While attending a meeting of a coalition of groups that have been working together for about two years to improve the health and safety of the neighborhoods in the city of Syracuse, I was confronted with the quote you see above, the meeting facilitator had printed it out on a big sheet of newsprint hanging from the easel at the front of the room:
The quote irritated me and when I looked it up later, I was not surprised to see that Lincoln had prefaced the friends remark with the old maxim about catching more flies with honey–a saying that has always pissed me off:
“It is an old and a true maxim, that a ‘drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So with men.”
The best rejoinder I’ve ever heard to that treacly bunch of nonsense was actually from the sit-com “Big Bang Theory”:
Leonard: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”
Sheldon: “You catch even more with manure. What’s your point?”
Interestingly, when you google “friends and Lincoln quotes” the most prevalent quote is similar–but less cloying:
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
That last quote at least acknowledges that everything is not sweetness and light and that people have enemies.
I may be old school, but I’ve never felt the need to befriend the people that oppose the changes I am working to make in our community and our society. The fight for right over wrong isn’t fought by Marquess of Queensberry rules. Etiquette and politeness are values that those with power use to change the subject of the debate from their oppressive actions to the behavior of those challenging their rule.