Lincoln, Douglas, the typographic mind and us," sparked some thoughts I'll get to later.
For now, here's an excerpt from Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln's rhetorical and moral approach to arguing against the expansion of slavery, a main feature in those debates:
Unlike the majority of antislavery orators, who denounced the South and castigated slaveowners as corrput and un-Christian, Lincoln pointedly denied differences between Northerners and Southerners. He argued that "they are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst them they would not introduce it. If it did now exist amongst us, we should not instantly give it up.... When it is said the institution exists; and that it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate [italics mine!] the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself."
More than a decade earlier, he had employed a similar approach when he advised temperance advocates to refrain from denouncing drinkers in "thundering tones of anathema and denunciation," for denunciation would inevitably be met with denunciation, "crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema."
I try to keep this in mind when I feel like screaming at anyone except Dick Cheney.