I am just as distressed as the rest of America at Prince’s passing, and there’s little I can say that would meaningfully add to his deserved tributes and encomiums: it’s not an exaggeration to say that we may not ever again have an entertainer like that who has the ability to produce music that cuts across race and class and age to be appreciated by everyone.
But the fact that he died just as America put the portraits of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman on U.S. currency may be serendipitous, in that it gives us a precedent for the government to honor his accomplishments in a meaningful way.
The tradition of our government naming things after retired–or even active–politicians is noxious. I despise the fact that the playground at the zoo my daughter and I compulsively visit each weekend has a plaque next to it in honor of the Appropriations committee member who put a rider on a bill to allocate a few bucks to spruce it up. Everywhere I turn there are post offices, train stations, airports, roads, bridges, tunnels, bike paths and anything else big enough for a plaque and was paid for by our tax dollars named after some politician. And until last week our currency was reserved for politicians too.
It’s a stupid tradition: there’s nothing that makes politicians more deserving of such an honor than a regular citizen, and patting them on the back with an honor in perpetuity for shoveling tax dollars back to us strikes me as the worst possible incentive possible.
So we should follow up on what the Treasury did in honoring three brave private citizens who literally risked life and limb to extend freedom to all Americans and pass a constitutional amendment that bans naming government property after a politician, living or dead. And to help kick off such a movement we should put our heads together and name something after Prince, a consummate entertainer who brought joy and happiness to millions and left us a dozen songs that will be sung long after the likes of us have passed from this earth.