Abraham Lincoln, 1860I just finished reading a very insightful book on Abraham Lincoln called Lincoln’s Melancholy, How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk.  The book goes into great detail about Lincoln’s bouts with depression throughout his adult life and how that depression shaped his thoughts and attitudes towards others.  It’s always bothered me, for a lack of a better way of putting it, that a man who was probably our greatest president, wouldn’t pass the media test today. Would we pass over a great man for a camera ready Super Hero with bleached teeth and hair plugs instead?

Could we elect someone who we knew suffered from depression as our president?  The very thought today seems laughable.  Sometimes, I think we want cookie cutter candidates that are flawless; they must have made perfect life decisions from birth to adulthood.  In other words, humans need not apply for the presidency!

The below statement is an account of Lincoln, by William J. Bross, after Lincoln had been chosen the state’s Republican candidate for president in Decatur, Illinois.

“The next day, the convention closed.  The crowds dispersed, leaving behind cigar stubs and handbills and the smell of sweat and whiskey.  After the wigwam had emptied, the lieutenant governor of the state, William J. Bross, walked the floor.  He noticed his state party’s choice for president sitting alone at the end of the hall.  Lincoln’s head was bowed, his gangly arms bent at the elbows, his hands pressed to his face.  As Bross approached, Lincoln noticed him and said, “I’m not very well.”  (Lincoln’s Melancholy, Joshua Wolf Shenk)

William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner in Springfield, said of Lincoln, “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.”  Can you imagine such a candidate on the cover of the National Enquirer?  We think we’re more progressive than earlier generations but, on the issue mental illness, we’re very much unforgiving Neanderthals – of ourselves and of others.

For some reason, we think we’re always supposed to be happy even when life stinks.  Who ever came up with such a ridiculous notion?  Lincoln is proof that depressed people can achieve great things.  Interestingly, the book revealed that during Lincoln’s time, depression (they called it melancholy then) wasn’t necessarily frowned upon.  It was part of life.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say depression was celebrated; but it wasn’t considered a character flaw.  Letters written during Lincoln’s time revealed people’s willingness to discuss their inner demons with friends, family members and sometimes even their business acquaintances.  The Oprah “tell all” generation wasn’t our generation; it was Lincolns!   Once getting past the melodramatic language that many Victorian era letters contain – a candid picture emerges of people dealing with life’s struggles – sometimes even exaggerating their troubles, instead of glossing them over.  But then again, maybe we’re not so different from our past Victorian relatives.

People still feel the need to express themselves.  The Internet is full of people sharing their thoughts and ideas.  Some of us are even crazy enough to have a blog!  However, college grads are encouraged not to have MySpace or Facebook pages because, heaven forbid, an employer might see something they don’t like!   They might even get the impression that, do I dare say it, the applicant isn’t perfect!  More than likely, a Victorian MySpace page would land a college grad on the perpetual unemployment line.  Can you imagine such a statement being read by an employer:  “I feel that I am not always quite worthy of the task before me; an overwhelming fear sweeps across my soul revealing my inadequacies, as I prepare to enter the work world.”  Honesty doesn’t earn us many points in the business world – not when we’re being truthful about our flaws – which may not really be flaws at all!

Still, I’m not convinced that Lincoln wouldn’t be able to connect with people today.  He wouldn’t cut it as an underwear model but how many of us could?  He had doubts about himself and even was on the verge of suicide at his lowest moments – I bet most of us could relate to that as well.  However, Lincoln was great with words and came up with some of the best “sound bites” in American history.   Lincoln was an excellent debater and funny.  I think people would love him today, even if the media mocked him for not being mentally perfect — and he was too sappy even for Oprah!

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Recently Bill Clinton was quoted as saying, “I get why she’s hot“, regarding Sarah Palin.   There’s no point denying it…Sarah Palin is Hot!

I’m on fire—Man I’m on fire—Feeling hot hot hot
Forget the Democratic Party – I’m feeling hot, hot, hot
If she were a shoe – I’d like to be a sock, sock, sock
Barack who? – With a gal like this!
She’s too neat – I can’t resist
Man, oh, man — She’s hot, hot, hot!

Ok, that’s really bad!  But Bill Clinton referring to a woman as ‘hot’ just brings back too many old memories.  Does anybody really think Bill and Hillary are going to be voting for Obama?  This has to be one of the most obnoxious songs ever written but it fits!

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  • Barack Obama, an African American community organizer from Chicago’s south side is accused of being an elitist snob; Hillary Clinton, a white, privileged Wesleyan Graduate became the Coal Miner’s Daughter.
  • Hillary Clinton was going to be president; Hillary Clinton isn’t going to be president.
  • Bill Clinton, the first black president, was accused of being a racist.
  • Hillary Clinton won 18 million votes in the primary, Joe Biden 18; Obama chose Biden for his vice-president.
  • The year of the Democratic woman became the year of the Republican woman.
  • The Democrats used sexism to defeat a woman; the Republicans are using sexism to elect one.
  • Moose burgers and elk meat loaf were once only strange delicacies of the far away state of Alaska; they’ll now be fed to heads of state visiting the White House.
  • A gun-toting hockey mom from Alaska could be our future president.
  • I now like Bill O’Reilly and thought Pat Buchanan was the only rational commentator on MSNBC and that’s not good!
  • FOX news was more fair to Clinton than the liberal news networks.
  • I started the year watching MSNBC and ended it watching FOX.
  • I started the year a Democrat; I’m ending it a strong Independent!
  • I still think Rush Limbaugh is a pig; no ironies there.
  • In 2008 Puma stood for more than a shoe.
  • This may be the first year I won’t be canceling out my Republican brother’s vote.
  • And I was actually looking forward to this year’s election!  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
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Decatur has a great networking community for young professionals called the 501 Club, which I belong to; though I’m not sure why because I’m not a professional at anything and I’m not really that young either.  When the club first began it was for “young” career and civic minded individuals up to the age of 35.  Someone must of told them that 36 wasn’t really that old because the cut off date was recently bumped up to 40.  I wonder if they’ll be pressured to keep bumping that age limit?  How about 45?  50? Premortem?  The very existence of the 501 Club has always been a major bummer to me – it’s been a constant reminder that I’ll soon be slipping into the abyss of old age.  I’ll be 38 in December and my carriage will soon turn into a  DMH Primetime van and my glass slippers into orthopedic shoes.   I can hear the ticking of the clock in my head or is that just my hearing aid?  Someone needs to tell the 501 Club that 40 isn’t really that old either but it’s a sin to lie!  I’m getting old!  Time is running out.  I’ll soon be worm chow.  Tick. Tick. Tick.  Thanks a lot 501 Club for rubbing it in!

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