Sunday, April 09, 2006

Honest Abe

So in addition to the caves, the other major tourist stuff that I saw this week included the Abe Lincoln stuff over in Hodgenville-- the birthplace, the boyhood home, and the museum. I got to see a replica of the famous log cabin, which left an impression on me. I never thought much about the log cabin myth. To my way of thinking, I had some kind of vague notion that everyone around in the early 19th Century, at least on the frontier, lived in a log cabin. I didn't see what the big deal was.

After learning more about his humble beginnings this week, I better understand why this has resonated with people. The American idea that "anyone can be president" is historically inaccurate, but every so often comes true, and Lincoln is the embodiement of the idea. Never mind that every one of the 43 presidents (or 42 if you don't count Cleveland twice) has been a white male; the vast majority of them have been elite upper class as well. Most of them are actually related to each other and can trace their lineage back to the country's early settlers. Although George W. Bush and John Kerry probably didn't send too many family reunions together, a little known fact is that they are actually distant cousins. Ditto for Bush and Dick Cheney. In fact, Bush is related to a ton of presidents on not only his father's side, but his mother Barbara's maiden name of "Pierce" is indicative of her relation to our 14th President, Franklin Pierce. There truly is an American aristocracy, or at least a neo-aristocracy. Lincoln didn't come from that aristocracy, and he also made a significant impact on our nation-- hence the mythology surrounding the log cabin and his everyman beginnings.

This interpretation of the importance of the log cabin myth also helps explain the name behind the "Log Cabin Society," a group of gay Republicans who seize upon the fact that Lincoln once slept in the same bed with another man as evidence of his homosexuality. Although I think this is putting too much of our modern sensibility onto 19th Century culture, I could see why a group of people who historically have lacked political clout would try to affiliate with Lincoln more so than other presidents. His economic status automatically makes him more accessible than most other presidents we've had.

Of course, Lincoln was not the first president from humble beginnings. That credit usually goes to Andrew Jackson. Although Jackson undoubtedly made contributions to our fledgling democracy (so much so that he's been called the father of our modern democracy), I can't help but wonder if his continued status as the face on the twenty dollar bill is more indicative of our collective admiration for his rise from the lower class than for his actual political achievements.

On a completely unrelated note, between the Olympics and the NCAA Frozen Four I think I may have watched more hockey in 2006 than any previous year of my life. Wisconsin is the national champ in both men's and women's hockey this year. I think if Abe Lincoln were alive today he'd be a hockey fan.


Blogger Aston said...

haha I like how you ended the piece! I also didn't know Kerry and Bush were related that's pretty interesting!

10:17 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

being canadian, i don't really, really, care about your presidents, but that's okay. but, i highly doubt that Stephen Harper and Paul Martin were related.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

hey, remember me way back and i said 'you know your mean, right?' i totally don't remember writing that. but yeah, friends? is azor your real name? heidi is mine, incase your were wondering.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Are you Mikey?

1:05 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

LOL. Mikey is Tim's younger brother. I'm the one he never writes about on his blog. I think he's ashamed he's related to me. Azor is actually my middle name, but I prefer it to Brian.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good, b/c i thought mikey was hot. and then i thought you were mikey. and that was awkward. but not any more. which is good. but im sure your hot to in your own special way.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so are you heidi.

6:43 PM  

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