Donald Trump laid a wreath on the grave of former President Andrew Jackson yesterday on what would have been Jackson's 250th birthday.
It turns out Trump is the latest in a long line of presidents who have paid homage to Jackson. Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and Teddy Roosevelt, among others, all visited Jackson's home and adorned their predecessor's grave while in office.
But why the persistent interest in Old Hickory? (Evidently that was Jackson's nickname, by the way -- Old Hickory. As a one-time ballplayer, I'm jealous. Anybody called Old Hickory could probably hit like the dickens.)
Well, for one thing, he was a white man in America, which means that his thoughts, words and deeds were and continue to be considered inherently more important and more valuable than those of most people around him.
Further, like many of his similarly heralded colleagues, Jackson was a sanctimonious slaveowner who was directly responsible for the murder of many, many indigenous people, and for the forced relocation of many more. He rests on the same prickly laurels as Washington and Jefferson and our other most star-spangled heroes.
Even Barack Obama paid Jackson some (un)love. Barry made an effort during his time in the Oval Office to have Jackson's likeness removed from the $20 bill, paying his subtle respect to Jackson through the "any publicity is good publicity" avenue. I'm told that effort fell short, but I haven't seen a bill the size of Jackson's in years now.
It should probably be no surprise that Jackson -- and his views on race -- remain relevant. Our country has shown time and again that oppression and violence against people who aren't white men is enough to keep you celebrated for centuries. But in Jackson's case, there may be more to the story -- a conspiracy worthy of Doc Brown's DeLorean.
I don't believe any of these presidents are visiting the grave of Andrew Jackson. They are visiting Andrew Jackson himself.
Don't believe me?
Then how did Andrew Jackson release a piano-pop album as "Bryan Adams" more than 200 years after his "death?"
I don't know.
What I do know is that Wikipedia credits "Bryan Adams" with the following on Reckless:
Bryan Adams – lead vocals, guitars, piano, harmonica, hand claps, foot stomping
"Hand claps, foot stomping." That's very weird... just like everything I've written here. Coincidence? Bryan Adams thinks so.
Anyway, you know what else is weird? It's hard to look at who our country chooses to honor and who it chooses to forget (for instance, honoring Jackson on the $20 bill and forgetting every person of color and most women) without thinking we are intentionally working to maintain the racial hierarchy Trump is being so honest about.
We can't forget that Andrew Jackson is the founding legacy of the Democratic Party, but we can stop treasuring his memory.
We shouldn't forget the legacy of oppression and destruction left by Old Hickory and his white-power brethren, but until we stop considering them emblems of patriotic morality, I fear we are doomed to perpetuate the shadows of our past.
It's time to be brave enough to build a future that doesn't build on the oppressive values of its founders. It's time to recognize new standard-bearers and hold them to a higher moral standard, as Reckless as that might seem.
And it's time to take Bryan Adams off the $20 bill.