Many will recognize these words from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered on March 4, 1865. Lincoln was speaking to a nation that was more divided than it had ever been – before or since. The Union Army had just defeated the Confederacy, thus bringing to an end the bloodiest conflict in U. S. history.
The final paragraph of his speech has rung down through the ages as an example of American humanity and generosity.
“With malice towards 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.”
Lincoln did not live to see his words fulfilled. He was assassinated barely six weeks later on April 14th. But his words served as a legacy to a nation trying to rebuild, and helped to stave off the harsher punishments that many wanted inflicted on the South.
Donald Trump has praised Lincoln’s intelligence, but obviously knows nothing about his humanity. During Trump’s speech at the hallowed ground of Gettysburg, site of Lincoln’s most famous address, Trump could not help but devolve into attacking some of the women who had brought sexual assault lawsuits against him.
And have we, as a nation, devolved from one that proudly held up the words of Lincoln as an example and a light of America’s values to the world to the following story released yesterday first by the British news service Reuters? The Trump Administration is considering separating mothers and children who cross the border together.
No matter what your feelings might be on the subject of illegal immigration, have we sunk so low as a people, many of whom espouse Christian values, that we are willing to see children forcibly separated from their mothers? Are WE now the country that forces mothers to make a Sophie’s Choice regarding their babies?
While the Department of Homeland Security claims that this proposal is intended to “deter” mothers and children from trying to enter the country illegally, the fact remains that those children who have already faced difficult and dangerous conditions to reach U.S. soil, will be further traumatized by being forcibly separated from their parents.
Texas congressman Joaquin Castro expressed the views of many in his tweet on this story yesterday.
Yes, it is unconscionable. It also makes a mockery of Abraham Lincoln’s words. His call for compassion towards the soldiers who had recently been at war against him should apply even more forcefully for innocent women and children whose only crime is to seek safety in a foreign country.
We used to be a nation without malice. We used to be a nation with charity for all. That was what made America great. Without those values, without that compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves, America will NEVER be great again.