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Monday, June 22, 2015

Keep Politicians Off Money


I'm glad that the Treasury Department is moving towards putting someone other than a white man on our paper currency. It's a shame they're changing the $10 bill with Alexander Hamilton's face on it rather than the $20 bill with the portrait of the immensely disliked Andrew Jackson, but I can't complain about the addition of Harriet Tubman. Not only was she a woman and a person of color, but more importantly, she was not a politician.

I'm sick of things being named after politicians across our country. Schools, airports, bridges, courthouses, parks -- the list goes on and on. Where are the buildings and highways named after our great teachers, thinkers, and scientists? Why aren't they represented on our currency?

We're way behind the best of the world on this. Look at who's on the currency of other nations:
  • The UK has Charles Darwin on its £10 note -- how's that for confirmation of evolution?
  • Denmark has Neils Bohr, the Nobel-winning physicist, and Carl Neilsen, a composer/conductor.
  • India has Mahatma Ghandi on all denominations of its money. You could argue that he was political, but he was also one of the greatest human rights leaders in history, a category we have yet to honor.
  • Israel has two men and two women who were poets.
  • New Zealand has explorer Edmund Hillary, who went up Everest and down to the South Pole.
  • Norway has Edvard Munch, who painted the iconic "Scream," as well as a scientist, an opera singer, and a Nobel-winner for literature.
  • Serbia has Nikola Tesla, the inventor and physicist, plus an astronomer, a composer, and a linguist.
  • Turkey has honored a novelist, a mathematician, an architect, and a philosopher.
  • Sweden has filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, actress Greta Garbo, and Astrid Lindgren -- the woman who wrote "Pippi Longstocking."
Even in a world that uses its paper currency less than ever because of credit cards and e-payments, the roster of people we honor in his manner is long overdue for a change. And don't bring up those dollar coins with Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea -- as I wrote in an essay in 2007, they bombed because Americans don't want more coins in our pockets, we want more bills in our wallets. We're not going to change our minds on that any more than we're going to adopt the metric system.

So it's about time we honor at least one woman by putting her visage on our currency. Now, if only the value of that currency meant the same to her as it does to a man.