Channeling Abe Lincoln

Posted Feb. 02, 2010, at 7:10 p.m.

I don’t believe in ghosts. But sometimes you stand some place, or hear some sound, or read some words and you feel haunted. The hair stands up on the back of your neck because you sense something in the shadows.

There was a time when I felt that you could just touch a bit of stone or an old photo and conjure the essence of the people who had trod upon that path or appeared in the picture. Their ghosts don’t actually appear, but the phantom of what you believe them to be manifests itself to your imagination.

If I could proclaim it, there would be a natural law of respecting the past — past actions and past individuals — that would bring great folks and great deeds back to life. Just like the scientific law of gravity requires all things to fall toward the Earth, once my law existed, none of us could disrespectfully tread on the essence of the past. And once we acknowledge some greatness from before, we’ll be rewarded with a brief reappearance of the past as a gift.

I’d like to start with Congress. It’s clear that when they take their seats, they seldom consider the shoes they need to fill.

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I watched our Congress watch last week’s State of the Union address. I watched it online. It’s better that way, no pseudo-journalists telling me what I was supposed to think of what I just saw. And none of those would-be political pontiffs pontificating on whether or not the president swayed public opinion or if he lost a popular-ity point or two. I avoided the media speculation on whether or not the pathetically underrepresented people back home might actually pick up a phone or a pen and tell their congresspersons what to do about the president’s plans.

Let’s face it, even when 80 percent of the country wants a public option in the health care plan, Congress proves who’s really boss and refuses. Thanks to their ignoring us, a Jan. 21 AP story revealed UnitedHealth Group’s fourth-quarter profits jumped 30 percent to $944 million; 944 million in three months as 4,000 or 5,000 more Americans retired to the spirit world for want of health care.

Luckily for our alleged representatives — if ghosts wander the Capitol — they don’t transubstantiate and can’t be heard above the roaring standing ovations our jack-in-the-box government gave the president. How hypocritical, considering Congress enacts little or nothing that we need. It’s insincere to feign approval of ideas they don’t intend to support.

Still, Barack Obama has an impressive way of combining wit and reproach. I almost enjoyed the speech and actually might have if the real powerbrokers had attended. If the big bankers and Wall Street tycoons who weren’t there had publicly witnessed Obama threaten taxes and promise to give the money to little bankers, the moguls would have had to act wounded. And what an act that would have been; after the bailout they’ve received, it’s more a kickback than a tax anyway.

Obama’s job was to convince the country that the wealthy giants fe fi fo fuming their way around the Capitol will eventually help Jack who just sold the family cow.

But my intense irritation at this governmental charade didn’t strike me until the next night when I sat in Ford’s theater watching the play, “The Rivalry” about the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Take time during this 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s presidential election and study Lincoln. Give in to Pat’s law of respect for political apparitions and learn how true statesmen act. Our country once again is in trouble and bogged down by war. Our government serves masters other than the people.

The other night in Ford’s theater, I daydreamed that Lincoln’s specter had left the balcony where he was shot and appeared the night before at Obama’s shoulder repeating himself, “If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage; nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage.”

All three branches of our government must give up the special interests they protect and serve the people. Lincoln again, “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at

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