Mount Rushmore National Memorial (7 June 2005)

I'm pretty much of a traditional patriotic type. "The Star Spangled Banner" chokes me up, as do those huge flags flying at gas stations along the interstate or at car dealers. I put my hand over my heart for the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegience. I love this country, regardless of who currently runs the White House or the Congress, so seeing Mount Rushmore National Memorial meant a lot to me.

I've read biographies of Washington and Teddy Roosevelt, hope to read a Jefferson bio soon, and ought to know more than what I learned in high school about President Lincoln. The images on Mount Rushmore are striking, dramatic tributes to men who were instrumental in shaping the direction of the country at their own times. We are where we are, in large part, because of their efforts and attitudes.

My visit to Mount Rushmore was marred by two events. One was rain: It had been cloudy off and on all day, and finally, just moments after arriving there, it started to rain. And it rained solidly for a good hour or more, so I had to cool my heels in the museum. After the rain let up, I did the Presidents Trail which takes you up to the base of the mountain, where you can get good close-up views of the faces (excepting Teddy Roosevelt). That walking tour ends up at the Sculptor's Studio, where you can see the clay model that Borglum used and the accompanying view out the window to the sculpture on the mountain.

The other irritation was a church choir from some Baptist church in Smyrna, Georgia. I think it was the New Life Singers from Calvary Baptist Church. They did nice renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" (excepting that ugly, unnecessary jump up an octave on "land of the free-eeeeee") and "America the Beautiful", but then a young man started talking. He was confused about the distinction between serving God and serving country, between Christianity and Americanism. (He was talking about how our service personel in Iraq were serving "our country and the Lord". I'm so sure the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and atheist ones among them feel the same way!)

I left, because I didn't want to hear it. I wasn't the only one perturbed. A pair of women gave some park service employee the full "separation of church and state" shpiel, almost like Sheila Broflovski in the Mr. Hanky episode of South Park, except the more vocal one was complaining that the young man I found offensive had "never read Jefferson." I guess she forgot that Jefferson was out of the country when the Constitution was written and the Bill of Rights was adopted.

Remember: It takes all kinds! And this one would've rather heard "My Country 'Tis of Thee" or "Proud to Be an American" or "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land" than a bunch of religious songs (because that's what they launched into) when I was at Mount Rushmore. I'm not against appropriate references to God in public places, but I do think preaching one particular religion at a National Memorial is over the top. (Revised slightly on 20 June 05.)

Anyway, regardless of rain or confused people of all political stripes, Mount Rushmore was an incredible sight, and I am glad I got to see it. Go see it if you can. It's a national treasure.

It was so dark while I was there, the photos below have all been Photoshopped to lighten them up some. The last two are just some Photoshop Elements fun: I lightened the faces on Mount Rushmore and darkened the sky behind them.