The Lakota saw six grandfathers where Mt Rushmore fests expansionist four
A recurring discussion at the base of Mount Rushmore is whose face next belongs alongside America’s fantastic four. There’s room for more obviously, as the mountain’s Lakota name was the Six Grandfathers. They saw resemblance enough in the rocks without the Denver Mint faces. Visitors can be excused not recognizing Theodore Roosevelt, the only cameo without a coin –he lacks a DC monument too, but Teddy most certainly belongs here. To determine who else might qualify, we have to wonder at what exactly Mt Rushmore means to memorialize.
Mount Rushmore immortalizes above all a New York lawyer who persevered for half a century to assure the not inobscure landmark was named after him. The government approved carve-up was intended to draw visitors to South Dakota. Concurrent tourist spot projects included the cement dinosaurs of Rapid City and Wall Drug. The icon-fashioned mountain became its own icon, casting a Cliff Notes summary of American History into stone. Whatever posterity would have to say about their legacy, these presidents would remain an unscalable height above reproach.
George Washington was father of our country, if not what today we hold as our ideals. Washington wanted to liberate colonial profits from the tiers owed its royal investors. He fought only for the independence of the American propertied class, and faced revolt from the common soldiery who bore the brunt of fighting off the British.
Thomas Jefferson pushed us west and invented the facade of democracy based on an illusory “all men created equal” utopian agrarian society. Jefferson would have known that no farms can operate without farmhands, and that peasant revolts have never sparked revolution. Above all, who was Jefferson to pretend that you can keep everyone down on the farm once they’d seen Paree? A farmer can imbibe education and culture only if he’s got slaves doing the work.
Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and held the union together. An America divided would have been vulnerable to resorption by the European powers. More important, the engine of our export economy was the South. Cotton and tobacco dwarfed fur.
Theodore Roosevelt championed conservation, like the national parks, but he’s on the mountain because he took America’s Manifest Destiny international. Roosevelt oversaw industry extend its empire-building offshore in search of cheap labor, resources and markets.
When conversation turns to whose face should adorn the pantheon of American expansionists, we are not lacking for capitalist do-gooders. I overheard “Obama”, “Henry Ford” or “Bill Gates,” perfectly in keeping with the theme.
In chronological order after the Rough Rider, to my mind, JP Morgan could be the beginning and the end, as father of the malevolent banking monopoly which has fated the world to Potterville.
Improving Rushmore would naturally be to efface it. How much longer really are the sculpted heads going to look like a “feat of engineering” and not simply a defilement of nature? Already what’s praised as a “work of art” looks more like a bad tattoo. Native American voices oppose the nearby Affirmative Action Crazy Horse Monument because no Indian they say would want his image superimposed on landscape.
If we can’t take it down, I have a suggestion for an additional face that neither perpetuates the enshrinement of our patronizing leadership, nor pretends to reflect a rehabilitated self-awareness. I propose we conduct an essay contest among American school children. From the dead-last, dumbest entry we select a child’s face to represent our nation’s failed intellectual promise, product of poor schooling, propaganda and poisoned spirit. That would be the face to commemorate America’s hard-headed, dumb as a brick, jackboot future.