Mount Rushmore

By: investorpoet
March 14th, 2006

From Keystone, Mt. Rushmore is only a short drive, and it is very reachable from Rapid City. We decided to make the trip to Mt. Rushmore on the same Saturday that the United States’ women’s soccer team played China in the World Cup. I know it’s odd to worry about watching TV while on vacation, but I am a huge soccer fan much to my wife’s dismay. I wanted to see the game that afternoon. So my wife and I visited early that morning. The mountain is certainly majestic. It is an incredible work of human craftsmanship. You will feel dwarfed by this monument. Despite its glory, for some reason I didn’t feel the patriotism, the love and pride for the nation of my birth, that is the supposed intent of this site.

Direct View of Mount Rushmore

Perhaps the feeling of pride is diminished by where the monument is located. The Black Hills were sacred ground to both the Sioux and Cheyenne. The U.S. military drove both groups from the Black Hills, violating a treaty that was less than a decade old when gold was discovered in the area. Just east of the Black Hills is the site of Wounded Knee. Here women and children of the Sioux were slaughtered well after the Sioux were relocated to reservations (1890). Some of the most shameful atrocities in all of U.S. history occurred in this region.

Back to the great American monument. I found it odd listening to the mythology machines at the visitor’s center paint the great patriot, Gutzon Borglum. They off-handedly mention that he learned to carve granite on another project. My wife leaned over to note that this was Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is the largest relief carving in the world, honoring the heroes of the Confederacy. You will not find this information anywhere near Mt. Rushmore. We did not visit the museum nearby, but I wonder if they note his membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

Artistic View From Below Mount Rushmore

One more odd thing about Rushmore, you will actually hear this several times while visiting: “Roosevelt, why the hell is he up there?” The park almost seems to apologize for this, “He opened the west…” Really, I thought the Indian killers, pirates, and thieves did that.

The monument was worth seeing. The Black Hills are beautiful, even when carved with irony.

Later that afternoon, the U.S. defeated China in penalty kicks–I did feel proud to be an American that day.

(Originally posted in 1999 by Dan)

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