Monday, February 18, 2013

Abraham Lincoln Was Gay?

When school started a couple of weeks back, I mentioned to my classes that research shows that college students have little historical grounding in our founding institutions. I also mentioned that a lot of young people don't keep up with the news, that they're not informed about current events and how politics affects them. But then in one of my classes a young man piped up about how he really loves politics, and that he'd won awards in high school for the debate team, or some such thing. In any case, I was reminded of the Ron Paul libertarians and perhaps even the more whacked Paulbots. I was talking about the Gettysburg Address last week, which is cited in my textbook's discussion about the different definitions of democracy, and the student got going about how Lincoln was a gay atheist who ran concentration camps for some group or another. I ignored the atheist part, since almost all of Lincoln's most famous addresses are deeply grounded in God and divine provenance. But that gay bit was funny and some of the other students were practically gasping. And interestingly enough, Joan Rivers mouthed the gay smear on late-night TV a couple of days ago. See NewsBusters, "Joan Rivers: 'Abe Lincoln Was Gay'."

Anyway, I looked it up the other day and found this at USA Today, "200 years later, a more complex view of Lincoln":

Abraham Lincoln
* Lincoln the homosexual: A gay man in the White House?

Some writers, such as the late sex researcher and gay rights activist C. A. Tripp (The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, 2004) have argued that Lincoln was sexually attracted to men.

Lincoln's long friendship with Joshua Speed, a young store owner in Springfield, Ill., when Lincoln arrived there at age 28 in 1837, has attracted the most attention. Lincoln, whose worldly possessions at the time fit in two saddlebags, accepted Speed's invitation to save money by sharing the double bed in the room he was renting, according to many of the biographies, including David Herbert Donald's Lincoln.

Most historians don't think they were lovers. As Donald points out, bed-sharing was not unusual at the time because of financial necessity. Many boys grew up sharing a bed with one or more brothers.

Burlingame says speculation persists about a Speed diary and letters in which he wrote explicitly about a relationship with Lincoln. Burlingame doesn't buy it; nor does Berry, who says Lincoln wasn't homosexual, but homosocial.

"He cried too much to be a man's man, but he was a guy's guy," Berry says. "He liked nothing more than to sit around the stove, telling jokes and stories."
I have Donald's, Lincoln, and reading the USA Today piece reminded me about him sharing a bed at one point. But I can see how libertarians might attack Lincoln as a homosexual, since the paleocons deride him as a tyrant already, and they might want to smear him. But progressives might think a homosexual Lincoln is flaming cool. Barack Hussein likens himself to Lincoln and has sworn in twice on the Lincoln inaugural Bible. So if Lincoln was switch hitting, leftists can argue that Obama's not the first homosexual president after all.

(And I need to check back with the student on the concentration camp part. I was overwhelmed with the homosexual allegations and attacks on Lincoln the tyrant are pretty common already. But camps? More on that later...)