Okay, I’ve lived down south for most of my life, so I know the deal. I get it, we are proud and supportive of history, even a bloody/racist/oppressive one because it’s history.
Blah blah blah.
I have no issue with people exercising their right to freedom of speech. In fact, I’m a firm proponent as a supporter of the rights of human beings. Obviously.
So if you want to be a little hypocritical and exercise your freedoms to endorse the history that suppressed others' go ahead. Really.
But the level of exhibitionism in this state admittedly gets to me sometimes, especially as I start my new year driving behind a car with a Confederate flag stuck onto the bumper.
There is a float for the “Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy” that is allowed in our yearly parade in Mt. Pleasant. A gigantic statue of John C. Calhoun stands posed over the city in Marion Square in downtown Charleston. Confederate flags are so common down here, I really don’t take the time to get even a little bit worked up when I see one anymore.
But one of the real questions I ask myself every year when I pass by a school titled with him as a namesake is this:
Why in the world do we still like Andrew Jackson?
While his birthplace is disputed as being from either North or South Carolina, I do understand a documentation and acknowledgment of a historical figure’s origins. But if I’m being quite honest, the veneration for him as a person is not at all uncommon down here.
Until I took a real U.S. history class for the first time and did my own research into his presidency, I thought him to be a decent bloke as I passed by signs and schools with his name plastered on in big letters. And I guess I can’t speak to his character outside of his actions, documented words and entire presidency from what I’ve seen, but due to those slight imperfections, I really do not see him as a good role model for children.
I mean, for goodness sake, there are at least five elementary, middle and high schools as well as a state park in his name just in the county/area where he is supposedly from.
When kids attend a school that is named after someone, more often than not, they would reasonably suppose that this is because this is a figure that is worthy to become a namesake. And in the future, the installations of racist or dated beliefs and ideals are so much more easily born when there is a figurehead to the cause that has been there since childhood.
So when I ask why we still like Andrew Jackson here in South Carolina, it isn’t questioning his place as a historical figure. After all, the mistakes of human history aren’t learned to be not repeated by remembering only the good.
Hurrah, he was a war hero! That got him a presidency. We don’t need to contribute any more celebration or honor on that end.
“Old Hickory” for some, “King Andrew I” for others, spent his presidency advocating the spread of slavery into newly developing areas and states in the U.S., coining the Indian Removal Act and ignoring states bullying Natives into leaving their lands on what became known as the Trail of Tears. These acts alone null and void him for being a good character to be honored.
Nonetheless, he left office a popular president, leaving his successor, a member of his own party, to deal with the fallout.
So no, I do not support this public display of Andrew Jackson as a worthy, venerable figure. And I really do wonder why it is that some still do.