Among the many things my father taught me is the passion for cinema. I started watching Hollywood movies as from the age 8 and have enjoyed seeing hundreds of masterpieces in the cinema halls of Port-Louis. What I have learned from the movies is tremendous and I am glad I have shared this passion with my wife and children.
The latest masterpiece I saw is called Lincoln, directed by the cinema genius, Steven Spielberg. The film which received 12 Oscar nominations deals with the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, focussing particularly on his unflinching revolve to crush the army of the breakaway southern States, end the civil war decisively to reunite the nation and more importantly to eradicate slavery in the entire United States.
Well before Lincoln took office as the 16th US President in March 1861, he was vigorously engaged in national debates on the abolition of slavery. Being a self educated lawyer and a man of profound conviction, Lincoln pushed forward his anti slavery agenda as soon as he became President, thereby provoking the wrath of seven southern slave States which for declared their secession from the Union to form the Confederacy. Attempts to find a compromise for a peaceful solution failed. Thus started the Civil War in April 1861 and Lincoln became personally involved in the elaboration of strategies to win the war and save the Union.
To show that he meant business on the slavery issue, Lincoln issued an Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, encouraging border States to outlaw slavery : Lincoln faced very tough opposition from the southern States which had their own laws allowing land owners to buy and use slaves on their farms. Lincoln knew that he had to fight on two fronts : Military and Congress. His first attempt in June 1864 to pass a Constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery in the US failed as his Republican Party could not secure the two thirds majority. That defeat strengthened his commitment to forge ahead.
During the campaign for his re-election as President, Lincoln proposed two battle horses, namely the end of the Civil war and the freeing of all slaves. He was re elected President in 1864 and effectively ended the Civil war in 1865. Despite opposition within his own Cabinet, Lincoln mustered additional energy to win the much heeded votes of hesitant Republican and Democrat Congressmen. Lincoln wrote History by successfully pushing through Congress the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The film Lincoln, in which Daniel Day-Lewis superbly plays the role of the US President, enables one to live the historic moments associated with those events. The strategies meticulously put in place by the President, the systematic lobbying of Congressmen and the final voting in the Congress of the 13th Amendment are scenes of high drama. At the recent Oscar ceremony, Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar of best actor.
Six days after the surrender of the Confederate Commander, Lincoln was assassinated by a Confederate sympathiser John Wilkes Booth in a theatre while watching a play. The outpouring of grief by the American people in 1865 is today being felt by viewers all over the world through the magic of cinema. Till now, Lincoln is regarded as a national martyr, a champion of humility and a man of outstanding ability.
What is his place in History ? Scholars argue that the memory of Lincoln is practically sacred and is regarded as a moral symbol, inspiring and guiding American life. Furthermore, Lincoln is ranked as one of the three greatest Presidents along with George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt.
After seeing ‘Lincoln’, I asked myself what is the place History has reserved for the current Prime of Mauritius. Certainly not a moral symbol inspiring and guiding the nation. Then, what ? An amendment to the Constitution of Mauritius to get rid of the Best Loser System could have provided a way of hope, but unfortunately the most important factor i. e. political will is completely lacking. Frankly, I do not any sign of an outstanding leadership, but I am reminded of another masterpiece called ‘The Last Emperor’ by Bernardo Bertolucci which won 9 Ocars in 1998. Apart from the depraved life of Emperor Pu Yi, the most striking scene in the film to me is the one played by the eunuchs of the Emperor. Historically the eunuchs are trained to display undisputed loyalty to their masters and blindly obey all their orders. It seems there are many such characters around our political masters these days. Perhaps they are working hard to find a place in History for their masters.