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April 21, 2016

"But They're Only Changing the $20 Bill Because They Want a Woman and/or a Black On It"

I pulled an old and dishonest trick in the last post: I didn't address a key objection, not because I wasn't aware of it, but because I was lazy, and didn't feel like addressing it.

That is, it was easier to argue against arguments that weren't being made than to address the argument actually being made, so, dishonestly, I chose the easier path of pretending the argument was other than what it was.

Let me correct that cheap and lazy error now.

To the statement that what is being objected to is that they're only changing the bill to put a woman and/or a black (and preferably both) on our money, I respond:

Yes, obviously.

But so what?

Our official pantheon of national heroes is mostly limited to whites, and mostly to white men. Of course there's a reason for that: At the times of momentous consequence in our past, white men were mostly calling the shots.

But i certainly do understand if women and blacks (and other minorities) want their own folk included in the pantheon.

Hell, I got annoyed when they made Johnny Storm black.

And I don't even like the Fantastic Four.

I don't think people are being quite honest with themselves when they say "Why should we indulge this need to have People Who Look Like You?" in places of honor, when they themselves seem to be pretty annoyed that people that don't look like them are being added.

It's not racist to want to see people that remind you of yourself in positions of respect. People may be utterly indifferent as to the gender or race of their heroes and role models, but something tells me more little girls looked up to Clara Barton than little boys did.

I think sometimes we can get kind of silly about pretending that there is -- or should be -- absolutely no tribal feelings of any kind in the world.

They exist and they're never going away, ever.

And if we're being honest, we have them as well.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were two competitors created almost as if by fate to oppose each other, first in the NCAAs and then in the NBA.

They were both incredible.

Guess who I identified more with and rooted for?

I could not object to blacks falling more on Team Magic just because he was black.

I favored Larry Bird more, I'm sure, partly because, in some part of me, I could imagine myself being Larry Bird, but could not quite imagine myself being Magic Johnson.

Just a a little girl may be able to imagine herself as Amelia Earhardt, but not Chuck Yaegher.

Just as a black kid might be able to imagine himself as Colin Powell but not necessarily Dwight Eisenhower.

(Though why they'd want to be Colin Powell, I have no idea.)

I feel this is very leftist mode of thought: to assert that one is utterly, completely without a particular sin (which is silly from Jump Street), and then begin finding fault with others for not living up to this self-declared absolute sinless purity one claims to have.

Everyone is flawed, including ourselves. Let's kind of admit this and stop throwing Impossible Ideals around and charging and sentencing people for not meeting these Impossible Ideals (as we ourselves do not meet them).

Ideals should be used for aspiration and emulation -- not for vindictive punishment. They're ideals. They cannot be quite lived up to. And being ideals, it's really no one's place to harshly judge someone for not living up to an ideal.

I think it would be healthy to begin having a more reasonable and honest discussion about morality and ideals, beginning firstly with a confession of the ways we each fall short of them.



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posted by Ace at 04:44 PM

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