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  • July 10th, 2020


By Joel M. Vance


I can testify from first-hand observation that George Washington does not have nose hair or nose boogers. There may be some granite dust and stray pebbles but I didn’t see them. I can’t speak for Donald Trump’s nose condition since I haven’t been present when allegedly the White House doctors shoved a swab up his nostril to test for Corona virus.


As I write this, actress Eva Marie Saint is celebrating her 96th birthday. I wonder if she is thinking “Mount Rushmore certainly didn’t look like this when I was scrambling across the faces of the four presidents carved there, trying to escape bad guys with that hunk Cary Grant.”


Ms. Saint was never more lovely than when she was hanging by her fingertips, supposedly trying to climb down Mount Rushmore with the suave, handsome, Grant, who took time out from their perilous situation to propose to her.


To the great relief of moviegoers everywhere, the two lovers managed to survive their rock climbing experience and since, millions of moviegoers have thrilled to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 suspense movie “North by Northwest” which almost didn’t get made because of political differences between the master of suspense, the National Park Service, and South Dakota politicians.


Sen. Karl Mundt, a political power nationally, and South Dakota’s premier politician at the time vigorously objected to what Mundt called “An act of deliberate desecration of a great national memorial to even imply that a game of cops and robbers, for the sole purpose of producing movie thrills, has been played over the sculptured faces of our most honored presidents.”


This idiotic kerfuffle is only a footnote in the political history of South Dakota, but where were the protesters and the blustering politicians when the current sitting president of the United States chose the celebration of our national heritage, to commit an act of deliberate desecration of a great national memorial?


Anyone who pays halfway attention to the national news knows that Donald J Trump, the Orange Cheeto, who pretends to be President of the United States, stood in front of Mount Rushmore and delivered, not a speech of unity or a call to patriotism, but a campaign rally cry and an appeal to bigotry and disunity.


Somehow he managed to avoid talking about the country’s out of control Covid 19 pandemic or about his bosom buddy Vladimir Putin’s payment of bounties to Isis for killing  American soldiers in Afghanistan.  In Trump world those are merely annoying little gnats that interfere with his egomaniac fixation on himself.


Apparently lost in the mists of time is the unpleasant truth that the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, this “celebration of our national heritage” was an active supporter of the Ku Klux Klan , Whether he was a member or not. That fact should also be part of our national heritage, as is the equally odious fact that two of the four presidents pictured on the face of the mountain, were slave owners. And let’s not also forget the fact that the mountain itself was stolen from the Lakota Sioux Native Americans who revered it as a sacred spot.


The Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum was no fan of Native Americans.  He is quoted as having said “I would not trust an Indian, offhand 9/10, where I would not trust a white man 1/10.” In the interest of truth, it’s also true that Teddy Roosevelt another of the four presidents on the mountain, is quoted as having said “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe 9/10 are, and I shouldn’t  like to inquire too closely into the case of the 10th.”


And the fourth of the revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln, once proposed a separate country for African-Americans, although he did sign the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved black people. The ultimate truth probably is that no presidents are, or for that matter, is anyone else, free of occasional unprincipled action and thought. But the actions  of Donald Trump who seized on what could have been an opportunity to call for unity and cooperation and instead called for virtual warfare against anyone who disagrees with his bigoted ideology, are beyond excuse.


South Dakota is a beautiful state where I have spent many hours and days enjoying pheasant hunting, the hospitality of the fine folks who live there, the building of lifelong friendships, and in touring the incomparable natural wonders which abound.


Our sons, JB, and Eddie, and I once backpacked into the French Creek wilderness on a camping and fishing trip, dined on fresh caught trout from the little creek, saw elk and walked among Ponderosa pines that were far older than we were.   But, as a further example of how tangled the history of South Dakota is, French Creek is where an expedition led by George Armstrong Custer discovered gold which, in turn, led to the United States government ignoring a treaty with the Sioux nation and blatantly stealing the Indians’ land. Apparently, theft is not theft when the government does it–it’s “manifest destiny”. But, to a thinking person with scruples, it’s like an armed robber walking into a jewelry store and saying “give me all those diamonds  In the showcase because I want them.”


Security forces at the Mount Rushmore Trump lovefest teargassed Native American protesters and arrested some and if that there were not enough insult  the band played Garryowen, the theme song of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry. The stupid mostly all white Trump lovers doubtless had no idea of the significance of that in-your-face song to South Dakota’s Lakota Sioux, but the Indians certainly did. If nothing else, they can take solace in the fact that when Custer and his troops confidently marched over the hill at the Little Big Horn years later, Garryowen became a funeral dirge.

Borglum began his mountain carving on Stone Mountain Georgia after he was approached by the United Daughters of the Confederacy who wanted a sculpture of Robert E Lee on the mountain. That idea morphed into an ambitious assemblage including Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.  Helen Plane, President of the Dixie girls, said “I feel it is due to the KKK that saved us from Negro domination and carpetbagger rule, that it be immortalized on Stone Mountain.” Real genteel southern ladies–soulmates of Scarlett O’Hara. Trump would’ve been right at home holding hands with any of them, or given his history of cozying up to the ladies, groping them.


Borglum got fired from the Stone Mountain project when they got tired of his obnoxious personality and don’t you know he bounced right back with the Mount Rushmore sculpting. Borglum didn’t live to see the completion of his South Dakota project, but it was finished in 1941 by his son whose name , ironically, was Lincoln.


Trump’s campaign strategy now for reelection in November is to go on the attack against anyone and everyone he feels is a threat to his monumental ego. If there was any way to carve an ego in stone, he would annex a mountain all his own just to display it. Perhaps some aspiring sculptor could spend a lifetime turning stone into Trump, possibly depicting assaulting a woman or engaged in some other activity showing any of the many sordid aspects of his revolting personality.


Here is some of the divisive venom that this repulsive spitting cobra of a president spouted in the shadow of Mount Rushmore: ” Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.  Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities”


The stalwart champion of our “most sacred memorials” is the very same champion who shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and the Grand Escalante National Monument by nearly 50% and who has appointed people as public lands administrators who are without a doubt the worst enemies of the nation’s public land heritage ever to disserve in any administration.


He lost no time in laying the blame for everything he doesn’t like: “in our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate board rooms, there is a new far left Fascism that demands absolute allegiance.”


So, your child’s teachers are the enemy trying to shape their minds with, oh God, the horror of it! Ideas. Black lives matter? An idea promulgated by radical fascist, communist, and whatever other enemies you can conjure from your bigoted, fear addled imagination. Tear down the statue of Robert E Lee! We won’t let you deface this memorial to one of our revered heroes, unless, of course, you are a member of our favorite hate group, the Ku Klux Klan.


Bubba Wallace is the only black driver on the NASCAR circuit. When one of his team members discovered a noose in the team’s garage, the only one of nearly 1700 garage stalls used by NASCAR fitted with a noose,  and when NASCAR subsequently ordered that the Confederate flag be eliminated from display at NASCAR tracks, Trump seized on this as an opportunity to toss a double-barreled racist bone to his bigoted followers. He chided Wallace for what he called a hoax and demanded that Wallace apologize for it, and chided NASCAR for abandoning the Confederate flag.


How can four in 10 American voters (and fading, thank God) believe the nonsense this bloated fearmonger has adopted as a strategy to win a second term as the worst president the United States has suffered in nearly 250 years? You have to wonder as I do how anybody with half a brain can be so deluded as to believe this bullshit. His frighteningly faithful followers are but sheep shambling in the wake of a man who will go down in history as the worst thing that ever happened to this country–assuming there will be a history of a country that once stood as a shining beacon on the hill to the rest of the world.


As flawed as they were those four presidents who gazed from the stony face of Mount Rushmore in total had not even a fraction of the moral shortcomings that Trump exhibits nearly every day he serves as a disgrace to the office he purports to occupy–when he isn’t (as he has been for one of the nearly four years he has been in office) at one of his golf courses.


Now, as to the brief time that I spent as George Washington’s nasal inspector. I’m becoming increasingly suspicious that it ever happened, but my memory of it is so crystal clear.


I parked my car along the highway that bordered the monument, ambled through a grove of ponderosa pine (that Trump somehow managed to avoid setting on fire with his Fourth of July explosives) and, as the trees thinned, I found myself below Washington’s right nostril looking up.


But I can’t find any photos of that area, any evidence that anyone could do what I so clearly remember doing. And I doubt that I ever will revisit Rushmore and find out finally whether I actually did what I remember doing, or merely experienced a Hitchcockian brain fart.


The more I think about it the more inclined I am to believe that the whole thing never happened, that my overheated imagination conjured up a Hitchcock like incident, only lacking me and Eva Marie Saint. hanging by our fingertips from Washington’s nose.


But if my encounter with Mount Rushmore’s presidents is fiction, Donald Trump’s is not. His appearance there and in real life, is more frightening than anything Alfred Hitchcock, in his most fevered imagination, could have created. The only hope is that at midnight on November 3, the horror show that is Washington DC today, will go to black screen, leaving only the welcome words





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