For all the tales of hatred and abuse that one can find throughout human history, there are times when humans rise above. Sometimes, in those moments, they speak out and their words leave a bit of glowing light. Those embers now shimmer at us from the past. On a good day, a fellow human will look up and point to one of those faint beacons to remind us of it.
Two such sets of hopeful words crossed my trajectory this past week, and I’m thankful for it. One came from a fellow blogger who posted this speech delivered by Charlie Chaplin in a 1940 movie called The Great Dictator. Made before World War II began, it made fun of Hitler and Fascism and was intended to both amuse and support the cause of democracy. Once the real horrors of Nazi Germany became better known, much of the movie seemed a poor choice for satire. None-the-less, the speech at the end was moving then and its moving now. The modern photos and videos that have been spliced into this version give it an extra punch. Thanks to the fascinating blog Ha! Tea ‘n’ Danger for this post.
The other bit of shiny light has to do with the Gettysburg address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln exactly 150 years ago today. It has been receiving a lot of press, of course, and part of the appeal of the speech is its eloquent humility in assuming that the words themselves will pass away and only the men who died will be remembered. We all know how that really worked out.
A recent video put together by filmmaker Ken Burns splices together famous people reciting the address, including all five living presidents, who are joined by politicians and popular media personalities that cover the political spectrum. One of the things that I did not like about about the Charlie Chaplin remix is that there was a sort of faint demonizing of all recent U.S. presidents, implying that each had lost his way. This second video hints to us that there is another side to each of them, whether we agree with their politics or not.
Tonight I say thank you for two shiny bits of light from the past that, when put together, leave me feeling that there is hope for the future.