Faces of Money   Leave a comment

These days there is a movement to take the old “heroes” off our money and put new “heroes” on them. Remember, I’m not a big believer in “heroes”. I think people commit acts of courage and sometimes live through heroic seasons, but people are a pretty crap foundation on which to hang the label “hero”.

This is a part of the Open Book Blog Hop’s yearlong exploration of courage. When you have 52 weeks to explore a topic, you can range rather wide on your explorations.

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I don’t really care who is on the face of our currency …

Well, except … I do because other people do.

I know some politically foolish American Indians who have boycotted the $20 bill for years because Andrew Jackson was guilty of Indian genocide and they hated seeing his face. That’s their right, of course, and I would never try to stop them from expressing their opinion in this way, but I think Andrew Jackson’s been dead for some years and not using $20 bills is just silly. So, as an American Indian, I’m glad to see the US Treasury is finally removing Jackson from the $20 bill and I think Harriet Tubman is a fine choice … except ….

If you’re trying to make a statement apologizing for the North American Indian genocide that Andrew Jackson represented, then maybe an American Indian as his replacement would be a better choice. I can name a few potential candidates. I’m not big on warriors, but American Indians did have some peacekeepers: Denanawidah of the Huron-Wendat who sought peace among the Iroqois nations; Massasoit of the Wampanoag who sought peace with the Plymouth Colony; Tarhe of the Wyandot, who had been a warrior for many years, but when he became Sachem tried to make peace with settlers in the Ohio Valley; Handsome Lake of the Seneca, who preached peace during Tenskatawa and Tecumsah’s violent uprising; Sweet Medicine who was founder of the Cheyenne Peace Chiefs; Black Kettle, White Antelope and Lean Bear also Cheyenne Peace Chiefs; Chief Komotalakia of the Sanpoil …. Just a few thoughts there.

Before you complain that Harriet Tubman deserves to be on the $20 bill and excluding her would be racist … how about we replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with Tubman. Despite his revisionist press, Alexander Hamilton was a monarchist and opportunistic con artist whose economic policies re-instituted mercantilism in the American economy, mixing with nascent capitalism and eventually leading to the mess we have today. I’m not surprised that he ended up on our money, but he doesn’t belong there anymore than Andrew Jackson or King George. He is as much a symbol of tyranny … we just don’t realize it because the tyranny he espoused was economic rather than political. So give Harriet Tubman her due by replacing him.

There is discussion of removing Benjamin Franklin from the $5 bill to replace him with some feminist rights leader. I object. First, Benjamin Franklin EARNED his place on our money, maybe more so than George Washington and certainly more than Alexander Hamilton. Franklin, Jefferson and Adams co-wrote the Declaration of Independence, after all. Second, many of the feminist rights leaders were horrible people. Margaret Sanger was a racist child-murderer. Alice Paul promoted violence as a means to “equality”.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a virulent supporter of extremely liberal divorce and Christian heresy.

Lucy Stone, Carrie Chapman Catt, or Matilda Joslyn Gage might be good choices, but the above shows that just selecting some random women’s rights activitist would be as bad as selecting Andrew Jackson. Just because a woman was loud and obnoxious does not mean she was a good role model for women’s rights.

Now here’s the thing — they can change the faces of our money and I ultimately won’t care because I have more important things to do with my time than lament that a genocidal racist from 200 years ago is on the $20 bill or the $10 bill or the penny, but there are people who really care about these things and maybe we should stop and take a deep breath and be absolutely sure that the people we’re holding up as heroes actually did some courageous things rather than just won a military battle or three or yelled more loudly at a suffragette gathering.

Heroism should always include some measure of actual courage and effort toward something actually worthwhile.

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