Thursday, June 10, 2004

Fever Pitch

Memorializing Ronald Reagan

If this article from The Hill is to be believed, there's nothing that can stop Ronald Reagan from peering out of your wallet at you by next year. Finding an easy target in Alexander Hamilton, Reaganites have decided the $10 bill is the place for their man.

Frankly, this is good news; I don't use much cash anymore, but when I do, the ten is the bill I use the least. ATMs deliver stacks of twenties--emblazoned with Andrew Jackson, a founding Democrat with whom I also have issues related to the Trail of Tears--and if I need change for a twenty, it's likely I'm looking for fives (Lincoln--no problem there) or ones (Washington--hard to argue against him, too). Who needs a ten?

Still, Hamilton doesn't deserve this disgrace. It's bad enough he died at the hands of Aaron Burr--though being involved in a duel today would probably disqualify a man from ending up on currency. We're talking about a giant in the creation of our country, whose belief in a strong central government and a firm fiscal footing for the nation guided the nascent republic through its formative years and provided it with the structure that one day allowed it to become a world power. To replace such a man--a thinker and a doer, whose legacy as Treasury Secretary alone would be enough to warrant his inclusion in the monetary canon, to say nothing of his contributions to the Constitution's eventual shape--with a man whose basic message was that "government is bad" would be an injustice to our nation's history and a victory in a current political battle that should never be fought on such common ground as the currency we carry in our pockets. Name a highway after Reagan; name an airport, too. All presidents deserve such honors, no matter their politics, because they have served the nation in a job that takes years off of lives. But paper money is a place where we honor those who history has deemed the giants of the republic. History has not yet had time to make that decision about Reagan--and there are many of us who believe that, given time, it will not view him in the same rarefied light as the other men whose faces peek from our wallets. In a year that has seen the politics of the nation dragged ever further into the depths of ill will and distrust--witness the breaching of a gentleman's agreement in Texas to limit redistricting to once a decade, for example--let's remember that some things are rightfully kept off the table out of common decency and a recognition that we ought not do to others what we would not want done to us by our opponents if they should one day take power. (That's the basis of the Geneva Convention, too--and we've seen what some of our leaders think of that.) Would Republicans like to see Bill Clinton on money anytime soon? I think not. Don't shove Reagan into our back pockets, either.

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