Longtime fans of The Simpsons will remember a joke in an early episode where Lisa, having caught a congressman taking bribes, runs to the Lincoln Memorial for advice, only to be drowned out by all the other people asking Abe for help. She flees to the Jefferson Memorial, on the Tidal Basin, but Jefferson’s statue is in no mood: “I know your problem: the Lincoln Memorial was too crowded,” he says with a huff. “I don’t blame them. I didn’t do anything important. Just the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase…” Lisa wanders off and the statue changes its tune. “WAIT!” it shouts. “Don’t go!… I get so lonely…”
Almost everyone I talked to about my trip to DC made reference to that scene – even my wife, who wasn’t a Simpsons diehard back in the show’s heyday. But you have to admit, it’s kind of true – while the Great Emancipator has the best seat on the whole National Mall, Jefferson is off to the side – it takes a little extra effort to see him. When I dropped by on an overcast but otherwise comfortable September evening, the only visitors were me and about 30 tourists from Japan. I can’t say I heard them reenacting that Simpsons scene in Japanese, but since I don’t speak Japanese, I can’t say I didn’t, either.
Cartoon references aside, the Jefferson statue is quite large and impressive, especially in that the surrounding rotunda is ringed by stirring quotes from the Declaration of Independence and other works. Just below the dome you’ll find this quote: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” – stirring words, but also easy to take out of context if a photographer decides to crop his photos for that ridiculous and nefarious purpose:
Which probably means I can expect a harsh word or two from the Jefferson statue next time I’m in the area.