Today I’d like to talk about affairs, in honor of General Petraeus. (Snap!)
My love affair with Abraham Lincoln began when I was young, much too young. As an eight-year-old, I had no business being interested in a man who was 175.
He was born February 12. I was born February 13.
He was president of the United States. I was born in the bicentennial year of 1976. Both very patriotic things.
He was born in a log cabin, and I desperately wanted to have been. (Ask my mom about the time I found out that there was such a thing as living in the 19th century during the 20th century—aka, being Amish. I begged my mother to let me be Amish. I was sure I’d been born in the wrong century—a belief I’m still not altogether sure is wrong.)
My sense of justice as an eight-year-old was quite rigid. Slavery, of course, was far outside my boundaries and I was incensed, absolutely fired up, to learn of its prior existence in America. Lincoln came to the rescue.
And, oh my, his words. Lincoln is the first writer I loved.
Of course, I hid our affair. In 6th grade, as the children sitting at their desks around me received their Scholastic Books orders of Sweet Valley High, the teacher slapped a copy of Lincoln, a Photobiography on my desk. The girl in front of me turned around and said, “What is that?” “It’s for my mom,” I replied.
When Ken Burns came out with his documentary of the Civil War, I watched and cried and cried and watched and transcribed certain bits onto paper lunch bags I was able to grab in time (couldn’t pause TV back in the 20th century). I hid the scraps in my journals and books.
In college, I brought with me the VHS box set of the documentary, but I kept it in the back room. When my boyfriend found it and asked about it, I shrugged: “Oh, just a gift from my mom.” No biggie. It’s not like I’m in love or anything.
Now that boyfriend is my husband, so I’ve had to let him in on my affair. (Don’t worry, I told him well before the wedding.) It still sometimes takes him aback, though. We visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois last weekend. I spent 3 ½ hours reading every bit of display. When I exited, my husband, who was sitting on a bench with his iPhone, exhaled and said, “You love you some Lincoln, don’t you?”
I do. I really do.
You know where I’ll be this weekend. (Shhh.)
I’ll leave you with some bits of my sweetheart’s genius:
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.
Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.