Letter: Painting removal a politically correct move

Dustin Luca/Staff photoPresident Andrew Jackson portrait in Salem City Hall.

To the editor:

I am writing to comment on Mayor Kim Driscoll’s latest foray in political correctness, namely relocating the portrait of Andrew Jackson at City Hall to an anteroom and replacing it with one to be commissioned of a member of the indigenous Naumkeag tribe.

Even for the mayor, this latest foray into political correctness is astounding, which is really saying something given her earlier penchant for PC initiatives and grandstanding. Which anonymous member of the Naumkeag tribe do you suppose she wants to capture on canvas?

But, actually, now that I think more about it, perhaps the mayor is on to something here.

Maybe we should expunge the memory of every Founding Father who was also a slave owner, including Washington and Jefferson, change the name of the nation’s capital, wipe their portraits off our coinage and currency, and redress every other historical wrong that violates our current 21st century sensibilities.

And once we have legitimized such a PC bandwagon, let’s even include the first settlers of Salem and our predecessors every generation since then, who at one time or another may have been mean to one group or another. After all, haven’t each succeeding ethnic group been the victims of vile discrimination of one sort or another? .

I assume that the portrait of Jackson is where it is in Salem City Hall because he was president when Salem became a city in 1836, which also happened to be the year when City Hall was built with Salem’s pro rata share of the surplus in the federal budget that year, which Jackson returned to the cities and towns throughout the United States.

My memory is that in the entire 230-year history of our present federal government, that is the only time a federal budget surplus has occurred. With the mayor’s penchant for ever-increasing real estate taxes and public spending, perhaps it is no wonder that he should be pilloried for distributing the 1836 federal surplus as well.

The trouble with these kinds of hare-brained PC initiatives is that it detracts attention from what should be the real business of local government, such as improving the quality of our public schools, promoting the efficient delivery of municipal services, living within a responsible annual budget based on income and not selling off assets to avoid a deficit, and curtailing runaway city taxes.

Everyone has a historical beef but it is not up to government, especially local government, to redress every single one of them, or to decide which ones get redressed and which ones do not get redressed.

I also suspect that there are no descendants of the Naumkeag tribe who are still around to appreciate what the mayor is doing for them. And by the way, it is a historical fact that Andrew Jackson is not responsible for their annihilation.

Perhaps once her honor has succeeded with this initiative she can turn her attention to petitioning Congress to remove Jackson’s portrait from our $20 bills.

An ancient Greek legislator named Solon once wrote that “Government should not do more good than the public can bear.” That was written over 2,000 years ago and it makes as much sense today as it did then.

Mayor Driscoll, wise up!

John Carr


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