We Need Harriet Tubman More Than Ever

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The pictures on the money help make citizens think they are part of a country OR that they are not a part of a country. The reasons for this are obvious to some, but not so much to others. I personally think it is an obvious fact not to be ignored. That is why I think putting Harriet Tubman on the currency is a good idea for this nation. I truly think that her image can be one that unites us instead of dividing us.

There was a divide created by having her replace or share the sawbuck ($10 bill) with Alexander Hamilton. Many, including myself, were fond of Alexander Hamilton, seeing him as more appropriate on our money than ever before. It did not seem right to remove him from the currency, but it also did not seem right to have a woman share that space with a man. That just reinforces chauvinistic prejudices. Those objections and many others allowed Hamilton to retain his place on the currency in the country. Andrew Jackson then was scheduled to give up his place on the twenty dollar bill. However, the new administration has put even that compromise on the back burner.

I think that keeping Jackson on the double sawbuck is important. Jackson was the first Democrat president and the first populist. Jackson was surrounded by men from his military career that came from modest backgrounds. Andrew Jackson’s presidency was a campaign of the “common” man. Jackson’s campaign was more inclusive than previous presidential entourages had been. His legacy is important, because populism is a double-edged sword. Populism can seem inclusive, but it can be a dictatorship of the majority as well.

There are so many cautionary tales that are part of the Jackson presidency, it seems actually dangerous to do away with him at this moment in time. Andrew Jackson can help Americans understand the excesses of populism with the tragic Trail of Tears a primary lesson. I do not wish to see Andrew Jackson on the dustbin of history just yet. I think the Democrats would have us forget the Jackson legacy and the roots of the Democratic Party. On the other hand, Republicans don’t mind seeing one less Democrat on the money, so Jackson became the sacrificial lamb for a Tubman bill. However, this administration seems to have tabled Tubman onto the twenty, so perhaps the Republican calculus has changed and reminding Americans of the Democrats checkered past suits them just fine.

In any case, I propose we instead give the two dollar bill to Harriet Tubman. The dollar bill will be phased out some day soon and the two dollar bill will see a lot more usage. Also, the two dollar bill has Thomas Jefferson on it. Jefferson is also on our coinage, so he remains on the money even if he loses the two dollar bill. Jefferson is a man that I greatly admire, but he was also a bit of a hypocrite when one considers the story of Sally Hemings. Though I greatly admire Jefferson, given his ideas concerning individual liberty versus the state and my libertarian leanings, but I believe this is the right thing to do.

Harriet Tubman is THE woman to put on our money...apologies to the other contenders. Her efforts to lead escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad of the early nineteenth century are unarguably heroic. Not only that, in the early nineteenth century, she is leading men at a time when it was unheard of. She is not protesting, she is DOING. She was leading men in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. She belongs on our money. She helped change us at the risk of her own life, she fought against what is worst in us. She built a coalition of men AND women, white AND black to organize the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman’s heroic efforts to free slaves and lead them to liberty are so very American. Leading people to freedom is America. She was doing it before the Union took up arms to liberate the South. Over a century ago, Harriet Tubman built a coalition of whites and blacks, men and women that was successful and transforming on a national AND personal level. I believe that she can build that coalition again today. To bring together men and women, to bring together white and black and the whole great melting pot.

To take the two dollar bill from a Founding Father of questionable racial ethics and give it to a black woman that fought against those questionable ethics can help us heal. To give the two dollar bill to Harriet Tubman is to move forward the idea that Americans of all colors and genders can work together to defeat evil. Bring "color" to the money, bring "gender" to the money, it is something America needs today. No, yesterday!

Look Sancho there is a windmill over there!

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