If you had to pick a favorite past U.S. President who would you choose? You could choose the original great George Washington. Or maybe Lincoln speaks your language. Maybe you grew up in the wonder years of JFK and Camelot. I like FDR, myself. All of these are legitimate choices. But we should be clear in whatever argument we make for choosing one over another: they were all flawed human beings. That being said, I’ve got a real problem with anyone that would choose Andrew Jackson (especially someone demonstrating a general ignorance of American history). There are flawed human sinners and there are inhuman bigoted criminals who had no concern lying and stealing in order to benefit while thousands and thousands of people suffered and died.
If it weren’t for good old American stick our heads in the sandiness we’d be teaching our kids what Jackson really was. Yeah, he had slaves and that is fucked up, but Washington and Jefferson had slaves too and despite my complete support for Black Lives Matter, I can reflect on them as Presidents I would choose as two of the better ones. Doesn’t that put him on the same footing?
Not in this slightest.
My real problem is that Andrew Jackson launched the greatest genocide in U.S. history. We don’t talk about it because we love to learn about how the cowboys won The West. And sure, we may have been taught a little bit about the Trail of Tears at some point in our schooling but mostly its glossed over—in the past, right?
All things considered it really wasn’t that long ago. The descendants are still impacted by Jackson’s decisions to this day.
But I don’t think people understand truly how terrible it was, not just in terms of modern human ethics (war crimes, crimes against humanity, fill in the term here, we sorta hang people for that shit these days), but in the bigger picture kind of way. Sure, it was the Spanish that really got the initial ball rolling, but in terms of the United States Jackson was the one to send the message that natives should feel grateful for what they got even if that was a thousand miles of dead bodies.
Who would revere someone like that?
Answer: Adolf Hitler.
Look it up.
And that’s what’s truly terrifying. You start with a handful of Conquistators to destroy an entire civilization. Then the British Colonies come in and pretty much think well, we’ve established a pattern, so I guess it’s okay. The U.S. pops into existence and Andrew Jackson is like, we’re not doing this fast enough. Hitler is exhillarted by how effective the American settlers were in subjugating the inferior inhabitants we found in these lands. And a large enough group of Americans currently holds many of the same attitudes that have come down through the ages. That only stops when we choose for it stop by recognizing history, seeing all it’s warts and pimples, having open dialogs about it, then deciding not to venerate the very worst in human behavior, whether that be past or present.
Why does Trump like Jackson? Maybe it’s because Jackson just did whatever the hell he wanted, regardless of Congress or the Supreme Court. Maybe it’s because a substantial portion of Trump’s most fervent base venerates Jackson. Honestly, though, I don’t care. What I do care about is that who we put up on pedestals says a lot about our character and in it was not surprising when I only recently learned of Trump’s love for this past President that America would best be served having some real history lessons about.