The new Steven Spielberg film, where Daniel Day Lewis looks like a photograph of the real Lincoln at least 73% of the time, is something more: it is a test.

It is a test of how much we are willing to trust the lawyerly class to govern our nation. We recognize rhetorical debates and deal-making dominating ethics and logic until the last minutes of the final vote on the 13th Amendment. The fundamental truth and benefits of human political equality is portrayed as secondary to securing postal managerships and other influence-peddling. We are taunted by how crass and dogmatic and vain is the human condition.

We are tested by this newsreel of a period film to wonder at how humanity has managed to move forward, occasionally, in the face our selfishly aggressive nature. Yet sometimes we do make progress, and this portrays such a moment, in all it’s angst.

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