Went to see “The Conspirator” last night at Red River Theatres … excellent, disturbing movie that pretty much could be taken as a mirror of our times – with fewer electronic gadgets, a happy lack of talking heads, and different outfits.
It tells the story of the one woman, Mary Surratt, who was tried as a conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. And a very familiar-sounding scenario it is, with military tribunals being the venue of choice for the “trials” and revenge trumping civil rights and justice at most every turn. (Oh, and those who advocate for justice are accused of being traitorous.)
It all sounds so blastedly familiar, doesn’t it? And yet I’d have to say that I view the actions of Stanton et al with a different eye than I do the execrable acts of the Cheney administration recently subjected us to. Back in 1865 the country had just barely survived a bloody and protracted Civil War … a controversial President had been killed … and Washington, DC was a city very vulnerably located in the midst of the territory belonging to the “other side” up until days before the assassination.
But in both cases, the fact remains that justice was not served and, unlike the dead President who wish to appeal to the “better angels of our natures” the men in charge took the opportunity to play on people’s fears and prejudices, exacting revenge and feeding into the basest impulses of the populace. The President who was killed would not have behaved as those who remained did, I am confident.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Perhaps I am naive … but it’s my belief that the trial and outcome would have been quite different, had the individual who had the depth and breadth of vision to pen those words still been in charge of things.