Abe's Haunting

At the front of Lithia Park, at the foot of the stairs leading up to the Shakespeare Festival, atop a granite boulder, there once was an undersize statue of Abraham Lincoln. If years were seconds, it would've been studied by particle physicists. It was there and it was not. Even now, it isn't quite not there.

Its trouble may have been that it was too easy a target, symbolically. Lincoln is old enough that for many high school students he falls into the category of "old white guys in history textbooks". The statue was nothing but a banal symbol of the authority of adults. Thus for certain teenagers it was the perfect material with which to articulate their aspirational difference from The Man. The statue's destruction was, in other words, a prank. Lighten up, man.

First came off its head. Or should I say his? There was something of an uncanny valley about this thing. It was a replica of the Lincoln Memorial, but rather than towering, superhuman, above us, it was slightly smaller than life-size. Like an inverse chicken, it went on being motionless with its head chopped off. I thought it was funny at the time. Precisely the attitude that, fortified with alcohol and testosterone, probably lead to dear Stumpy.

More amusing still (for the same juvenile reasons) was the impotence of authorities' response. He lost his head, so a new one was put on. It was undignified, really--you could tell he wasn't all there because his head was of a different color than the rest of him. He was all white marble, but his head was whiter. This act was repeated, and then repeated again, like a grotesque game of musical heads. This may have gone on for a whole year. I have no idea where all the heads came from, or, indeed, where they all ended up. Sitting in someone's basement, perhaps, is a pile of polished Lincoln heads.

At some point whoever was in charge of poor Abraham gave up. That, or the pranksters escalated their theft. The whole statue disappeared. Nothing has changed since then. The boulder has not been removed; the statue has not been replaced. At the top of the rock a decayed square of white statue remains is still bolted in place. Now a decade since, it was never smoothed off. Stubbornly, the wound was left. I can't help but think there's something petulant about this: the city wearing the statue's absence on their sleeve.

17 April 2012