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writing for godot

A gift to America from the U.S. Mint

Written by Robert J Gaydos   
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 03:59

By Bob Gaydos

Lady Liberty ... courtesy of the U.S. Mint
Lady Liberty ... courtesy of the U.S. Mint

It came in the mail and I hesitated before tossing it out with the rest of the unsolicited communications. Being an occasional collector of coins, I usually give the catalogue from the U.S. Mint at least a cursory look, but something struck me as different about this one, the “Treats of the Season” holiday gift guide. I just couldn’t figure out what it was, so I set it aside.

A little while later when I picked the guide up again, I saw it right away, but also questioned what I was seeing. “Is that a strong, young woman of color on the $100 Liberty coin?” I asked myself, smiling incredulously. ‘‘An African-American Lady Liberty? In 99.99% 24-karat gold?’’

Why yes it is, the Mint catalogue writers informed me. To celebrate the 225th anniversary of its founding, the Mint has initiated a series of gold coins depicting Lady Liberty as different ethnicities. Following the first symbolic African-American woman to grace a United States coin, will come Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and Indian-American figures, to reflect "the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States,” the Mint said.

“Well, of course,” I said. “Perfect,” I said. Ironic in spades. Still grinning, I wondered, “Does he know about this? He couldn’t possibly know about this. He would surely have tweeted something … And since these coins are already available, why am I just learning about this?”

Last question first.

The Mint announced its plans for the commemorative coin in January, before the, um, inauguration. At the time, I was hospitalized and preoccupied, recovering from a serious auto accident. The coin slipped by me. They started minting the coins in April at West Point, not far from where I live. Love that local touch, but again, I was still otherwise occupied. But what’s the dotard’s excuse? After all, gold is his favorite color.

Of course, these coins are for collectors or investors, not flim-flam artists who borrow other people’s coin of the realm and don't bother to pay it back. I somehow can't see him encouraging his young children to collect coins unless the family name were stamped on them. (The thought that it may well happen just sent chills through my body.)

Back to Lady Liberty.

The coin apparently did not totally escape notice of the bigots who are a significant segment of the so-called core Trump supporters. A quick search of the Internet turned up these comments reported by AP as coming from Twitter:

-- “The discrimination of white people by the [Obama] administration continues.’’

-- “That’s fine. But if they do one with a Latina on it, it better come with papers …”

-- “I’m surprised that it’s not a MUSLIM.”

-- “This administration doing everything to change history, including changing Lady Liberty from what the French sent us. Pathetic racism!”

-- “I wouldn’t pay a dime for it. This proves that the Obama’s (sic) are racist.’’

The coins obviously were commissioned by the Mint during Barack Obama’s administration. But clearly a large number of Americans still don’t think that electing an African-American president was a powerfully symbolic, inclusive act that gave truth to the boast that, in America, “anybody can be elected president.” Actually, the dotard is daily living proof of that decree.

Perhaps anticipating some of the criticism, the Mint’s Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson, issued a statement with the release: “We are very proud of the fact that the United States Mint is rooted in the Constitution.  … Our founding fathers realized the critical need for our fledgling nation to have a respected monetary system, and over the last 225 years, the Mint has never failed in its mission.” Later, he said in an interview. “Part of our intent was to honor our tradition and heritage. But we also think it’s always worthwhile to have a conversation about liberty, and we certainly have started that conversation.”

Well done, Rhett.

But what about that other woman of color -- a real, historical one, not a symbolic one -- who has been chosen to appear on U.S. currency? What about Harriet Tubman?

You’ll remember that, last year, after a social media-fueled campaign to put a woman on the $10 bill, the Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, announced a plan to change the look -- and the faces -- of America’s paper currency, the money we actually spend, not collect.

Abolitionist and former slave Harriet Tubman, was selected to appear on the $20 bill, replacing the Indian-killer Andrew Jackson. Other women and civil rights leaders were to be added to the $5 and $10 bills.

This remake did not escape Trump’s notice, what with a female slave and Underground Railroad “conductor,’’ to be honored and his favorite president to be removed. He called it “pure political correctness.”

New Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he would review the Obama leftover makeover, but also said it’s not a high priority since he’s been busy  trying to justify a tax giveaway to wealthy Trump supporters. The good news for history and equality fans is that the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces the paper currency, says it has not yet received any orders to slow or halt the redesign. But the secretary does have final approval on any changes, so stay tuned on that front.

If she does survive, Tubman wouldn’t be the first woman or first woman of color to grace U.S. currency. Suffragette Susan B. Anthony appeared on the $1 coin that was often mistaken for quarters and proved useful in subways. Sacagawea, a Shoshone guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark, succeeded Anthony and was the first woman of color to appear on U.S. currency, her dollar coin having a golden tinge. Neither coin was especially popular with the public, nor, I would assume with Trump, given his issues with strong women and Native Americans.

Again, that’s why I love the new $100, one-ounce, 24-karat gold, striking Lady Liberty coin, proudly and defiantly proclaiming our nation’s diversity and evolving heritage. Trump and the Republicans can’t even go after the Mint to stop production on budgetary grounds since the agency, which produces currency as well as commemorative coins and medals, is self-sustaining. Jeppson said it returned nearly $600 million in profits to the Treasury Department last year.

By the way, it’s not too late to introduce a Trump offspring to the joys of coin collecting. If I may be so bold, sir, Barron is the perfect age to appreciate the history, artistry and legacy embodied in the new Liberty coin. Why not drop one in his stocking to make Christmas great again? It’s a father-son connection thing. Or, if you prefer, look at it as an investment -- at $1,690 per coin, it’s not chump change. A hedge for the market correction. If you want to be a bigshot to the White House staff, give each one a silver medal of the same design, at $59.95 per medal. They’ll love it. Give Sarah Huckabee Sanders two.

The Mint says you can only order the coins by going to its web site or calling its special number, but I think they’d take your call anytime. You might want to hurry though, they’re only minting 100,000 of the 225th anniversary Liberty gold coins and Jeff Bezos is reportedly thinking of offering them at a discount on Amazon as a gift to America. What a guy, huh? Happy holidays. your social media marketing partner

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