In a PREVIOUS POST today, I dealt with a certain phony Lincoln quotation, one of countless such fictions attributed to our 16th president by conservatives trying to make some point or another.
One of my favorites (and one of the most popular) in this category is something called “Lincoln’s Ten Cannots.” It reads as follows:
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
In reality, Lincoln never said any such thing. The words were written by a preacher and pamphleteer, the Rev. William Boetcker — 51 years after Lincoln’s death.
But the truth of the matter probably will never stem the spread of this stuff under the label of Lincolnisms, especially in this age of the Internet.
Some right-wingers use the Cannots as fodder against Barack Obama, a laughable irony considering that the Illinois senator has more in common with Lincoln than any of these ill-educated extremists.