Don’t Be John Wilkes Booth

Don’t Be John Wilkes Booth April 16, 2018
A large photograph depicting President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth is displayed at a new exhibit entitled “Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination” Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at the Ford’s Center for Education and Leadership across the street from the historic Ford’s Theatre, in Washington. The exhibit is open to the public March 23rd to May 25th and coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination on April 14th. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: WX507









He was handsome and committed to his cause. John Wilkes Booth also killed Abraham Lincoln.

Don’t be John Wilkes Booth.

Booth was an excellent actor, investor, and man about town. He made a massive salary and could have done anything he chose to do. He chose to shoot Abraham Lincoln.

How does a man go so wrong?


He hated African-Americans and so hated Abraham Lincoln. He hated the North and so killed Abraham Lincoln. There was no love in his heart, just hatred.

Robert E. Lee knew that killing Lincoln would harm the South and was an evil act, but Booth knew better. We wish that a man who could kill the Great Emancipator was mad, but he was sane. Booth conspired with friends to decaptitate the entire leadership of the Washington government. The South would survive in the confusion, but the plan failed when only Booth killed his target.

We wish the best man in America was assassinated by the worst man in America, but he was not. Booth was not a bad man, he was a man hate made bad.

I have no sympathy for the cause of the Confederacy and slavery, the main reason for the rebellion. Race based slavery was a horrible moral evil, yet good men got caught up in that bad system from George Washington to Robert E. Lee. They were harmed by slavery and blasted their own reputations by owning people. Yet some men trapped in slavery fought for love of their state, had an ability to see beyond the institutions of their childhood, and worked within the laws of warfare. Men like Lee and Jackson chose poorly, but were better than most of us are in the service of this bad cause.

God help us. We must pause and make sure, since we are less consistent than they were in our lives, less brave, less talented, and less apt to have considered if we are in the wrong cause. Virtue frees, vice enslaves. Are we fighting to make ourselves and others free? If not, then whatever gifts we have are twisted by our bad cause.

Yet even then hate makes all worse.

Hate corrupted Booth making him do the vilest things without being vile. The love between men and their states, the love of one’s own country, is admirable. Booth was not motivated by love but by a hatred of tyranny (as he saw it), Lincoln, and African Americans. Hate moved him and so he killed Abraham Lincoln. This act had no glory or good and it harmed the Southern cause Booth thought he served.

Pickett could charge at Gettysburg and win glory, because he and “his boys” fought for love, even if the love was misplaced. Booth became twisted, far from the courage of the battlefield. He was a pretend soldier, fencing and sometimes cutting himself on stage in his histrionics. He hated and hatred broke him. Booth did not love the South, he hated the North.

Hate killed Booth’s moral sense, long before Booth killed Lincoln. Love in the service of a bad cause cannot utterly destroy a man, Lee remained in some ways admirable and could move on after the War. Lee chose not to be buried in uniform and dedicated the rest of his life to education.  Booth hated and so could not accept defeat.

At least Booth hated in the service of a bad cause and there is appropriateness in this. One should be bad about being bad. It is when people were full of hate in a good cause, the Northern soldier motivated only by his hatreds, that the worst errors are done. We are manage to be anti-abortion, not pro-life.

Sometimes we manage to make Christianity, a great, good truth, seem a bad thing, because we hate and use the Faith to power our hatred. This is hard, because hate is so easy. It is easy to hate bad things, hard to love what is good (and there is always some good left in anything, harder to notice when we do not hate what is bad, but only what is distasteful to us.

Booth is a warning: a man of great talents twisted not just by being wrong, but broken by hatred. God help us.


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