Had you been a member of Congress in 1865, would you have voted to outlaw slavery?
An easy question today, 147 years later. Looking into our moral mirror, we would like to think that yes, unquestionably yes, we would have fallen on the right side of the slavery crisis.
(Of course, this is also a question for a white audience, as I can’t imagine being black in 19th century America without also being an abolitionist.)
The new Spielberg film “Lincoln” is beautiful, masterful art, mainly because of Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln in his last few months, as he devotes himself to the passage of the slavery-outlawing 13th Amendment.
The most frightening part of the film comes when those who oppose abolition explain so eloquently and expertly their reasons for doing so.
States’ rights. The Southern economy. God, who did not make all races equal.
It is both nauseating and fascinating at the same time, hearing the passionate defense for slavery.
How does one become so blind to the moral landscape as to honestly and genuinely fight for the promotion of a system that enslaves others?
How does one get so lost?
Several months ago, Abraham Lincoln appeared on the big screen as a vampire-fighting president. Based on the fictitious “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’’ (it’s actually a pretty good book), the film of the same name follows the president as he hunts and kills vampires.
Who are actually slave holders.
It’s interesting psychology, linking vampirism to the slave-owning hegemony of the Southern states. Both are half-dead. Vampires, for obvious reasons.
Slave owners and slavery supporters lose parts of their humanity by supporting such violence. One cannot remain fully human while participating in the destruction of others.
Vampires and zombies have become normative in the pop culture landscape of today. (Consider the multiple films and books like “Twilight” and “The Walking Dead” — the popular AMC show that serves as partial inspiration for this Tuesday online-only column.)
Vampires and zombies help us amplify the role of villain in order to let us better see ourselves. Vampire and zombie fiction hold up a mirror: Through the other-ness of zombies, we are better able to evaluate human behavior, to see how humans can and should behave when your fall-guy is a zombie.
So it’s easy, in 2012, to equate bloodsuckers with slave owners.
But as “Lincoln’’ demonstrates so movingly, the 13th Amendment barely passed. Tooth and nail, the opposition fought. And with great sincerity, they all believed they were doing what’s right.
In God’s name. For home and country. For future generations.
Looking back, we see through the lazy, violent folly of such arguments. But let’s stop looking back. And instead look straight at 2012.
Here is the question I’m chewing on:
What is the modern-day equivalent of slavery? What is the moral issue so urgent that your grandchildren will look back and wonder why we wavered and wandered from its resolution?
What is the slavery of today?
Contact David Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...