I’m writing something for the Scene on Andrew Jackson and so I’ve been trying to think some thoughts about him so that my piece isn’t just like “I shouldn’t cheer for a man who would shoot someone over a fat woman, but I do.” And I do come back to the fact that I have grown to appreciate more and more that Jackson does not pretend to be less monstrous or pretend to live in a United States less monstrous than the one I recognize living in. I mean, let’s just take his treatment of Native Americans. Has there been another U.S. president as blatantly genocidal as Jackson?
But here’s what I appreciate: Jackson looked at the vision he had of the U.S. (and what he believed voters wanted of him) and looked at the Southeast, and he knew that the only way those two things were going to be reconciled was by doing whatever it took to remove the people whose land it was. And so he did. He didn’t pretend that there was going to be some way for the U.S. and native peoples to live together in intermingled nations. He was just the monster necessary to achieve our disgusting goals.
I think we’re uncomfortable with Jackson as a nation because we’re used to our politicians pretending to us that our goals are noble and the ends we use to reach them measured and justified. And Jackson just didn’t do that shit. We often elect presidents aspirationally–they represent what we want America to be. Not Jackson. He wasn’t a symbol. He was a reflection.
And we still don’t like what we see when we look at him.