22 April 2011

A Refreshing Grasp of Historical Nuance From An Unbeliever

This was both interesting and refreshing. This is a short news clip from NPR covering Robert Redford's new movie 'The Conspirator' which deals with the Lincoln assassination conspiracy and the trial and execution of Mary Surratt, a story few people know about.

While Redford could hardly be called a Southern sympathizer he and many others have picked up on the fact that the sainted Abraham Lincoln has been mythologized and the narrative we were all given in school doesn't quite tell the story. In other words the Civil War was far more complicated than the propagandists from either side are willing to discuss or portray.

In this interview he talks about the pertinent issues, ones very alive today, regarding the nature of the courts, trials, and whether or not the Constitution can be set aside in times of national duress. Lincoln did and almost with abandon. Some view him as a hero for doing so....the end justifies the means. Others view him as a tyrant and criminal, though not necessarily getting teary eyed about the South.

Surratt probably was guilty, but she did not receive a just trial. Redford apparently leaves the whole question open...many historical questions have to be. That's not modern relativism at work, that's sobriety and wisdom...and dare I say it? By not teasing out an elaborate interpretation and/or attaching a moral dimension to it, it leaves the possibility for some objectivity. The viewer or reader is left to work these things out for themselves.

I realize such a view is not popular among Dominionist historians. You can't construct a new Sacralism, a new Christendom without a defined moral narrative. They justify this non-history by proclaiming the impossibility of objectivity. Nothing is perfect in a fallen world, but I think it's pretty pathetic that Robert Redford has probably a better grasp of history and historiographical questions than most Christian historians, not to mention he's probably more objective and truthful.

These issues regarding the Constitution were raised again after 11 September and many neo-cons appealed to Lincoln's example in order to defend an administration that was tossing out significant portions of the Bill of Rights in the name of national security.

What appealed to me was the fact that once again here's a lost guy, that obviously cares about his country, and wants to know the story. He sees the overlapping considerations, the conflicting views in the American story. He recognizes that it's not a monolith that fits either the liberal or conservative narrative.

What a contrast with the recent homeschool catalog we received in the mail. Their history texts are not honest investigations, reflective considerations, they are one-track propaganda pieces. Basically read this text and learn about God's plan for America and its Christian heritage. There's nothing to learn, nothing to think through...only data to assimilate and regurgitate. I don't even need to read them. I already know what they're going to say.

The only question is....are they pro-Union Peter Marshall/Light and the Glory types or are they pro-Confederate Theonomic Reconstruction types. Once I establish that, you can pretty much bank on how they're going to report and interpret the facts.

It's a movie I would probably like to see. While many of the movies today and almost all television programmes are pretty worthless, there are some exceptions. Some of the worst movies ever are being made today....but some of the best movies are also being made today. Realism, tough questions, these things are being dealt with today better than they were in the charming but often naive movies of the past. I hope this is one of them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lefty junk