Witness to history

February 4, 2013

These past two days I have been witnessing history unfold.

On Tuesday I actually went out to a movie. I attended the Mature Matinee screening of Steven Speiberg’s magnificent film, Lincoln.

Carleton Cronin writes on life in the urban wilds of WeHo.

For me, a lover of history, this was a true testament to the value of that president to our country.

Further, it was proof that, with a great script and great direction, good actors will rise to the occasion. Daniel Day-Lewis was Lincoln personified.

In a year of a black president, this film should underscore the relevance of the 13th Amendment to our Constitution.

Beyond that, it should be required viewing for every member of Congress to show them that not much has changed – except for the attendance in the House chamber.

Those bearded legislators of 1865 did not rush home every weekend. They battled it out with each other.

Of course, they played political games, lied, cheated and bribed their way to maintain the Union and eventually become “the greatest deliberative body in the world.”

This is an appellation which has to be earned guiding the ship of state, it would seem to me, and lately our Congress is 180 degrees off-course.

On the more local level, we have no idea of how deliberative our City Council is for, because of the Brown Act, they may not deliberate in private; only during the twenty or so Council meetings for the public, where the city craft appears to be guided by elements we simple folk will never understand.

I found the film an emotional journey. The opening scene depicts quite graphically the depravity of war in all its mano a mano horror.

Spielberg's Lincoln stands as a triumph among films.

To balance that, a later scene depicts the joy of the prevailing politicians and their followers with the passage of the 13th Amendment In the tenor of the time, personal communication was usually direct and the language much more descriptive and colorful than that we commonly used now.

Orators abound during the nineteenth century and rhetoric was actually taught at school. I was particularly struck by the scene at Appomattox Court House, after the signing of the surrender.

General Grant and his adjutant lifted their caps in a gesture of gallantry to the dejected Confederate General Lee as he was about to depart on his beloved horse, Traveler.

Lee returned the salute with a grave face, then rode away. I understand soldiers saluting each other in this fashion, but I wish that there would be no need for such gestures – i.e. no wars.

The precision of the acting, the directing, scenery, costumes – everything drew me well into the story to the point that my notorious bladder did not need service for the entire three hours of the showing.

As I was hobbling out and passing a seated woman, she noted “you’re crying?” I could only reply “and you’re not?”

To have been unmoved by this film was a sure waste of the woman’s money and time. This is a movie that should be included in every American history course in every school where the pupils can sit up straight and watch.

Recently-retired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's official photo.

I know why I seldom venture out to the movies: because one like Lincoln comes by only every decade or so.

Another emotional experience was watching Hillary Clinton speak to both the Senate and the House of Representatives in an attempt to have them understand the circumstances of the killings of four American – including our ambassador – in Libya last September.

It was exhausting to witness, but invaluable as proof that Clinton is our very own Iron Lady.

Grace under fire, she survived seven hours of grilling by some people who only wanted to see her fail.

Her poise and intelligence was a welcome contrast to the bombastic approach of some. That group will keep hounding until they receive the answers they want to hear, and not know the truth, whatever it is.

Of course, she had friends and even some of those who oppose the Administration were gracious enough to at least thank her for her four years of service as Secretary of State. Cheers to Hillary.

We’ll see her again.

As the interview droned on my eyes began to wander and my thoughts followed. Here was a Representative from American Samoa with an open-collared shirt.

Odd that there should be such a person but no Representative from Puerto Rico.

I recall Cspan focusing its camera on the license plate of the president’s limo during the Inaugural parade.

Under the numbers was a slogan: Taxation without representation – that’s the fate of the residents of Washington DC.