Sunday, October 20, 2013

Republicans: Saints and Sinners

Are Ted Cruz's opinions worth two cents?
My wife is taking a government course as she pursues her PhD, and this week she was embroiled in a discussion—it's an online course—with her professor about Abraham Lincoln. Much of the course she's taking centers on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but somehow the professor steered the group discussion into leadership styles based on Constitution privileges. 

To the point: the discussion eventually spun down to his question to her about the loss of life in the U.S. Civil War. He asked, "Was Lincoln's decision to pursue war justified considering that the war cost at least 600,000 lives?"

Lincoln being something of a political saint in our household, my wife went two or three rounds with the professor. Were it me, I'd speculate the professor was a fan of alternate history, the type of novels that posit, for example, that the U.S. stayed neutral in the Second War War and the Nazis conquered Europe.

But how does a person answer such a question? 

We have the past, and we can define and explore circumstance rather than results, which are static. For example, what would the war have cost the nation had Robert E. Lee decided the Union was more important than state rights? Or if Grant had lead the Army of the Potomac in 1862 instead of McClellan?

My wife answered his question by proposing a bit of alternate history. Her example was, had Lincoln let the southern states secede, it wouldn't have stopped bloodletting. There still would have been guerilla wars along the border states and in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. Secondly, what influence would a divided America have had on world history? Would the Panama Canal been built? Would the Nazis conquered Europe? How many entire ethnic populations have died in the concentration camps? Would Imperial Japan be in control of the Pacific?

One thing we do know is that Ted Cruz wouldn't be in the U.S. Senate.

Note: It's an interesting idea, this alternate history. There are a number of novelists exploring such ideas. I did a review of one for Kirkus earlier this year, and it's evident the author focused his imagination, although there were some near-impossibilities, at least in my mind.

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