I happened to be in Disneyland on Lincoln’s actual birthday, February 12, and decided, in a particularly sadistic moment, to take my kids to see the new, revised “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which just opened in December. I had fond memories of the last iteration of the show, from the early 2000s, which featured a surprisingly good film and a robotic-yet-stirring rendition of the Gettsyburg Address (Ari informs me that the real Lincoln was actually a robot – “true fact”, he says – and suggests that the imagineers were just being authentic). Surprisingly, my children did not believe that listening to an animatronic president speak on death and destruction was the best use of scarce Disneyland time, but I cheerfully dragged them out of the southern California sunshine and waited to be transported back in time to the Civil War….
Only to discover that the show is really about more recent wars, notably the Cold one. The new version is actually a recreation of the original, 1964 “Great Moments” that debuted at the New York World’s Fair, and features not the Gettysburg Address, or the second inaugural, or any number of memorable Lincoln moments. Instead, it features a pastiche of Lincoln quotes over a twenty-five year span, hacked from their context and smashed together, to create a rather disquieting figure who seems more Joe McCarthy than Honest Abe:
What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.
According to Wikipedia, the whole speech – this is just a part – combines sentences from 1838, 1852, 1858, 1860, and 1864. What would cause someone to choose quotes about enemies within, instead of using an actual speech by a man who, I’m told, wrote some pretty good ones? In today’s climate, the speech comes across like some sort of Tea Party screed.