It's amazing to me what can stir up an argument in this country. The current brouhaha over the changing of the faces on some of our currency seems like one of those shallow trumped up controversies meant to allow conversation about deeper issues which by themselves would prove too toxic for public consumption. That conversation is that for the whole of our history women and people of color have been deemed second-class citizens in a country which has traditionally elevated white men exclusively to positions of power and influence. The money we carry around in our pockets merely documents that long-held prejudice, and now that finally after many decades of broader social urging we are seeing some transformation in these long benighted areas, those who cling to the past see any of these changes of "tradition" as a challenge to their basic understanding of how the world is supposed to work.
Whether it's Alexander Hamilton or Andrew Jackson or Benjamin Franklin or Ulysses S. Grant, someone will have to lose his spot to make room on the buckaroo bus. Whether it's Harriet Tubman or Martin Luther King Jr. or Elanor Roosevelt, a new face and a broader understanding of the true history of the United States of America will eventually be front and center on the federal documents we handle on a daily basis. It's symbolic for sure, but just like integrating bathrooms or housing or public transportation, making certain that all kinds and types of people are evident and even celebrated is significant to a population who aren't all white guys as much as some seem to forget that fact.
Andrew Jackson will not stop being a significant historical figure because he's replaced on a bit of currency, and neither is it required to demean him beyond his already famous faults to justify his replacement. It's just a necessary change in a country which needs to reorganize the limited parameters of its public imagination. And no, it's not sufficient to do something else to celebrate those new faces, as I hear so many critics quickly put up as a dodge on this issue. We are finally a nation which has celebrated having a black president, the first in forty-four tries and soon we might be celebrating a woman taking the helm for the first time. If that happens both events will for the time being, still remain one-offs. We aren't there yet folks.
But those changes nonetheless threaten many folks who still imagine that life is what it is pretended to have been in some misty golden era when America was "great". I fear the current fascination some folks have with returning to that imagined greatness is about limiting access and keeping a rigged game in place for those who have traditionally been in charge. I guess it shouldn't amaze me that this is a controversy after all, since the very fact it is a controversy, proves the need for us to make the changes and move beyond it.
It's not "politically correct" to want to finally at long last have someone other than a dead white guy on the money we use. It's just a necessary course correction.