Tubman on the Twenty—Not In Time for Passover


2016-04-21 – Apparently Harriet Tubman will be on the twenty instead of Andrew Jackson. I like that.

If I had one of those Tubman twenties today, I’d give it at tomorrow’s Passover Seder to the lucky person who finds the afikomen. After all, we Jews will be celebrating our freedom from slavery. A Jackson twenty will be totally inappropriate. The best I can do is give a Lincoln five.

Pharaoh never put Moses on Egyptian currency—or anything else that archaeologists have dug up. Yet tomorrow we will be celebrating Moses’ story after nearly 4,000 years. What did you say Pharaoh’s name was? The lowest point in our national history became a rallying point for a call to compassion.

For we were slaves.

We were slaves. So we know what it means to be on the bottom, to be abused, to have to answer to another, to have our families murdered at the whim of the master. We know that the tables turn. So we look forward, rather than back, and do unto others . . . because the tables could turn again.

In four years, an American Moses will be on the most visible bill of U.S. currency—the bill you get from your bank’s ATM. Harriet Tubman. I don’t know why it would take four years to make something so simple happen. But it took Moses 40 years to bring the Children of Israel to the promised land. And it sure didn’t take 40 years to travel the physical distance. Even the Bible gets them there in under a year. And the remaining 39 years were spent camped in the wilderness going nowhere.

God apparently had a worse bureaucracy than the U.S. Treasury.

Harriet Tubman was a liberator.

Some people say that Andrew Jackson was such a great president that it is a shame to take him off the twenty. Ask them what Jackson did to deserve a more honorable place than, say, James Madison, the author of our constitution. (Make it easy on them and pit one dead white guy against another.) James Madison deserves the place more than Jackson. Ask them what Jackson did to deserve a more honorable place than Franklin Roosevelt, who ended a depression and led us in war. You never see Jackson’s name high up when Facebook ranks presidents. (Even that ne’er-do-well Ronald Reagan ranks higher on some of the lists.)

Once you realize that Jackson was a second-rate hero among white men, you see why his slot was up for grabs once the decision was made to look for women and African Americans to be remembered this way.

It’s a good choice. And about time.

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