I’ve got a piece in the print edition of the LA Times today about Abraham Lincoln as America’s first superhero. There are only a few historical figures who live up to their mythic dimensions. Inevitably, someone discovers that the people we choose to lead us are actually people after all.
But Lincoln is the exception to that rule. He was a complex figure, and certainly more than the cardboard cut-out we were all taught to worship in elementary school. But if anything, his humanity and his failings make him even more mythic and more heroic. Despite tragedy, poverty, depression and repeated failure, he was able to become President of the United States at its most crucial junction. He overcame the political machinations of his enemies and even his allies to maintain his vision of a more perfect union. And he kept the promise that the Founding Fathers made when they penned the words, “All men are created equal.”
To put this in perspective: Imagine a 9/11 every week, only there’s no Al-Qaeda behind them — just other Americans, brutally killing one another. That was the Civil War. It seems impossible that anyone could envision a return to one nation after such repeated, bloody atrocities. But that’s just what Lincoln did. And he believed in it enough to fight for it, when everyone told him he was wrong, and he would fail. He had a courage that is unmatched, and nearly unimaginable.
The blood of Lincoln is what binds my protagonist, Cade, to his duty and to America despite his worst instincts. His voice echoes through the books — quite literally in the third installment, coming up. That’s not just a neat little literary trick. There would be no nation for us to complain and argue about today without Lincoln’s sacrifice and, more importantly, his faith in us. He believed we could come back from the brink of absolute horror — and be stronger for it.
Superhero? Superhero is almost too small a word.