I don’t like the way certain segments of our population have deified the so-called ‘founding fathers’ of this country. This is not a new complaint, I know, but expressing this sentiment is new to me.
The founding fathers were men. They had some good ideas, and they had some bad ones. They had honorable and decent characteristics, and they had some that were a little on the shady side. So it goes. Their writings should not be sacred. Our constitution should not be sacred. Nothing is sacred.
It’s not bad that nothing is sacred. It’s the truth; saying ‘nothing is sacred’ isn’t going to do some bugaboo to the good ideas that are our self declared national rights. Actually, as George Carlin so artfully verbalized in his last HBO special, even our rights are illusory.
We have no rights, and nothing is sacred. Or rather, we have no intrinsic rights, and nothing is intrinsically sacred. The rights we have are the ones that we win for ourselves on a day to day basis, and we make things sacred by declaring them to be so.
While I will win rights for myself, and encourage others to win rights for themselves, I think there are too many sacred things in our culture. Sacred things are unquestionable things. Sacred things are not supposed to be changed. Sacred things are deemed to be sacred by something other than reason, and things that are deemed outside of reason are dangerous because they are not susceptible to the influence of reason. The doctrine that ‘we find these truths to be self evident’ is a faith assumption. That God has given us these inherent rights. This is not true, because there is no evidence to support the existence of a God, and there is no evidence to support the assumption that God has given us anything. Rights are things that are won. They are coaxed. They must be vigilantly guarded. The assumption that there is something divine underpinning our rights leads to complacency and an assumption that ‘in the end, the truth will out’.
That may be true, but the truth that outs will be the truth, not necessarily what your nationalist faith assigns the truth to be.
I want reason and skepticism to underpin our national values. I don’t like the sacred aura that hovers over the constitution, and I don’t like the sacred aura that hovers around the founding fathers. Thankfully it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to openly question religion in the United States. I wonder how far along we’ve come in our willingness to allow our secular dogmas to be questioned?
This proposal may be whimsical, but I have a suggestion for undermining the nationalist religion of ‘the founding fathers’. It may be perceived that I am merely substituting one religion—American Jingoism—for another—my own secular humanism—but I don’t think so. There may have been a time where our national religion was necessary to preserve unity and to move the country forward. I don’t think this is the case anymore. Reason leads me to believe that if we are to survive (and thrive) as a people, we’ll have to embrace reason—and humanism—more fully than we have in the past. The national religion of the past isn’t spawning patriotism and progress anymore. These days, it spawns nativist reactionaries and fat, spoiled, over-privileged protest movements. We can take from the past—we don’t have to build from scratch—but we need a new story arch.
So, onto my small, whimsical suggestion:
I think we should change the faces that we put on money. The people we honor on our currency should be representatives of where we hope to go as a people, rather than representatives of where we have been. Romanticizing our leaders by building monuments for them, and by memorializing them on money only feeds our national atavism. As we move forward, I think we should look towards the arts & sciences for guidance.
Here are my recommendations. I’d love to see yours.
On the 1 dollar bill: Carl Sagan
On the 5 dollar bill: Louis Armstrong
On the 10 dollar bill: Dr. Seuss
On the 20 dollar bill: Kurt Vonnegut
On the 50 dollar bill: Bob Dylan
On the 100 dollar bill: Woody Allen
what do you think?
cross posted at Daily Kos.