Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for best actor, and Tommy Lee
Jones was nominated for best supporting actor, but the movie Lincoln
actually was the story of a document, the Emancipation Proclamation,
and the political deal-making required to pass it.
Day-Lewis was a masterful Abraham Lincoln, the horrible toll the war
was taking on him written on his face. Jones, however, played the
character who caught my eye—Thaddeus Stevens of the horrid wig,
the clubfoot, and the lovely and cultured African-American
housekeeper. When I got home from seeing the movie, I eagerly
looked him up. He, too, was a real person.
Thaddeus Stevens was a Republican member of the House of
Representatives, and to show you just how much that party has
changed since then, he was dedicated to equality. His will stated that,
when he died, he refused to be buried in a cemetery that wouldn’t
accept people of any race.
I can imagine what he would say about the shockingly unfair
distribution of wealth in this country today, about the attack by today’s
Republicans in the House of Representatives on poor women and
children who depend on government subsidies to survive, and their
threatened attack on social security--that income source paid into by
people and their employers over the course of their working lives to
guarantee them financial security in their old age or in case of
They’re called entitlements, not as a curse word, but to indicate that
they’re something older or disabled people are entitled to, have paid
into, and are counting on to give them dignity and economic freedom
But Republicans believe in saving money—at least if they can do it at
the expense of women and children and minorities and old people.
Not that they’d pay an extra penny of taxes to make the burden more
Of course, not all people who happen to be Republicans are this way,
but I've grown accustomed, when I'm watching the House of
Representatives and its committees on TV, to think. "That's one of the
mean ones," "That's one who's not so mean." "Is that one of the mean
Currently, Republicans seem to be looking for leadership and
direction, and they might do well to look back to Thaddeus Stevens.
Tommy Lee Jones (above) as Thaddeus Stevens in the movie Lincoln. The real Stevens (inset).