Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Back Side

 Lincoln to an acquaintance in Illinois,
"I have seen a good deal of the back side of this world."


It is hard to love any great political leaders---they are, almost by necessity, going to be rigid to the point of cruelty where a nicer, sweeter person would bend, and bend in compromise where a noble person would stand firm--but I'm at least a little bit fond of Lincoln, the man.

Jefferson, the man, not so much. 

Jefferson, the words, his "front side," yes,
but what a distasteful mess he made of his back side---like, he was always in debt and "couldn't" afford to free the men, women, and children he enslaved. 

Yeah, 'cause he lived in a bloody palace, with all the trimmings.
Not an easy life to admire. 

And yet, his words are admirable beyond belief, as you know, and they laid the groundwork for other people to act admirably, including Lincoln, who constantly quotes Jefferson's line, 
"All men are created equal."

This matters.

With Jefferson, the chaff and the wheat are hopelessly and eternally mixed. 

You never know what seemingly bad thing will lead to good, either.
The uproar, for instance, about whether or not TJ had children with Sally Hemings, an African American woman who was his slave (and quite likely his late-wife Martha's half-sister, by her father and one of his enslaved women)--this uproar has led to some good:
 it highlights how entwined black and white Americans are.

Whether or not TJ was the father, and it's likely he was*, certainly some white male Jefferson was.
And as carbon-based life forms, indeed we are all related to one another, as well as to other mammals and even to the trees and the stars.

From an interesting NOVA article "Does Race Exist?" about what race is, anyway [answer: It's complicated"]:
"Morphological characteristics, like skin color, hair form, bone traits, eyes, and lips tend to follow geographic boundaries coinciding often with climatic zones. 
This is not surprising since the selective forces of climate are probably the primary forces of nature that have shaped human races with regard not only to skin color and hair form but also the underlying bony structures of the nose, cheekbones, etc. (For example, more prominent noses humidify air better.)"
*"Currently available documentary and statistical evidence indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he was most likely the father of all six of Sally Hemings children."


Zhoen said...

I read the novel about this. Nothing about the story seems at all improbable.

Sally Hemings: A Novel. 2009 - by Barbara Chase

Jefferson seems to have a wall in the middle of his mind, between what he should do and what he does. There's a Natalie Babbitt story, in the Devil's Storybook, about an evil man with a heavenly gift of art, who winds up neither in heaven nor hell, because neither sides want him and his art.

Fresca said...

Yes, it's quite normal human behavior,
to say one thing and do another.
I can totally relate!