Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sacred Cash Cows!


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. 

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2 comments:

  1. Here in the UK it's almost taken for granted that Hillary Clinton will the next President - and bemusement that Donald Trump has got so far. Bank Of England notes have featured women on them (Scotland has its' own notes) such as Elizabeth Fry (prison reformer) and Florence Nightingale but there was a big fuss recently when a woman who was campaigning for a woman's face to appear on the £20 note was savaged on Twitter so we have sexism too - and of course, here we have a female Head of State and we had a woman Prime-Minister but it seems women on the currency is still a big issue for some. I regret that Charles Darwin will soon disappear from the back of the £5 note - in a time of growing religious fundamentalism it is more important than ever in my opinion to demonstrate how important we regard science. But most countries in Europe now use the Euro as their currency and I wish Britain would too.

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    Replies
    1. At this point Hillary is our only hope for a competent chief executive. Trump though is gaining support as startling as that sounds. Ugh.

      It's change that's hard. People feel threatened that what they know will go away and they will be confronted with something uncomfortable. It's the cost of a relatively long peace which has produced complacency. The status quo ain't all that terrible compared to some worldwide upheavals we've endured historically, but it's easy to forget all of that.

      I tell my students that we live in the most peaceful time in world history but they have a difficult time parsing that reality with the constant screaming they hear on the media about ISIS and other marginal threats to security. There are real dangers in the world, but most are potentials right now.

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