Sunday, February 12, 2012

Civil War Sunday -The Lincoln we Never Knew in the North

This year, Lincoln's birthday (February 12, 1809) comes on a Sunday, giving me an opportunity to write about how I was totally fooled during my childhood back in the 1960's and why.

When I was growing up in New York City, schools were closed for two federal holidays or so I thought - Lincoln's Birthday (February 12) and Washington's Birthday (February 22).  Turns out two supposedly simple observances are actually quite complicated, and sitll have a lot of emotion behind them.

For readers not from the United States, a word of explanation. George Washington was our first President, and many consider him 'The Father of our Country."

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of our country, but for all but a few days of his presidency, 11 states had separated and formed their own country, the Confederate States of America.

It took some 4 years and over 620,000. dead to reunite our country-our United States Civil War, which I blog about each Sunday as an amateur with interest in history. (Amazing, perhaps in that I had no family here at the time.)

So, even today, we have a situation where part of our country (the part I grew up in) revere Abraham Lincoln as one of the greatest people our country ever knew, the man who kept our Union together.  For the other part...well, it's complicated.

150 years later, and it is still complicated, proving our country is still fighting a Civil War (mostly mentally) that should have been over shortly after its official 1865 end.

What I found out recently is that there never has been a Federal holiday for Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
Some states do celebrate it, but as state holidays.  One of them was New York State.  At the present time, five states celebrate Lincoln's birthday as a state holiday.

Washington's Birthday (February 22-actually, the closest Monday nowadays)  is known to most as President's Day, but in truth the name has never changed.  It is officially known on Federal records as Washington's birthday.  So no Lincoln there.

On the surface, our nation is reunited, but if you start digging, you will find a lot of emotion underneath that surface.  For all these years, our country has never been able to bring itself to officially honor Lincoln with a Federal holiday.  There have been attempts, such as an attempt in 2001 to hook Lincoln's name onto the official name of Washington's birthday. But it failed.

Which makes something that happened in Virginia recently even more interesting.  Lincoln has family roots in the former Confederate state of Virginia.  This shouldn't surprise anyone-our country's history is not a simple case of black and white (or blue and grey).  But now, some people in Virginia are trying to make Lincoln's birthday a state holiday in Virginia.

As of February 10 (Friday) this  is still pending.

Quoting from this in part.....

"WHEREAS, Abraham Lincoln's roots run deep within the Commonwealth, and his great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents lived in Virginia; his parents met, married, and lived for a time in the Shenandoah Valley; his great-grandparents and multiple relatives are buried in Virginia in the Lincoln Cemetery at the Lincoln Family Homestead in Rockingham County; there are Lincoln descendants living in the Shenandoah Valley today. During the Civil War, Lincoln's family in Virginia were slave owners and Confederates, and he visited several Virginia localities, including Petersburg and Richmond, the Confederate capital, in April 1865, just a few days prior to his death; and
WHEREAS, Abraham Lincoln fervently resolved to preserve the nation, and he desired "not only to save his country, but also to make it worthy of the saving, a place where all would have the right to rise"; and...."

How interesting.  A Lincoln I never knew growing up in the North.  WHY?

So does this mean our healing is finally progressing?  I honestly doubt it and will doubt the healing is complete until I visit the South one day and don't find one Confederate Flag displayed during my trip.  Or until I visit a commemoration and don't overhear spectators from North and South dissing each other, as I did last year when I visited Manassas, VA.

But it is an interesting situation, and I'll be curious to know if Lincoln's birthday does succeed in becoming a state holiday in Virginia.

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