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Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2001 / 18 Tishrei, 5762

Robert L. Haught

Robert L. Haught
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Lincoln had some memorable things to say about war -- WITH images of a punctured Pentagon fresh in their minds and major business slowed to a standstill, residents of the nation's capital are finding it difficult to heed the president's urging to return to normal living.

The closure of Reagan National Airport after hijackers drove an airliner with passengers into the fortress-like Defense Department headquarters on Sept. 11 has had a worse economic impact locally than if the U.S. Congress had packed up and moved to Nebraska (which might not be a bad idea).

Before President Bush ordered the airport reopened, hotels, restaurants and other businesses reliant on the city's large tourism industry were forced into massive layoffs. It was no comfort to consumers to think pompous bell captains and snooty headwaiters might be standing humbly in unemployment lines. In Old Town Alexandria, Va., townhouse dwellers who habitually complained about the noise of planes taking off from the nearby airport found discontent in the military jets circling above their city.

Life does go on, as it did in times past when the country was at war. The president set an example by taking his wife out to eat at a Mexican restaurant in suburban Arlington, Va. Bush recalled recently that when Abraham Lincoln was president, he found going to the theater a pleasant distraction from his burdensome responsibilities.

Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln attended his last performance, has opened a new production of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's prizewinning story about racial intolerance -- which echoes current feelings against people Rep. John Cooksey, R-La., calls "diaper heads" prevailing in parts of the land.

Sitting in this historic theater and gazing up at the president's box, contemplating the greatest loss of American lives in a single day since the Civil War, one can almost hear the words of Lincoln spoken in another time of crisis for this nation:

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?"

"War, at the best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and in its duration, is one of the most terrible. It has deranged business, totally in many localities, and partially in all localities. It has destroyed property and ruined homes. It has carried mourning to almost every home. ..."

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."

"What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which G-d has planted in our bosoms."

"Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves as he best can the same cause."

"In a great national crisis like ours, unanimity of action among those seeking a common end is very desirable -- almost indispensable."

"The issue is a mighty one for all people and all time; and whoever aids the right will be appreciated and remembered."

"We shall not fail. If we stand firm, we shall not fail."

These words, combined with courageous leadership, sustained the country and its citizens through a critical period in our nation's history. They provide wisdom and inspiration to guide our leaders through the current endeavor.

JWR contributor Robert L. Haught is a columnist for The Oklohoman. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Robert L. Haught