The idea for the title above came from a recent post by Philip Gulley. He basically says that
We are morally at risk when we see only the light of [fill in the blank] and never its shadow.
I agree, but I want to also look at it from another viewpoint.
We can’t ignore the light because of its shadows.
That is what this post is all about.
Let’s tackle the secular part of this dilemma. It just seems like there are too many people around today who, when they discover something negative about a historical figure, immediately want to discredit the person as being unworthy of our praise. George Washington was a slave owner, and therefore he can’t be a historical idol. The same goes for Jefferson, Madison, and practically all the founders of our nation. Does one shadow, or even many, disqualify all their accomplishments? Please understand that I am in no way diminishing how tragic slavery was, but we must recognize that at the time it was the norm in the southern States.
But, there are presidents like Andrew Jackson who deserve all our scorn. He was an avid racist his entire life. He saw the many slaves on his plantation as nothing more than property. He saw Native Americans as inhuman savages who should be obliterated from this earth. He was an arrogant narcissist, much like the president we had a few years ago. He, in my mind, deserves to be obliterated from history. I anxiously await the removal of his image off our U.S. currency.
On the other hand, one of mine, and many others, heroes was Abraham Lincoln. I have read many books about him over the years. He was such an insightful, down-to-earth person, who knew how to charm others with his folksy yet effective words. He was vastly underestimated by many of those who served as his cabinet during his presidency. His Gettysburg address will likely go down in history as perhaps the best words ever written for the time.
But, before the Emancipation Proclamation, he showed little concern about the plight of slavery. He was one of those who thought the best solution to that mess was to export all the slaves back to Africa, even though very few of them had ever lived there.
Everyone has skeletons in their closets that we are ashamed of. I know we expect our heroes to be perfect, but there is no such thing as a flawless hero. There will always be something to be found that casts a dark shadow.
We must realize that this also applies to our current and recent public figures. President Obama had a gift of words, but his inexperience, you might even say naivety, caused him to be a pretty ineffective president. Did the bad outweigh the good? No, but we certainly expected more from him.
President Biden is not the sharpest mind among us and, he makes many social blunders, but he will hopefully be remembered as a person filled with empathy and the president who finally got us out of a senseless twenty-year war that we never should have gotten into in the first place.
Let’s not throw all our heroes on the ash heap of time simply because of shadows.
We can’t ignore a bright, shining light simply because it also casts a long dark shadow.