We Americans harbor a huge dichotomy in our attitudes toward our country. We display our patriotism in borderline chauvinistic manner, playing the national anthem before every major sporting event, and church services frequently include impassioned praise of our nation and sometimes promote the idea that loyalty to god must include equal loyalty to the country.
We Americans, myself included, love our country. It’s surprising that many of my fellow citizens hate our government. It’s a pejorative to call someone a politician. Candidates for office who have no government experience proudly run as ‘outsiders’ and often easily win a seat. Americans do not recognize popular public programs as government created and sponsored by Washington. I’ve heard more than once the demand, “Keep government out of my Medicare,” which is, of course, a government program. President Ronald Reagan was cheered when he told us, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Americans perceive correctly that the government does not represent all the people.
Mere days after Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States, the new administration announced its intention to put Harriet Tubman – known as Moses – on the twenty-dollar bill. The currency redesign – a relatively common occurrence in the 19th century – was originally set for release in 2020 to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. The majority of Americans supported the redesign in 2016 when the last poll on the issue was taken. President Donald Trump put the project on hold, citing security issues and attributing the Obama initiative to sheer political correctness. While Trump may still view Andrew Jackson as an American hero, historians are quick to point out the complexities of the former U.S. president’s biography. Jackson owned hundreds of slaves and was responsible for the Indian Removal Act that led to the death of about 4,000 Cherokees, forced to walk from the Southern states to modern-day Oklahoma on what is now referred to as the Trail of Tears. Even though he probably should be, Jackson will not be completely removed from the twenty-dollar bill – he’ll just be demoted to the back. The irony of placing Tubman on one side and Jackson on the other on a symbol of national identity has not gone unnoticed and certainly speaks to the division in American society today.