|I've been quiet for the past week because I took the wife and family to South Dakota for a week--actually three full days plus two partial days with travel on either side. |
It was a really cool trip, if hot and a bit, well, rushed. Much to my surprise, there is WAY more to do in South Dakota than can be fit in in three-plus days. And, really, hat's off to the people and leadership of South Dakota, who, over the years, have really maximized their potential into a massive tourist industry.
Of course, tops on the list of things to do in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore. And, being my first time, I really have to say it is quite an impressive display. Both as a tribute to man's industry in carving a giant sculpture out of raw mountain, and in the sentiment it portrays of pride and raw Americanism, it is VERY impressive.
But, as with most things impressive, it does inspire a variety of thoughts, which I will dispense with in no particular order.
--This could only have been built in the intra-World War era. Consider what would happen if someone tried to build such a memorial today: lawsuits about defacement of natural landscapes; lawsuits about waste and traffic and whatnot through the environment; studies about environmental impact delaying work for years; endless political wrangling about which Presidents to include on the mountain--or if to even put Presidents on it, to begin with; predictable protests from American Indians, African-Americans and others to be sure they get "represented", and so on, and so on . . . I mean, seriously, a society that cannot even manage to get a memorial up to the courage and initiative of the passengers of Flight 93 after 5 years cannot possibly hope to ever decide on a set of people to honor in this way
:Likewise, the Crazy Horse Memorial will never be done in my lifetime. It is impressive in its design, and the fact that you can see a face from the highway a couple miles away is pretty cool . . . but the design is so much more ambitious than the current progress, and the pace of work is so dreadfully slow, that I just don't see any chance that it will ever get done. I think the odds of the mountain being struck by lightning and destroyed are much greater than the odds of the memorial being completed.
:Of course, Rushmore itself is both awesome AND very humbling. Consider--by the time they were my current age, the faces on the mountain had accomplished, among other things, the following: become a lieutenant colonel and led troops into successful battle in the French and Indian War, was a self-educated lawyer who was elected to the House, was a famed historian and commissioner of the New York City Police Commission, and had authored a really famous document . . let's see, what was that called? . . .oh, yeah--the Declaration of Independence. Nothing like being faced with these four guys to feel like a slacker.
:And, it occurred to me, with some sense of political comfort, that all four of those on the mountain were exceptionally controversial figures in their time. The least controversial of these, Washington, had a somewhat undistinguished military history before leading the Continental Army in a disastrous 1776 campaign which offered many fewer successes than Iraq does today; Jefferson was responsible for the most overt act of imperialism in American history with the Louisiana Purchase; Lincoln's stalwart support for the abolition of slavery led to an ACTUAL splitting of the country (unlike the current state of the country); and Roosevelt's actions vis-a-vis Panama earned him great vitriol and the nickname "Emperor Teddy". And yet, all four of them survived their temporary difficulties to be recognized by history (and Gutzon Borglum) as the giants of American history. Now, I'm not in any way ready to put George Bush's face on a mountain--or a pile of mashed potatoes, for that matter--but it seems that there's hope that history will be better to him than the contemporary press.
:All that time as a passenger in a car (yeah, we had company and I did not have to drive) going through Wyoming (yeesh!!) gives a person a lot of time to read. This trip's reading selection? "A Blueprint for Action", Thomas P.M. Barnett's application-centered follow-up to "The Pentagon's New Map." And, boy! does that book get a brain thinking. I'll have many other thoughts about this book in the days and weeks to come; in the meantime, if you get a chance to read this book DO IT! I learned more about diplomacy and world affairs in a few hours in the car than I think I've learned in the whole rest of my life combined.