Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What normal woman doesn't have a favorite ex-president?

I can see your SOUL! And the top of your head because I am tall.

Whenever I doubt the depth of my nerdiness, I simply look at my bookshelves and office walls, filled with biographies of Abraham Lincoln, the collected letters of Lincoln and photos of Lincoln, and then I think about how the five dollar bill is my favorite item of currency simply because Abraham Lincoln is imprinted on the front of it and I am reminded of one simple fact: I don't think normal women care this much about dead politicians. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I'm a day late for President's Day and a few days late for Lincoln's bicentennial but I couldn't resist taking this opportunity to proclaim my deep and abiding love for America's 16th president, the tall fellow recently named America's best president by a team of experts, aka, guys who read far dustier books than I do.

I've always been fascinated with Lincoln, ever since I read one of those children's biographies of him when I was tiny. It was filled with all those apocryphal tales of rail splitting and walking miles to return a penny and learning to read by candlelight, and all those wonderful tales that give you faith in grown-ups when you're small.

And when I got older and continued to read about him, even though those early stories fell by the wayside, the man still did not disappoint me. Of course he had his flaws but still, when he was faced with the biggest challenge this country had faced since the Revolution, he rose to the occasion and became Herculean in his steadfast desire to keep the country whole. And he did it all without losing his soul or his humanity.

Maybe that's what I admire most about him: he rose to the occasion when lesser men -- like so many of his generals -- crumbled. And he made those people around him better.

I also like the fact that Lincoln was a quirky fellow who had a sense of humor and liked to tell awful jokes. I like the fact that he would open the White House doors to visitors and answer letters from children. I like that he loved his family, even his crazy wife. And my God, I love the fact that the man could write. If you've never had the opportunity to read Lincoln's collected letters, do it. And then ponder the fact that this almost completely self-educated man managed to keep a nation together with his words. It's extraordinary.

It's nice to have a hero that doesn't disappoint you. That's how I feel about Abe. That's why I go to the Lincoln Memorial every single time I'm in DC. That's why I scamper to see his hat and his pocketwatch every time I go to The Henry Ford here in Michigan. It does my heart good to remember that there are, from time to time, leaders who are truly worthy of being followed.

And every year when President's Day rolls around, I'm also reminded why I'm happy being a nerdy woman: I'm truly ok with knowing far more about Abraham Lincoln than I do about Lindsey Lohan or Katie Holmes. He's certainly far more worthy of my attention...and he's the only one of the three to ever be played by Sam Waterston. That's an achievement in and of itself!

Happy late birthday, Abe. You'll always be my favorite. If there's a Twitter in heaven, I'm totally following you.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite historical figure?


crone51 said...

I have a rather disturbing crush on the current president- I am way too old and too cynical to be following his every move and get all teary when I see him or his family.

My favorite historical character when I was a kid was Thomas Edison. I have no idea why. And yes, we are all about Lincoln here in this house. The husband is a major Lincoln geek as was my dad. I like my men to be a tad Lincolnesque . I am the only person I know who thinks Lincoln's face is beautiful.. or perhaps you do too? I had a crush in high school on a guy who looked like a young Lincoln. No one understood why I thought he was so beautiful.

Liz said...

Yep, I agree completely that Lincoln was a handsome man. I have a feeling that if photography had been a bit further along in his day and had been able to capture faces with more alacrity, we'd see he had some great expressions.

As for our current president, no one's ever too old to have a crush on Obama. I was telling my husband when we were watching the inauguration that the Obamas are seriously the best looking first family this country's ever had -- sorry, Kennedys but it's true!

chewbob said...

My favorite is Teddy Roosevelt, just because he was such a ridiculous character. Why do president'n when there's RUFF RIDIN' TO DO???"

Liz said...

I like Teddy, too, in part because of the monocle. Also because I think he may have been a little bit crazy -- but in a good way!

crone51 said...

monocles are deeply cool.

stacy said...

I think favorite historical figures (even, specifically, ex-presidents) is its own form of geekery. My history dept at my old school used to do a holiday tree wherein everyone made an ornament of their favorite historical figure. Every year my advisor did one for Attila the Hun. Since I keep thinking of the cat from Mother Goose & Grimm and Hagar the Horrible, I can't truck with Attila.

However, Bad Prince John (a pox on the phony king of Ennnnngland!) is actually mine. My personal theory (based on nothing but couch-potato pop psychology) is that he would have been a much better man in general, more well-liked, if his mother had only loved him. As a medievalist and a feminist, it seems often a crime to NOT just ADORE Eleanor of Aquitaine and dear King Richard. Frankly, woman power aside, she was a beast, and Richard was a whiny momma's boy. John, however, he did amazing things for England, but no one wants to talk about those because he usurped the throne while Richard was off playing "let's do the genocide" in the Holy Land.

As for presidents, if I can't have Bartlet (geek presidents FTW!), I do have to say that I am, I find, ridiculously cliche in loving JFK. Mostly because of a discussion with my father, who never ever talked about Vietnam except for the once, and he talked about the Kennedys - leading to a complete obsession with 50s and 60s politics. Granted, that's a "what if" scenario, so I suppose I'd have to give more thought to a favorite president who actually *did* things rather than *could* have.

(And there is a special place in my presidental love for Clinton, simply because the man apologized to Daryl whatshisname from SNL because he'd have no one to mock now that he wasn't in office...)