I know this sounds harsh, but Abe Lincoln had to die Thursday.
He’s a nice fellow to be sure, but the summer Civil War class I was teaching was over Thursday, and Abe was still around. I was reluctant to do it, I assure you- but for the sake of education, the man had to go.
A friend of mine told me not to. That I should take this chance to re-write history.
I considered it.
Maybe the gun jams, I thought, and Lincoln, being a nice guy, forgives Booth. When Lincoln retires from politics they join forces in a traveling show called “Abe and Johnny’s Song and Dance Spectacular.” During the show, all the Civil War generals north and south would get on stage chorus line style.
They could do a kick dance through Dixie and the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
In the grand finale, Jefferson Davis and Abe Lincoln do a choreographed tap dance to Puttin’ on the Ritz. The dance could end with the two of them in the spotlight doing jazz hands and grinning like idiots.
I could just see the dumbfounded look on my students’ faces, open mouthed- slack jawed with an expression that says “What the friggin’ HELL?”
But as fun as it is to mess with their heads I couldn’t.
History is not always pleasant. In teaching the Civil War that summer, I walked my students through an event that killed more than 600,000 people in order to free several million more. It was ugly. It was bloody. It was a four year heap of human tragedy. But it happened.
And when I look across my classroom and a multitude of faces from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds- I know it had to happen. And though we cringe together at the blood and loss, we cringe more at the thought it might not have been fought at all. It is scarier still to imagine America without its great new birth of freedom.
Alas, as of Thursday, Abe is no more.
Maybe it’s just as well. He was 6′4″ and awkward.
He probably couldn’t dance worth a darn.
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