Sunday, April 19, 2009

History or Invasion of Privacy?

I really should be doing homework. I'll say that now. I have two papers due today (neither of which I've written) and another due in a few days. But, I'm a procrastinator and this is bothering me. I'll (try to) be brief though.

The title links to an article I saw on MSNBC this morning about whether President Lincoln's supposed brain matter (or blood) on a pillowcase in a museum should go through a DNA test to determine if he had a specific type of cancer that possibly would have killed him within a year of his assassination.

I understand testing the remains of unidentified bone fragments to determine if they really belonged to the Romanov's. It is one thing to test human remains to determine someones identity or to determine how they died. As the article points out, the remains of two former Presidents have undergone testing in the last two decades. Thomas Jefferson and Zachery Taylor (I actually remember reading about Taylor's when I was a child). Jefferson's remains were examined about a decade ago. However, solving those historic mysteries is completely different to me than the reasons put forth by the researcher in Lincoln's case.

Let the man rest in peace! He was our first assassinated President. We know how he died. We also know how he lived. The researcher's argument that he wants to know how Lincoln lived is misguided in my opinion. While knowing what genetic disorder permitted Lincoln's unique physical appearance would be fascinating, it is not worth disturbing his place of internment or destroying (albeit grotesque) historic materials. Robert Lincoln (the last surviving son) made it perfectly clear that he wanted the public to back off and allow his father to rest in peace. He took step after step to try and ensure that would happen.

Publishing private letters between individuals is not at all on the same level as testing brain matter for DNA. And to the researcher: Lincoln's choices regarding the leniency and mercy that he showed others were exemplified throughout the man's entire life! Look at his court cases when he served on the Illinois circuit court. Examine the cases he took later as a well-to-do lawyer in Springfield. His behavior then mirrored his behavior and choices as our 16th President. Did he alter his opinions throughout his life? Yes. Don't we all? I know I do.

But Lincoln's desire to show mercy and provide a way for the Confederacy to rejoin the Union was not made in the vacuum the researcher seems to think it was in. That was always his goal: to have one nation, one union. That would only be possible if they were shown mercy at the end of the most horrific war America has ever witnessed on its own soil.

Also, it is well-documented that Presidents age drastically while in office. Lincoln just happens to have been the first President so heavily photographed as he entered office, during office, and at the end of his life. He was a unique man with amazing leadership abilities and served our country during one of its most trying eras. But he was just a man.

The request to test his DNA is not historic research, it is an absolute invasion of privacy and I sincerely hope the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library bars the request. Don't even get me started on the destruction of historic material...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Run to You

I heard this song on the radio the other day and its been stuck in my head ever since. The line, "When lies become the truth, that's when I run to you," caught my attention. It's so true for my life lately.