President Trump’s visit Friday to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for Independence Day festivities has generated plenty of hypocritical and manufactured criticism from camps of the discontented – but of course, Trump gets criticized from the left for almost everything he does.
How can you not love four giant faces of American presidents carved out of a mountain using dynamite? Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were not perfect (no one is), but unquestionably were patriots who served our country with enormous accomplishments.
Trump will speak at the ceremonies, which will also feature a military flyover, Lakota storytellers and hoop dancers, and the first fireworks show in 10 years.
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Trump’s strategy should be to go big with a bold proposal for the national memorial, but first let’s look over the lineup of those aghast by the celebration.
First come the statue haters. Regrettably, the deeds and images of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln have all been under unjustified attack in American cities of late.
The four presidents represent the birth, growth, expansion and preservation of America. The problem, according to Oglala Lakota Nation activist Nick Tilsen, is that “it’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”
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The New York Times leaped on the bandwagon this week, helpfully pointing out that the memorial “was built on what had been Indigenous land.”
Well, here is some breaking news for the Times: every square inch of the United States, plus the rest of North America and Latin America, once “had been Indigenous land.”
Even the headquarters of oh-so politically correct New York Times sits on land in Manhattan that once belonged to indigenous people before it was purchased for almost nothing by the Dutch and later taken by the British. Horrors! Is the Times prepared to pull up stakes and relocate to Europe to atone for its sinful location?
And by the way, when the U.S. took control of the Black Hills in 1877, Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were all deceased, and Teddy Roosevelt was 19 years old. So it’s quite a stretch to say any of these four presidents were responsible for acquiring the land or ordering the building of the memorial. Construction on the memorial began in 1927 – eight years after Roosevelt died.
The Black Hills of South Dakota are also the site of a gigantic mountain sculpture of Crazy Horse, the famed Oglala Lakota warrior, which has been under construction since 1948 – just 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.
There’s a strong current of Marxist alienation in the idea of knocking down statues to “get right with history.”
When finished, the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest mountain sculpture in the world and make the sculptures on Mount Rushmore look tiny by comparison. The sculpture of Crazy Horse mounted on a horse will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. In contrast, each head of the presidents on Mount Rushmore is 60 feet high.
So one of the most famous Native Americans is being honored in South Dakota along with four American presidents.
Of course, part of the assault on Mount Rushmore is political. Certainly, the New York Times didn’t freak out when presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton visited Mount Rushmore during their 2008 campaigns.
Candidate Obama and a bus of campaign reporters visited Mount Rushmore late on a Friday evening in May 2008. The New York Times covered it as an adorable moment with Obama’s “tie not a half-inch ajar” and Obama joking with park rangers that his ears were too big to carve on the mountain.
Candidate Hillary Clinton had already been there. On her photo op a few days earlier, a reporter asked her if she could envision herself carved on the mountain. According to CBS, this prompted a visibly annoyed Clinton to say: “Why don't you learn something about the monument?” Good point.
But a dozen years on, it may be too late for history.
Tilsen told NPR on Wednesday that America is at “a reckoning and a realization that this country has to get right with its history” by which he meant “illuminating the current injustices that exist today in society.”
And that is where indigenous activism meets Karl Marx, the father of Communism in the 19th century. There’s a strong current of Marxist alienation in the idea of knocking down statues to “get right with history.”
For Marx, history wasn’t just dates and battles, but a flexible tool to help overturn the nation-state and free workers. It’s a long story, but the ideology we see today in autonomous zones and protest writings is a watered-down Marxist viewpoint: establish alienation from daily work and life, dissolve the state and plant the seeds of a new order. Attacking statues is part of it.
So the criticism of sculptures like Mount Rushmore can’t stop, even when it gets silly, for it is driving forward extreme left ambitions.
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That’s why I’m hoping President Trump will call time out on the nonsense and renew America’s commitment to Mount Rushmore, that most unsubtle emblem of American achievement. I think he should offer something grand and bold, like completing Lincoln’s face.
Personally, I used to be lukewarm about Mount Rushmore. My family visited in 2017, but I’d take Mount Vernon or Independence Hall or the battlefield at Yorktown for pure patriotic chills.
However, in this summer of statue stupidity, Mount Rushmore has taken on a new mantle of importance. I’m thankful that it can’t be easily spray-painted, pulled down or relocated. It’s not perfect or complete but Mount Rushmore is big enough to rise above it all. And so is America.
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You know who really understood Mount Rushmore? Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, who used mock-ups of the faces for Cary Grant to commit a movie murder in the 1959 thriller “North by Northwest.” Alfred Hitchcock was drawn by what grabs us still today: the sheer audacity of the place.
Let the celebration begin.
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