Monday, September 29, 2008

The Lincoln Assassination/Sarah Palin connection

Something struck me yesterday as I was watching yet another of my nerdy documentaries, and after discussing it at some length with Shawn A. Green III, he suggested that I blog about it. So here goes.

So I’m sitting on my couch, minding my own business and watching The History Channel’s riveting documentary The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth, which I had procured from the local public library system. It’s a historical retelling of Booth’s flight from justice (and eventual demise) after his assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Obviously, as a history major, I’m already very familiar with the story. However, since I am truly a nerd, it never gets old.

Anyway, something that many people don’t know about the Lincoln assassination is that he wasn’t the only political leader who was supposed to be killed that day. A co-conspirator of Booth’s, George Atzerodt, was supposed to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson and another man, Lewis Powell, was to kill Secretary of State William Seward (who was at that time an invalid confined to his bed recovering from a very serious carriage accident that nearly killed him). Atzerodt chickened out and didn’t even attempt to kill Johnson, coming to the realization that getting loaded sounded like a much better idea than murdering someone. Powell actually went through with his part of the plan, talking his way into Seward’s house, assaulting several members of the household, and ultimately stabbing Seward about the face and neck repeatedly before fleeing. Despite the fact that his incapacitation made an attempt to assassinate him the equivalent of shooting a fish in a barrel, Seward survived due to the splint that he wore on his neck and jaw as a result of his earlier accident, making him both the luckiest (survived devastating carriage accident, assassination attempt) and the unluckiest (devastating carriage accident, attacked by a knife-wielding psycho) bastard on the planet.

With me so far?

Less than two years later, a recovered William Seward went on to purchase Alaska from the Russians, a purchase which, at the time, brought him nothing but ridicule. If you’ve ever heard the term “Seward’s Folly,” you’re at least marginally familiar with the story. At the time, most people in the US felt that Alaska was little more than a wasteland and that the purchase was a complete waste of money (people back then had much less of an appreciation for nature, I suppose). Alaska. Home of Sarah Palin. So if not for a failed assassination attempt in April 1865, Sarah Palin might be known as Comrade Palin rather than a super-dooper hockey mom, self-professed pit bull, and current VP nominee under that puckered old prune of a man.

It all sounds good, right? An example of The Butterfly Effect, only a good example without Ashton Kutcher. I was really, really pleased with the connection I had made. I was, I thought, pretty awesome for even knowing this stuff, let alone piecing it together. Until it was pointed out to me today by a co-worker that while Palin has lived in Alaska since infancy, she was actually born in Idaho.

Oh well, a good theory down the drain. I think my point still stands, though. People in Idaho may be out there, but I doubt that they're far enough out there to elect MooseBurgers as their governor. Seriously, who names their children Trig and Track? So had she lived anywhere other than low-population towns in Alaska, it’s unlikely that her political career would have “progressed” (and believe me, I use that term loosely) as it has. It may have never gotten off the ground to begin with.

So I’m sticking with it. If Lewis Powell hadn’t failed to assassinate William Seward, Seward wouldn’t have been able to purchase Alaska, Palin’s family wouldn’t have been able to move there, and her political career would have been much different.

Place the blame wherever you’d like, there's plenty to go around. I'm going with William Seward. It seems like the guy was a glutton for punishment.

1 comment:

Rage said...

"...and current VP nominee under that puckered old prune of a man."

Somehow, D.A. , this sounds vaguely and disturbingly pornographic.