All American Road Trip {Part 10: Mt. Rushmore}

America loves the representation of its heroes to be not just larger than life, but stupendously, awesomely bigger than anything else. If blue whales built statues to each other they'd be smaller than these. -Simon Hoggart

From Washington we headed west for South Dakota... what a variety of scenery that drive offered! We were starting the final leg of our road trip - Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone - and though we had a blast on the east coast, I think Ashley and I were both excited to spend some time surrounded by nature. Before entering Yellowstone, we stopped at one of the most recognizable American landmarks: Mount Rushmore. It is and unlike anything we have in Canada... Indeed, nothing says "America" quite like Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son, from 1927 until 1941 when funding dried up and construction was halted (the initial design of the monument showed each president from the waist up). The carvings are impressive, especially when you consider the size. Each president's head is about 60 feet tall! I can't imagine being able to sculpt (or paint etc) something at that scale. That kind of talent is quite amazing.

Mount Rushmore is not without controversy. While some see it as a sort of monument to democracy, others see it as a monument to racism and manifest destiny. Mount Rushmore resides on land seized from the Lakota in 1876, and control of the area is still disputed, and the presidents' whose faces are permanently etched into the landscape were all involved in the physical and cultural genocide of Native Americans. In addition, Gutzon Borglum was himself a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

One thing cannot be denied: that the monument achieved its creators' goals. Mount Rushmore was intended to bring tourism to South Dakota, and in that it has not failed. Approximately 3 million people visit the Mount Rushmore annually.

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