Lincoln and Obama: American Romanticism

By Jack Kelly


As the long awaited movie ‘Lincoln’ virals’ its way across the U.S. in the virtual flesh, we Americans are being eagerly invited to participate in the oldest of our traditions: American Romanticism.

Such repeated rituals reverberate in every part of our collectives souls.  Sports, politics, and even historic crimes cannot escape the lexicon known as American Romanticism.  Dead rock stars are transfixed in our generational essense.  We debate historical records in sports because it connects to our fundamental past.  We celebrate Washington and Columbus without complete context of their faults.  The founding fathers are looked upon as diety’s; godlike figures described glowlingly with zero utterance of the very warts splashed upon their figuatory skin.

We dismiss their faults not as an ode to ignorance, but because of the theivery it would cause with our aggregate euphoria.  To speak ill of them, is essentially admitting this whole American experiment was built on quick sand.  Truth be told, their warts like ours, make us and them larger than life.

America essentially works and exists, because we believe that it does.  It is a physicall figment of our hopeful imagination.  It is as much a part of our soul as it is a place on a map.  Forever trying to perfect the founding mission while fixing the unfortunaly tragic imperfections along the way.  It is sometimes complicated and horrific, but something inside us demands we continue on for the destined perfection.

American romanticism officially reflects a time period in the 18th century and narrows the actual phrasing around literature and a cultural concept of early, progressive optimism which separated itself from the Puritans in an independently revolutionized America.

But, I am not speaking of such American Romanticism, although I find it useful and for all my fellow inquisitives’, follow the link to inspire your curious soul.

The romanticism I speak of is more human and emotional in its origin.  It is a widely held practice in singular terms amongst ourselves.  One could argue it is the rope that binds us to one another.  An official summarization of romance says “Romance is the expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attraction towards another person associated with love. In the context of romantic love relationships, romance usually implies an expression of one’s strong romantic love, or one’s deep and strong emotional desires to connect with another person intimately.”

This defined romance can and is applied to the history of our country, in all aspects.  As an emotional species, we desire connectiveness.  While inherently violent and territorial, our tribal instincts instruct us to find commonality with one other.  Our violence only emerges upon threat or loss of the vital aspects we need to survive.  Perdition of ‘romantic’ or sexual interest, or access to food and shelter, will inspire violent urges in us.

But the beautiful and aww inspiring quality many of us have is the ability to feel love and inspiration.  That love, or romance helps us not only stay united, but infuses us with a need for it.  It is the evolutionary progress our species continues to transfer to the next generation.

This romantic gene if you will, demands we feel hope and happiness when acts of kindness are witnessed.  Just as our genes can usher us to act violently upon threat, these same genes help us drive towards one another by initiating shots of endorphins pulsating through our bodies.

The movie Lincoln certainly acts as the syringe of that necessary component of romanticism we all desire and collectively need.  Our image of Lincoln rightfully evokes positive feelings.  It makes us proud of who we are as a country.  This is our President who freed the slaves and won the civil war.  He united us not only as a country, but further progressed our species into a place we need to reach; continued connectivesness.

As some of you shall see when watching the Spielberg flick, President Lincoln had to romantically arouse and fight for the 13th amendment.  He not only had to fully recognize the power of the presidency and what that power could accomplish, but he had to use American romanticism on people to get it passed.  Whether it was a racist old democrat he tried to convince to switch his vote in honor of his dead brother or some in his cabinet of the virtue of the 13th; Lincoln understood emotional appeal was necessary.

The reelection of President Obama is a fulfillment of that romanticism.  Outside of all of the issues and the nuanced varieties that presented themselves during the campaign, an Obama victory was almost guaranteed.  Although Republicans who read this may seethe with anger at such a thought, an Obama victory was apparent for a long period before election day.

President Obama represented something much more to our combined spirit as a country.  He was the first African American president and provided clear, significant progress from the time of slavery and the civil rights era. The emotional attachment we have as a country to his presidency is embedded into the fabric of our assembled soul.  For him to have lost, he would have had to have done something horrendously awful.

He was our country’s triumphant pride and joy.  An achievement of democracy and luminous progress for the rest of the world to follow.  His election will historically evoke good feelings.  100 years from now, it will be studied like Lincoln’s actions.  Sure, what Lincoln achieved in actual policy will most likely, not be replicated by any future president, and certainly not Obama.

But as far as a reflective moment?  The Obama election certainly provided the necessary euphoric lift we collectively needed.  So we protected it and him form a loss that would have been devastatingly difficult for history to explain.

So as we flock to the theaters to see Lincoln and participate in good old American romanticism, remember, the reelection of President Obama had a touch of this as well.

And regardless of how much you may have liked or disliked the result, our hearts and genes are filled with love and a yearning for an understanding of one another, All of this and much more, ensured it would happen.

Lincoln and Obama connect us all via American Romantacism




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