It's been a while since my husband and I have taken a road trip. This one was with our adorable grandchildren, ages 10 and 13 and our destination was Mount Rushmore, a place my husband and I had visited once before and one that I had visited with my parents when I was growing up, one of many road trips I took as a child.
But my eyes had never looked at the monument quite like it did this time. That's the beauty of revisiting places you've visited in the past.
Several things caught my attention, several political.
I found it interesting that South Dakota was looking for a way to draw people to their state when they settled in on creating Mount Rushmore. The original idea advocated by the state historian was to focus on Western heroes, but when they engaged their US Senator and hired the sculptor, the emphasis became more national. Another interesting tidbit was that the sculptor, a Danish immigrant named Gutzon Borglum, after insisting that the sculpture be national in nature and timeless in its relevance to history, and who was a Republican, voted for Calvin Coolidge, a Democrat because he supported the project over Coolidge's opposing contender. I also found it interesting why each of the four presidents were chosen, i.e. each represented an "eternal reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty." Washington because he was the father of the country who chose not to be a king, Jefferson, not for his role in the Declaration of Independence, but for expanding the country by half with the Louisiana Purchase under his presidency, Lincoln for saving the Union, and Theodore Roosevelt who, by building the Panama Canal, expanded trade for the country and for the world and who encouraged the business side of the country's goals.
To see people from all parts of the country and of the world come together to marvel at the accomplishment that began in 1927 and culminated in 1941 after fourteen years of hard work and clever innovation, made me feel that there is hope for our country. Mount Rushmore to me renewed my belief in democracy. Even though I did see different representations of America, for example, the Amish, a few Black families, some bikers that were attending the nearby Sturgis rally, I still felt there weren't enough of us Americans there to see this incredible site and to rethink what makes our country great.
Another new observation occurred to me as I traveled to and from my destination, that of the country surrounding the site, the cowboy culture of the West, the rise and fall of the indigenous people, the gold rushers, the collective dissatisfaction of visitors like the bikers and ranchers and residents who reside in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. It's a different world out there. One can start a bit to understand why they value their independence and why, somehow or another, they need to be brought in under the big tent of democracy as spokesman as well.