Today, a day after the aniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent Gettysburg Address. Here’s an example of contradictions and duality.
:: Gorgeous dogwood trees bloom at the Hermitage, in Nashville Tennessee, in front of, almost obscuring, old slave cabins ::
I can’t speak for other visitors to this gorgeous historic park, the estate of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States (1829-1837). I came prepared and with an open mind; but, I’d done my homework and knew Jackson’s legacy well. I knew his politics and position on many controversial issues. We couldn’t be more different, he and I.
Old Hickory was a wealthy slaveholder and strong proponent of the Indian Removal Act, which in my opinion, is one of the most despicable crimes in our nation’s short history. Jackson was a complete set of contradictions and not a well educated, graceful or gentle human being. He is the definition of what many Americans call success. He held vast wealth and power. I disagree strongly and completely, do not see him as successful. He hurt many human beings. Although he despised corruption and bureaucracy, favoritism and exclusion of the average citizen from access to power, he killed people in duels and supported policies which I liken to genocide.
So, my image, created on his old estate, is by no means a happy accident. It’s not the best of images, but I thought of it last night when reading The Gettysburg Address.
I spent hours and hours exploring the grounds of his estate, walking in and around the various slave cabins which are located at the edge of his property, just beyond the dogwoods. I tried to see the land as the slaves might have seen it, looking for something beautiful and hopeful, something I can only imagine. Dogwood blooms are awesome and worth living for. I chose to process the image IR to swap things around, just as I felt the entire situation, in my heart. It’s not just because it looks cool. Something’s amiss here and wrong so my politics crept in. Granted, I wasn’t alive then, so my Monday morning quarterback criticisms of that time and place are academically not sound. I have the benefit of history to lean on; but, this place stands in direct opposition to a giant of a man who eloquently wrote the essence of what it really means to be American. Abraham Lincoln, someone I can be proud of and honor.
The Gettysburg Address is perfect, simple, timeless and beautiful. It will last and continue to remind us of what’s real and counts. In contrast, countless human beings lost everything under Andrew Jackson’s watch. The contradiction in realities at The Hermitage will decay and rot. Andrew Jackson’s legacy, in my opinion, is loathsome. We, the beneficiaries of this land, need to keep vigilant and stand up for what’s right.