Justice can be found by taking cerebral baby steps. It’s never far from the truth, which any child or enlightened adult can reveal instantaneously if confronted by a wrong. Law, on the other hand, is determined by a toddler with mouth sewn shut, glued to a Rube Goldberg ball, and sent rolling from the better part of a day (a minor traffic ticket) to upwards of oblivion or longer (premeditated revenge killing). The tremendous apparatus of law was constructed by the children of wealthy planters and industrialists who raised an outlaw nation on the strong backs of recently descended Africans and dirt poor Ellis Island immigrants. Law made slavery, the Civil War, tenement houses, and 400 homicides in Chicago last year. Today the government snubs its free citizens with constant monetary reminder of oppression’s dark past. Law works ’round the clock for the owners of a society, both antebellum and modern. Yesterday the planter class. Today the banker class, skeevy private plane persons who are probably not too far removed ancestrally from the planter class. Hence, slave owners in our wallets. People who owned/own people. Presidents who owned less people before becoming President, and then got to be head of state, and bought more people to make themselves richer. They were dirty privies. Yesterday and today.
Many established university historians make the argument that these men were products of their time, as if every one born American had a 3/5 person to call their own. White women and men without property, and all little farmer girls and boys not of Africa were burdened by the same good fortune wrought by a slaver economy. No. Not even close. A majority of dark people were owned by a small “planter” class of Caucasian men, who needed a culture of racism and prejudice to reap their private goodies.
Yet no matter how crisp and clear my hindsight, arguments above do not justify pasting these “men of their time” on today’s currency. We have a diverse freer nation now. The land is ours, inherited by revolutionary thieves, who themselves inherited it from metal working colonial squatters. So why are they still “owning” our coinage? Have no other good men and women been born from their usurpation? Why people anyway? How about the woodchuck, turkey, pickerel, or pike? How about a purple mountain majesty, a geyser, a Great Lakes chain? Canada trades a loon and an English Queen. Freakish. But at least no slaveholders.
So, to the above piece. Three presidents who owned (and got rich) off slaves. I painted a lectern because I think all good Americans need some educatin’ from time to time. I took a $1, $20, and $2 bill and glued them to the top. I carefully cut out the heads on each and lobbed them over to Frederick Douglas to juggle. I replaced the cut out holes with heads of decent and good people from revolutionary America. Phillis Wheatley where Washington was. Absalom Jones in place of Jackson. Finally, Benjamin Banneker to replace Jefferson on the forgotten, yet still circulating two dollar bill. I also invisible-inked the money with a fact about the slaveholding history of each. A black light reveals the truth. For instance on the twenty dollar bill one who possesses the necessary equipment will read the following: “Jackson was paternal with his slaves although I do not think he fathered any.”
On the left side of the lectern is Washington holding the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence. Phillis Wheatley was a poet who did not general the death of anyone nor own another human being. Leave it to the hyperactive painter to misspell her name. Sorry Phillis.
On the right side is Jefferson, excited in the prospect of ravaging young girls. He will father a child with one of his slaves. Kind of like the guy in Cleveland who stole three girls off the street and locked them in his basement for ten years. Benjamin Banneker was not known to be a serial pervert, and he authored a beautiful almanac.
On the front is Andrew Jackson, the most vile, with his face burning off in Hell. Absalom Jones was a clergyman who tended to plague victims during the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1794. Coincidentally, George Washington, featured on another panel of cowardice, hightailed it out of the infected city and didn’t come back until all the bugs were dead.
There are three shelves in the lectern, each depicting slave quarters at the estates of the currency Presidents. They read respectively:
Mount Vernon B&B—Sleeps 18
A slow day in Monticello (notice the empty whipping post)
Winter at the Hermitage—Old Hickory let us cook his old horse
I plan to show the lectern at my local art association. I will invite the history and economics departments from out state college, and local school districts. There is so much our children can learn from our money. They never asked for the hero-making of lessor men. Why do we give them these dead racist kings? I wish to see a just currency replacement before my grandchild’s first lemonade stand. These Presidents are historical. Each has an importance to history. But they were not good men. Intelligent? Yes. Crafty? You betcha. So was Adolf Hitler. I forget now… Which euro honors his triumphant legacy?