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Let Dr. King’s Two-or-Ten show the true meaning of love

    Thursday, January 11, 2018 -- (Long Beach, CA) -- This holiday weekend, Americans must wonder what will happen now that hatred has -- for the first time -- won the White House.

    Hatred is nothing new, nor shall it ever perish. And throughout the nation’s history, plenty of candidates spit hatred onto the Flag.

    But never did open raw hatred win. Thus, never did violent thugs smile knowing that the President would turn his back, as bodies fell to violence.

    So as this new President displays whether the holiday weekend means anything to him, perhaps Americans everywhere can look to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and ask how can we overcome the swirling rising waters of hate.

    Yes, certainly enjoy the weekend. Even when we honor veterans twice during the year, we accept that staying on the couch is sometimes the best expression of love to the greatest American heroes.

    If you rise from the beautiful comfortable sofa, then absolutely feel joy that you can put your feet to the ground, and join countless thousands who march with his memory pulsing within.

    In 1955, when the people of Birmingham opted to tire themselves with long walks to and from work rather then to ride a segregated bus system, one told their young minister that while their feet were tire, their heart was lifted.

    Every step we walk is, said President Kennedy, like the Chinese proverb, that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

    And so certainly if you are in southern California, then the Saturday parade in Long Beach, and the larger event in Los Angeles on Monday are simply acts of love to honor a truly great American hero.

    But if the current President turns his back, and people lay on their beautiful couch, how could Americans give lasting honor to the greatness of our own growth of this imperfect Union?

    Perhaps the simplest way are the faces shown on our money.

    Everyone still knows what paper money looks like, though often the faces upon the bills are only symbolic.

    Yes, the One and the Five show two of the president who historians classify as “great.” Only Mr. Roosevelt, a Democrat, carries that rank for historians.

    Otherwise, we have the Two, that no one really uses. On the Ten is a rich man who wanted a King. The Twenty shows the founder of the Democratic Party. The Fifty won a brutal war against rebellion to save the Union. And the Hundred shows perhaps the smartest man in our history.

    Why not let this be a method by which Americans can use faces of our money to lift our hearts in the simplest act of legislation that a Congress can send to the President?

    Yes, keep George Washington on the One. He led our people to victory over the King of England, and himself turned down those who wanted Washington to simply replace the King, to become our own King.

    And Mr. Lincoln should keep his Five, to honor the man who took office after bombs fell, and whose life ended before his vision saved the Union from rebellion.

    But let us look to the Congress to put a bill upon the President’s desk that challenge open raw hatred with the simplest act possible to show the meaning of true greatness.

    Change the faces of our money.

    Everything over the Hundred is merely used for banking transactions, so those pieces of paper hold little symbolic impact on ordinary Americans.

    If the One and Five remain, then let the other five currency bills reflect this imperfect Union.

    On the Twenty is a Democrat, but Andrew Jackson’s biggest job in the US Army was killing Indians. Why not replace the Indian killer with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another Democrat and only the third of those three presidents who historians consider truly “great.”

    The Fifty shows Ulysses Simpson Grant, who was the Army leader that finally gave Mr. Lincoln victory over rebellion. But Grant was so brutal in the Civil War that thousands of his own soldiers were sent into their own deaths merely because victory was counted by winning no matter the sacrifice. Likewise, soldiers (and families) of the rebellion shed so much blood that everyone views Grant by a nickname, as “The Butcher.” When finally he became the third Republican to be President, Grant was inept and open to corruption.

    Why not replace “The Butcher” with another Republican, the actor from California, Ronald Reagan? Sure, his terms as Governor ended free colleges and cracked down on open thought. His presidency threw the world into hightened concern over whether nuclear bombs will fall. But no matter one’s view of Mr. Reagan, it is vast swatchs of the American people who truly love the gentleman.

    The Hundred features the most famous America of his time, Benjamin Franklin. The print publisher who also wrote books, and discovered electricity, also was a man who understood the calendar and why Revolutions win or lose. All very important things, but who thinks much about this famous man?

    Why not instead put another famous face onto the Hundred, who Americans also would love, by giving Elvis Presley due respect of his own greatness. Perhaps the finest voice of our centuries of singing, the man was -- like every soul -- imperfect, just as our Union itself is imperfect. But the ordinary American who can see Elvis smiling would go to the bank just to ask for the Elvis Hundred.

    Which leaves just two more pieces of paper that are both symbolic and functional in the lives of ordinary Americans -- the Two and the Ten.

    No one uses the Two, upon which a slave owner sits. Thomas Jefferson was -- like all souls -- imperfect, and yet his own life brought agony to the woman he loved, for he would not free their own children from slavery until he was dead, so as to always have her be enslaved herself to later liberate the children.

    And on the Ten is the man who wanted a King.

    Let freedom ring in those humble pieces of paper, be placing Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr. on those bills.

    Be it the Tubman Two or the Tubman Ten, her face upon America’s money says that freedom itself is the truest reflection of what makes this nation great. Either she replaces a slave owner or a man who wanted another King, give Congress the opportunity for Harriet Tubman to again ride the Underground Railway, and lift the hearts and minds of ordinary Americans.

    So, too, then as we rise from our beautiful sofas to tire our feet and lift our souls, let the minister from the South to take an honored-yet-humble place in the conduct of government, by leading on the King Two or King Ten.

    It is certain that this nation is being ripped apart by hatred. It is obvious that Congress itself can do almost nothing by mutual agreement. But while there is nothing smaller, changing the faces of our money holds deeper meaning to ordinary Americans than any other action.

    They can battle out the big stuff or ignore things beyond their ability, but by accepting that the faces may indeed show Americans they don’t like, it could demonstrate that all sides can come together, even if they don’t like parts of the final outcome.

    During the 15 years that I’ve advocated Reagan on the Fifty and Roosevelt on the Twenty, not a single soul has joined me. It’s a free country and everybody is entitled to their views. But if this humble act tells the current President that the Congress itself can push through legislation that many had to hold their nose to support, it then puts a symbol upon the most important desk in the world.

    What Act of Congress can show ordinary Americans whether a soul so empty that he tweets raw hatred shall ever rise beyond the swamp?

    Let Dr. King and Harriet Tubman join Mr. Reagan and FDR, to smile alongside Elvis -- a true King -- to find out.

-- Billy Orton

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Billy Orton is a novelist and historian living in Long Beach, California.