Political campaigns seem kind of sterile when compared to those of old. Log cabins and a homey appeal to grass roots started long before Lincoln. Then there was Lincoln. He was a nobody from Illinois. One of the groups that supported him was the Wide Awake movement of 1860.
It is estimated that 400,000 people marched for Lincoln throughout the United States. They looked like an army wearing all similar attire. They marched under torches with wide-awake symbols. Most of them wore oil clothes to keep themselves from being burned by hot oil as they marched for their candidate. You have to remember this is long before mass media or the Internet. The people lived in passionate times and they felt honor-bound to make a statement of their beliefs.
In Chicago, Lincoln’s home state, a march there was noted as the most impressive statement ever witnessed. Some of the units would have as many as 43 bands embedded within them. They were praised for their good order and peaceable, not military purpose.
We’ve recently occupied everything from Wall Street to the County Courthouse. We have watched as millions of dollars are spent on political ads that really don’t say anything. With all that publicity, you would think that “We, the people,” would be fired up, but we are not. It takes a lot more than money to capture the hearts of Americans.
I think that the American people have kind of lost the sense of excitement that something positive can happen in this country. There had to be a sense of excitement to go out on a dark night in 1860 and risk being set on fire for an idea that excited you.
I think that is the bottom line. Commitment always costs something. It is time to be perhaps truly wide-awake.
Even a small group of dedicated men and women can make a difference. Consider 1944 when everyone had doubts about Roosevelt’s health for an unprecedented fourth term. A group of actors and entertainers, including a very young James Cagney and Judy Garland, flooded the airwaves with a call for the Democratic faithful. They would say, “All aboard for Roosevelt “and “Ya got to get out to vote” An eighteen year old young lady introduced the President and was obviously thrilled with the honor.
And vote, they did. It is said that those who don’t stand for something will fall for anything. We look at our leaders and see only the darkness of cynicism. I think the darkness is partially within ourselves.