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Friday, April 17, 2009

Cooper Union at Astor Place, Manhattan

Cooper Union was founded in the 19th century by inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper as a tuition free school focusing on engineering and technical arts...admission is by incredibly competitive criteria, for it has a sterling reputation.

Several American presidents have spoken there. It is the site of the only speech Abraham Lincoln ever gave in New York City, in 1860...

Lincoln's 1860 address is considered seminal. Not only did he stand firm on Republican opposition to expansion of slavery into the Western Territories, he likened the demands of the South ( who threatened to secede if a Republican was elected) to those of a robber with a gun pointed at a threatened potential victim...the South's way or else.

Given all the problems we now have with guns and the legacy of slavery, the present rantings of right wing radio broadcasters about Obama "taking our guns away" acquires an eerie historical importance... also the growth of radical right wing supremacist groups.

By the way, I feel people certainly have the right to bear arms, to go hunting and to protect themselves and their homes ( in some parts of the country it's just common sense) and also for sports like skeet shooting which I might like myself if I were younger). But there also have to be some controls, just like you have to have a license to drive a car. And kids have to be taught about the dangers of guns...

Obama won't push the ban on assault weapons for the moment despite the dire condition of Mexico and the drug cartels that are threatening that  country. He has at least acknowledged the United States' role in the problem and the need to cooperate as fully as possible with Mexican President Calderon...

The mass slayings that occur sporadically and the spotty state of gun control in the country are always met with the same arguments from the right: if more people were armed, they would stop gunmen on rampages etc. Right wing people even hate the idea of background checks, on general principles... this is an argument that's going to keep going on and on, you can bet.

This sort of reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a New York member of the Conservative Party who insisted (typically) that slavery was not the main reason for the Civil War...

He didn't even go the State's Rights argument route, he said instead that it was "just" an historical conflict between an industrial North and an agrarian South...and particularly the persistent ambitions of Northern shipping interests as an example ( although this seems illogical). Well, a lot of political conversations dip into the illogical with people sometimes not saying exactly what they mean to say...not everything is as well rehearsed as a speech or press conference. 

All these debates continue, however... and Lincoln's 1860 Cooper Union address remains relevant.

Oh yes, one small thing it took me a minute to recognize: drawings of event for newspapers at time show audience and crowds that are 100% male...not a woman in sight!

Below is another picture of Astor Place subway--northbound entrance in traffic island. Cooper Union is at left, glam condominium on right.