Working It

If you intend to go to work, there is no better place than right where you are; if you do not intend to go to work, you cannot get along anywhere. Squirming and crawling about from place to place can do no good.

Abraham Lincoln in a letter to John D. Johnston, November 4, 1851.

American lawyer, politician, and 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was born on this day in 1809. Lincoln was shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth on April 15 and died the following morning on April 15, 1865, less than a week after the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Abraham Lincoln was a man who knew how to get things done. He made it his quest to hold the Union

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together, whatever the cost. In the end, it cost him his life.

Today, some one hundred and fifty years later, the wounds of the Civil War have not fully healed. You know how I feel about the monuments. You know how I feel about teaching, not rewriting, history.

At the same time, last week I saw a moving performance of Songs from the Soul at The Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. Three amazing actors tell the history of African-American music in a brilliant, and inspiring way. They tell how the African-American music was born out of the pain and the struggle. It’s a beautiful history lesson. And a reminder that history needs to be viewed from all perspectives.

So while I think the monuments should stay, last week when the City of Petersburg decided to rename three elementary schools named for Confederate heroes I didn’t have a problem with that. Granted, there needs to be some real teaching of the history and lives of these men. Nonetheless, they are associated with the Confederacy, the Civil War, and the history of slavery. That a school system where a majority of students are African-American has a problem with that makes complete sense to me. Also granted, if you know anything about Petersburg public schools, they’ve got a lot more problems than just the name of school buildings. But, that’s another story.

Sigh…if only life weren’t so complicated.

See, I’m an aging white guy with Confederate ancestors who struggles to balance a respect and recognition for the good parts of history while acknowledging that there’s a lot of ugly back there.

Somewhere in there, there is a balance that recognizes the horrors of the past, and recognizes that there were good people trying to do their best with limited knowledge and understanding. And you know that I adamantly proclaim that it is simply a lie to represent all Southerners as racist slave owners and all Northerners as abolitionists. That’s just not the truth.

Truth can be painful. And complicated.

And more than I can sort out here.

In one of life’s great ironies, the 2012 film Lincoln was filmed here in Virginia, the former Capitol of the Confederacy. Many of Richmond’s finest actors worked on that film. Alas, I was not one of them. That was prior to my returning to traditional acting. My association with the film is just having to navigate around the scenes being shot at the Capitol.

Well that and the fact that one of the portraits used as a prop resided in our house for a while until my son could transport it to the film department at Asbury University. True story.

I need to watch that film again.

It’s Monday and we’re halfway through February.

It was a significant weekend in our household as the youngest turned eighteen. Meaning that we are a household of adults. Not that we act like it, it’s just a chronological thing.

You can read more about that young one here and here.

The week is full. Rehearsals are ramping up for A Little Piece of Heaven that opens on Friday, February 23. I should probably learn my lines.

Being off book means that I get to read off of the book, right?

I need to take Mr. Lincoln’s advice and get to work.


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