Monday, November 20, 2006

Everyone's day on a dollar

Caveat: This blog headline is not at all original, as it basically copies The New York Times. And they weren't original either.

So, apparently the plan is to put every president on a dollar coin, much as every state was on a quarter. I think we can all agree that every state deserves its own quarter... well, maybe the Dakotas should have shared one, but for the most part, every state.

But every president? Do Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore and William Henry Harrison deserve their time on a dollar? Franklin Pierce? James Buchanan? Those presidents truly deserving of recognition are already on currency (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, JFK). Jackson and Grant are also on currency; admittedly, the former was a formative figure, if someone I can't stand, and the latter was a good general, so perhaps can be justified under the same criteria of "important person," as we (justifiably) have Hamilton and Franklin on currency as well.

But really, there are better characters than Taylor, Fillmore and Harrison (either of them, for that matter) to populate our money. Are we really avoiding recognizing them because deciding which ones to recognize might cause a controversy? That's the kind of discussion that should be in the public discourse!

Okay, of presidents, I could countenance the following--John Adams, Madison, TR, Wilson, Truman, LBJ, and Reagan. Take off LBJ if you think I am being too partisan. The rest of the deserving are already on money. Madison gets on not for his presidency but for the Constitution.

Other notable figures abound in American history. This is a chance to honor women and minority figures of note, as well as other contributors who happen to have been white and male. Yes, this digs up a lot of questions about anti-Semitism or other racism (Henry Ford et al); the economic system (well, Ford again, and the "robber barons"); and the rightness of war (generals, especially Western generals). But can we agree that Tecumseh and Chief Joseph deserve the honor? How about Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and for that matter, Thurgood Marshall? Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony (well, okay, she already got it--how about Elizabeth Cady Stanton)?

I think that someone with more time on his/her hands could develop a great list of American innovators, thinkers, and leaders that deserve recognition more than an undistinguished, unelected president who, after leaving office, ran again as a candidate for a group of xenophobic nationalists.* Or the 30-day president who is otherwise best known for crushing Indian tribes.** Or the guy who was only even elected as part of a corrupt bargain that ended Reconstruction in the South and handed it back to the white elite.***

I don't know... what do you think?

*Millard Fillmore
**William Henry Harrison
***Rutherford Hayes

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