Advertising with Abe

When people ask me why I love Abraham Lincoln, I frequently have  a hard time giving a concise response. You can choose from a wide array of fascinating elements of the personality and character of the man, but honestly, I’m not sure any of those accurately represent the origins of my interest.

If anything could describe what kindles my intrigue, it may be how everyone else uses Abe. Things like this image are what really get me going:

What does it mean when we appropriate an image of a man who transformed our nation into an advertisement for a boat ride? Can we analyze that, or have we gotten to the point that it’s just an assumed feature of being an American icon? Is there a danger to trivializing history, or does that make it more accessible? I don’t think I have a good answer for any one of those questions – which keeps me going in my pursuit.

So, keep ’em coming, advertisers. I want to see Old Abe selling me anything and everything, because at least as long as that’s our MO, I’ll have something to chew on.

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Turning 204 Years Old

What kind of gift do you give to a friend who is turning 204? Well, a blog post seems like a good enough present to me!

I try and make it down to the memorial for Lincoln’s birthday every year since I’ve lived in the District – some year’s it’s been easier to accomplish than others – and it waits to be seen whether or not I’ll be able to make it over today but here is a picture of one of my favorite birthday visits back in 2009:

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A lot of people ask me why Abraham Lincoln? Sometimes I come up with a quippy answer (“Because he’s such a babe!” or “He keeps me honest!” or “I’m just a nerd-girl!”) but in truth it’s deeper than that.

Lincoln wasn’t a perfect figure, and hagiography is never a good idea, but I think it’s important to recognize when a figure touches on so many facets of culture. It’s in the cultural connections we make as a society that we most clearly discover who we are – and in turn discover how we can improve. Lincoln has been appropriated (and maybe even misappropriated) by many different people representing many different opinions – but maybe if we look critically at his use – we’ll be able to find that middle ground that so many out there are seeking.

It was exactly that spirit of compromise with a guiding light that Lincoln brought to the position of Presidency – and so I think that’s what we should focus on as we celebrate his 204th birthday.

So happy birthday old friend – I look forward to your many, many, many returns.

Statues in the Park

It’s Emancipation Day here in D.C. – where we celebrate the fact that 150 years ago today the DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 went into effect and ended slavery in the District

 

Being a resident of Capitol Hill, I visit Lincoln Park – or as it has also been known as “Racist Statue Park” – with some regularity. The picture above shows the Thomas Ball statue which resides on the western side of the park. I was really pleased to see a nice write up in the Post examining the complexities of this statue – which also addresses the important issue of how we view history today, and how different images and figures mean different things to different eras.