In the early 20th century British suffragettes carved "Votes For Women" on pennies in order to broadcast their demands for political equality. Their earlier appeals to members of Parliament had failed, and they needed a better way to garner public support.
But carving pennies wasn't simply a unified expression of outrage. It got the word out and made women's suffrage part of the national dialogue. The suffragettes had unleashed the viral force of currency.
It was true then, and it's true now: As marked money circulates, it generates hundreds of thousands of impressions. The suffragettes had effectively turned their money into media.
We can even trace back politically motivated embellishment of money to the Romans. Historians have found coins bearing the image of the unpopular Roman tyrant Caligula with his face crossed out.
It may seem like a small act of defiance, but when large bodies of people stand together in unified dissent, all the small acts combined become a striking political statement.
In Iran the 2009 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was rumored to be a rigged victory. The outraged voters, who were banned from protesting in the streets, began to stamp their banknotes with the letter "V" for "victory," their unifying sign that people power could successfully overtake an unjust government.
The Central Bank of Iran tried to remove the stamped bills from circulation, but too many people were stamping, and the bank eventually gave up.
The public cannot allow corrupt political leaders to carry on disregarding the concerns of their citizens.
Today we're witnessing the desecration of our Constitution in the United States. Supreme Court rulings such as Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC have allowed corporations and billionaires to spend their fortunes jockeying for power in our political system. The effect has been astoundingly harmful to our country's commitment to fair elections and democratic values. It has resulted in a government that is more responsive to the wealthy elite than to the many.
As the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger once said, "Participation, that's what's gonna save the human race."
We the people need to fight back. The Stamp Stampede is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit grassroots organization dedicated to a form of monetary jiu jitsu: using money to get big money out of politics. There are now over 30,000 Stampeders who have purchased rubber stamps in order to revamp their bills with messages like "Not To Be Used For Buying Elections" and "Corporations Are Not People." Every bill is seen by approximately 875 people per year. Together we're making millions of impressions to create a mass visual demonstration of support for reasonable reforms to take back our government.
Like the suffragettes, the Romans, and many more protesters who came before us, we are using our money as media to return power to the people from the hands of a corrupt government. It is a grassroots stampede that allows anyone, anywhere, to participate in this fight. Like Seeger stressed, if we want to save our republic, we all need to participate.