It’s sort of odd talking about historical novels set in the 1850s so close to the 2016 election. Unfortunately, the similarities in the tone of political discourse are all too obvious. Which is concerning, to put it midlly. Americans in the 1850s accused one another of having hatred in the hearts, being un-American, and being deplorable sub-human rapists and monsters. And I think the people of the 1860s would say this to us: “Don’t go down that road.”
I don’t mean to say the persistence of slavery would have been preferable to the war. It would not have been. I only mean to say that I believe there is always a non-violent solution to conflict. Perhaps if Americans engaged one another in a more constructive way in the 1850s–indeed, before that as well–John Brown would have been wrong in saying the only way our sins could be purged was with blood. Perhaps he was yet, in fact.
Whatever happens today, it’s imperative we begin to change the way we speak about and to one another. We must re-learn how to engage as human beings first, Americans second, and members of political parties third, if at all.
I spoke about this on Saturday at the Denver Public Library, and will do so again tomorrow night in Lyons.