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No Major Needed

January 19, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Is there room for a major figure in democracy? Formulated on a bedrock of group-think and consensus, how might a lone figure distort the democratic process? We often view our leaders through a nostalgic prism of history- figures become larger than life and their ideas the stuff of legend. Films debut to buttress these claims and quickly the “common knowledge” becomes less fact and more fantasy.

With the recent release of a film on Lincoln we see this process of rewriting taking place. Some historians have highlighted these issues (see Bruce Levine) but no matter the number of statements refuting false history we still cherish created facts. Levine and others write to suggest that Lincoln’s greatness was the creation of the general public- a created narrative framed from the stories used to create our hero leader. While seemingly harmless, this false history hides a more insidious denial of honor as those who fought and died to achieve the accomplishments now linked solely to Lincoln. We simplify at the expense of the souls lost and blood spilled towards a goal.

In the end we have little to offer our knowledge of history given our common desire for great stories. We love our heroes and those who walk among us are even more attractive. The great man among us is both inspiration and trophy. Lincoln may not have been as great as we think we think we know- do we care? In the end we couldn’t care less because we build our heroes high and much prefer the man whose greatness defies collected fact. Let science damned if a story can be told.

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