It’s now fairly widely known that the U.S. Treasury has changes planned for the ten dollar bill. It is anticipated that by 2020, a depiction of a woman will share the ten spot with its current occupant, Alexander Hamilton.
While we have a history of using postage stamps to honor various important historical Americans for substantial achievements and contributions to society, we’ve treated our currency differently. The American heroes depicted on our currency haven’t changed for decades. The currency has not been used to recognize the historical achievements of myriad people. Rather, it has been a model of consistency, lending itself to nostalgic and historical reflection on our country’s founding and formative history.
Accordingly, one might think the suggestion that our currency should bear the likeness of any new personage would be the subject of serious and thorough debate and consideration. Hamilton’s portrait has graced the $10 bill since 1928. Surely Treasury must have identified someone of peculiar historical standing who made supremely important contributions to America as being worthy of such an honor. Not exactly. You see, the identity of the woman to be honored has not yet been determined. The point of the effort is to put “a woman” on the $10 bill, not to honor any specific woman for her contributions or importance to our country. Ultimately, the finer point is to celebrate our own contemporary importance – we will be the first generation to put a female face on U.S. currency.
The idea is the brainchild of U.S. Treasurer, Rosie Rios. The reportage on the decision and her comments on the subject clearly illustrate the real purpose of the change. CNN reported that after being sworn in as Treasurer in 2009, “she became fixated on a goal: putting a woman on the U.S. currency.” In making early public remarks about the change, Rios reported getting choked up because “it hit me then that this was going to happen.” In describing the change she said, “this is historical.” Clearly Ms. Rios is moved by the fact of a woman being placed on the currency. Who the woman will be or what she accomplished for America, is not critical.
Rios isn’t the only government official whose comments reveal the real accomplishment being pursued in this effort. Regarding the fact that the yet to be determined honoree will share the $10 bill with Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “I think a woman should have her own bill.” Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) went further. The fact that “the woman selected for the $10 note might have to share space on the bill with Hamilton is misguided and demeaning.” An as yet undetermined woman sharing a stage with Alexander Hamilton is automatically, ipso facto, demeaning? Why? Would it be demeaning were a worthy man to be selected to share the $20 bill with Andrew Jackson? Clearly, the importance of the moment is the recognition of a woman, ultimately any woman, on U.S. currency.
These comments, together with the fact that nobody seems to have considered whether a woman can be identified about whom a consensus will exist concerning her worthiness of being placed on the $10 bill, lead to an easy conclusion – the accomplishment being celebrated here is not the accomplishment of the woman to be selected; the accomplishment that causes Rios to get choked up, Clinton to opine that a woman “should have her own bill”, and Shaheen to call the sharing of the bill with Hamilton “demeaning”, is the accomplishment of placing the likeness of a woman on the currency. The accomplishment is contemporary, not historical. The achievement is ours, not the yet to be identified honoree’s. The celebration is over our self-importance in making the change; our own making of history.
At bottom, the emplacement of the likeness of a woman on the currency is a matter of fairness in the context of identity politics. How else could one ever justify or explain the compulsion to place “a woman” on currency that hasn’t reflected anyone other than Hamilton for some 87 years, without any consideration whatsoever of her specific accomplishments or contributions?
This feat achieves the advancement of two causes the left doggedly pursues. It moves two processes forward, both of which fit perfectly within their vision for America. The first is the process of transforming American institutions to fit their narrative of the world as they believe it should be. The currency, like just about everything else these days, is being transformed into an avenue for the left to do “social justice” and to force American institutions to reflect egalitarian and social justice principles. The second, is the systematic phasing out of the icons of our founding, our first principles and our original creed. Individual liberty, limited government, constitutionalism, and the rule of law are principles the left believes are out of date, antiquated, even dangerous. That they can simultaneously transform the currency into a device for reflecting their view of a “progressing” society while demoting on that same currency the founders who created our country upon the foundation of those principles must be doubly satisfying.
Though it may seem somewhat trivial in light of the many significant issues we face as a country, the revision of the currency for the purpose of advancing leftist principles serves as a striking metaphor for what has been slowly transpiring for many years—the left’s effective assault on the founding principles and effort to replace them in the hearts and minds of Americans with principles of egalitarianism, distributive equality, and social justice.
Whether there is another shoe to drop when the identity of the woman to be honored is announced remains to be seen. Will the leftists at Treasury be satisfied with the achievement as it is and choose a woman whose contributions can be appreciated by all? Or will they take the opportunity to further their agenda and select a woman whose accomplishments advanced their statist principles and worked counter to those Hamilton cherished? Time will tell, but it’s worth noting that among those who have been suggested are Margret Sanger, the founder of the organization that became Planned Parenthood and outspoken advocate of eugenics and forced sterilization.