Thursday, July 2, 2020

Trump's Mt. Rushmore show can expose more about country's racist history

One of Trump's perverse and unpresidential peculiarities is the way he makes fraught situations even worse for the victims - usually minorities or people with fewer resources and less power than the privileged people he protects.

Like Trump's adulation for the traitor Robert E. Lee and an earlier defense from the White House of home-grown Nazis who tore up Charlottesville and killed a peaceful female protester.

And Trump will again rub salt in a long list of public wounds on Friday, July 3rd, by attending a fireworks display and military fly-over at Mount Rushmore in the western mountains of South Dakota.

* Begin with the fact that this public gathering is taking place against the basic advice of medical experts Trump regularly ignores or contaminates about how and why Covid-19 is rampaging.

The caseload has exploded anew, the US death toll is closing in on 130,000, but Trump will spend more taxpayer money moving his entourage to mingle with 7,500 invited visitors in one of only four states (including Wisconsin), which has no statewide mask-wearing requirements - and whose far-right, Tea Party-created Governor is lauding her intentional contempt for social distancing and public safety:
And despite at least 91 deaths registered in South Dakota from COVID-19, these visitors will not be told to don face masks or to practice social distancing at the event. 
"We will have a large event July 3rd; we told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home," South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday. "But [for] those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one, but we won't be social distancing...."
"Gov. Noem is the only governor in the country who never mandated a single business or church to close, never ordered a shelter-in-place order for her citizens," Noem spokesman Ian Fury tells NPR...
South Dakota currently ranks 11th among the 34 states considered by the Harvard Global Health Institute to be prone to "potential community spread...."
* Then you have all the issues surrounding the actual site itself beyond its location in a fire-prone zone with heightened drought-related danger where fireworks displays have been barred for years until Trump personally overrode the ban so he could have a show that suits his ego.

* While the country is to a degree coming to grips with its racist legacies - a movement which Trump is dissing to serve his most base of base voters by protecting Confederate statues and idols - Trump will only draw more attention to the slave-owning Presidents honored at Mt. Rushmore - Jefferson and Washington - and to the perhaps lesser-known racism in the histories of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Mount Rushmore detail view (100MP).jpg

Information regarding Theodore Roosevelt can be found here, and here

Lincoln's legacy with regard to the Black Hills really needs airing if the country is going to come to grips with its history and development which continues to spare past leaders of a full and fair assessment of their roles.

I would wager that not many people know that during the Civll War the US Army was also engaged in wars with native tribes, and that while he pardoned many, Lincoln also signed the death warrants for 38 Sioux fighters who were hung in the largest mass execution in US history.

I had blogged about some of these matters in 2007 after a first-time and eye-opening visit to the museum at the Crazy Horse Memorial still under construction by the Lakota Sioux in the Black Hills.

Like I said, so much of this history has been hidden away, or justified with big slogans about Manifest Destiny, or Opening the West.

And I'm sure that Trump who doesn't care to read the briefing materials about the murder-for-hire-plotting Russia unleashed on US solders a few months ago in Afghanistan has never read a word about what Mt. Rushmore means to the Oglala Sioux from whom it was stolen or their warriors whom Lincoln ordered hung en masse in Minnesota.
CLAIM: Social media posts circulating recently stated: “On this day, 26 December 1862, 38 Native Americans are executed in the US’s largest mass-hanging. The execution was ordered by Abraham Lincoln.” 
 AP’S ASSESSMENT: True. Thirty-eight Native Americans were hanged on Dec. 26, 1862, as ordered by former President Abraham Lincoln, after the 1862 Dakota War, which was also known as the Sioux Uprising of 1862. The sentences of 265 others were commuted.  
 THE FACTS: A military commission sentenced 303 Sioux fighters to be executed after deadly fights white settlers and soldiers had with Indians angry about the loss of their homeland and lack of access to food. Harold Holzer, author of several books on Lincoln, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview this month that Lincoln reviewed “every one of these capital cases.” 
According to reporting by The Associated Press, the original trials were a farce, some taking as little as five minutes. In addition, the Indians were denied counsel and did not understand what was being said.
And how many people nationally know that the ugliness which took place in Mankato, MN continued there for decades, as some of the executed prisoners were dug up, dissected for medical research and the corpse of one executed leader remained for decades in the home of a prominent doctor.

To their credit, the City of Mankato and the Mayo Clinic have made some amends.
The Indian warrior’s bones were kept in an iron kettle, with Mayo sometimes pulling out pieces for his sons, William and Charles, to identify, according to Scott Berg, author of the book “38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier’s End.”

The skeleton was put on display in the early years of the Mayo Clinic before it was put in storage. The whereabouts of much of the skeleton are not known today, but a skull held by the Mayo Clinic was sent in the early 1990s to Hamline University scientists, who determined it was that of Marpiya te najin.
I would also wager that many Americans may know the Black Hills where the Mt. Rushmore faces were carved - and which Trump will use as an ego stroke and campaign prop Friday - are on what had been treaty-protected ancestral lands stolen violently from their native occupants people by the US Government.
Although United States law (the treaties with the Sioux) prohibited Euro-American occupation of the Black Hills in South Dakota, President Ulysses S. Grant, in a secret November meeting with the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of War, Lieutenant General Sherman and Brigadier General George Crook, brushed aside any treaty obligations to the Sioux and ordered “no further resistance shall be made to miners going into [the Black Hills].” 
In December all Sioux nations were ordered onto reservations away from their sacred Black Hills, and away from the gold coveted by the Americans.... 
The United States declared war on the Sioux in 1876.
I'm certainly hoping a wider understanding of our shared history trumps whatever else Trump achieves Friday at Mt. Rushmore:  

The principal designer and carver of the Mt. Rushmore monument had connections to and sympathies with the Ku Klux Klan who had first failed to get his design into the out-sized monument to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain, Georgia.

I consider myself a fairly well-educated person, but I didn't know this piece about the Mt. Rushmore carver Gutzon Borglum until today, and I've been to Mt. Rushmore many times.

May this July4th weekend kick off a thousand conversations.

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