A Renovated Mount Rushmore

My boys Mike & Mike were recently debating who would theoretically be on the “Mount Rushmore of Basketball”. The discussion stemmed from a rather arrogant assertion by superstar LeBron James that if such a monument existed he would indeed deserve a spot. I had to get ready and go to work so I missed the latter portion of the show, but Greeny & Golic were in the process of taking the discussion in a bunch of directions like “Who would be on the Mount Rushmore of…baseball (pitchers, hitters), football (quarterbacks, running backs), hockey players, etc. This is not necessarily a thinknew topic of conversation. As a matter of fact, it is a reliable old chestnut that ESPN trots out occasionally when sports news is slow, which is of course the case right now since we’re kind of in that blah period that always follows the end of the football season. It’s a fun & harmless little argument to have since A) none of these “Mount Rushmores” actually exist and B) there are things that do exist called Halls of Fame where everyone deserving (and even some who don’t really deserve it) eventually get their just reward.

 

However, there is one Mount Rushmore that does exist.

 

I saw a really interesting documentary on The History Channel several years ago about Mount Rushmore. For those who may be unfamiliar, the mountain was already named Mount Rushmore long before anyone carved any heads on it. It was named after a New York lawyer who liked to hunt in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A few decades later a local historian got the idea to have U.S. Presidents carved into the mountains to promote tourism (because it’s always about the money). Danish sculptor Gutzon Borglum was awarded the job in 1925, and from 1927-41 over 400 men worked at Rushmorecompleting the task. Borglum chose George Washington to represent the birth of the United States, Thomas Jefferson to represent its growth, Abraham Lincoln to represent its preservation, & Theodore Roosevelt to represent its development. We must remember that when the project was conceived there were only 30 U.S. Presidents to choose from and I think most would agree that Borglum did a nice job of selecting his subjects. Originally he also wanted to carve representations of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, & the Louisiana Purchase, but unfortunately the money ran out (which also explains why the sculptures are just heads…they were intended to be full upper bodies).

 

So the discussion on Mike & Mike got me to pondering…who should be on the Mount Rushmore…of Presidents?? It’s been almost a century since the original monument was conceived and sculpted. A lot of history has been made since then, and we’ve had much more time to reflect on the history that occurred previously. In addition, technology is far more advanced, so instead of hundreds of men risking their lives and taking over a decade to complete the job I figure that we could whittle out a nice expansion in a few months.

 

Of course the questions are “who??” and “how many??” If it were me I’d go with seven. Many people think of it as a questionlucky number, and in The Bible seven is a number signifying completion. Plus I am a minimalist and there’s no use getting too garish with the idea. That means we have three spots to fill and 39 candidates. However, I really don’t think it’s even that complicated. Out of those 39 men I am assuming only 10 at most would get any votes at all in a poll of the masses. But that still leaves 10 guys battling for three spots. Who should be the three to join Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, & Teddy Roosevelt??

 

jfkLet’s give one spot right off the bat to John F. Kennedy. Regardless of what one might think of his…private life…the fact is that Kennedy continues to be one of our most beloved Presidents a half century after his death. Martyrs tend to get that kind of love, and let’s face it…that is exactly how the public perceives JFK…as a martyr. His whole presidency has been romanticized. How would he have been thought of if he’d completed his second term and lived a long life?? Obviously no one can accurately answer that question, so we are left with what we are left with, which is essentially the first “rock star” President who was cut down in his prime by an assassin’s bullet and the media frenzy created by such a tragedy, which was a completely new shared experience for the masses. The Kennedy Presidency and The Kennedy Assassination are watershed moments in American history. Sounds like Mount Rushmore material to me.

 

That was easy. But now things get tricky and one’s opinion will almost certainly depend on worldview & political philosophy. I am going to try to avoid those pitfalls, which means I may surprise some folks with my selections.

 

I’d give the second spot to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I have my issues with FDR’s New Deal, which laid the fdrgroundwork for the out-of-control entitlement mentality that is eating away at our nation like Rosie O’Donnell at a Vegas buffet, but the fact is that he is our longest serving President and led the country…one way or another…thru The Great Depression and World War II. The enormity of his Presidency…good & bad…and the pivotal era during which he served cement FDR’s spot on the revised Mount Rushmore.

 

ObamaSmokingOkay…so who gets the final spot?? Obama?? Many would champion that idea simply because he is our first reaganblack President, and even those that fervently disagree with his policies would likely concede the historical & cultural significance of that fact. However, not only is it too soon to debate the relative merits of the Obama Presidency, but I simply cannot…will not…award a spot on such a noteworthy shrine to a person based solely on a biological trait instead of tangible accomplishments. Reagan?? Many of my conservative friends would undoubtedly support the notion, and I understand why, but again I feel like it is too soon, and in comparison to Abraham Lincoln or even JFK I am not so sure admiration of Ronald Reagan is nearly as bipartisan. Clinton?? Please. What are we going to do…depict his head with sunglasses on while blowing a sax to commemorate his appearance on Arsenio?? Grant?? Undoubtedly a better General than President. Truman?? Eisenhower?? Solid choices. Did some great things. But were also flawed in ways nixonbill-clinton-loves-saxtoo substantial to allow them to make the cut here, although some really smart Presidential historian might be able to convince me otherwise. Nixon?? Well…I think Nixon gets a bad rap sometimes and was a lot better President than many would give him credit for, but the only U.S. President to resign from office just cannot be given a spot on Mount Rushmore.

 

My final spot…the 7th President to grace Mount Rushmore…would be John Adams. I’ve read a lot about Adams, and I feel like sometimes he gets overlooked when talking about America’s Founding Fathers. Adams was a lawyer, writer, devout Christian, statesman, philosopher, & historian. It should also be noted that, unlike Washington, Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin, Adams never owned slaves. Though Jefferson receives credit for writing The Declaration of Independence the truth is that John Adams played a significant role in creating it. As the nation’s first Vice President he cast more tiebreaking votes than any other VP. Adams was the quintessential “man behind the man”. I am not sure if johnadamseither George Washington or Thomas Jefferson would have achieved as much if not for the support or…oftentimes in the case of Jefferson…the challenge of Adams. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that he may have been more comfortable being that person behind the scenes rather than the guy in the spotlight. Brilliant people are frequently like that. Biographer David McCullough opines that the reason Adams didn’t receive a second term as President was that “he was unlikable, short, ugly, and bald”. Sadly too many people are still that shallow. I think when folks are asked about our greatest Presidents many of us are shortsighted and think only of the people who held the office in our lifetime or maybe those who we know about thru old news footage, but we should never forget that America had a long and fascinating history of about 150 years before television was invented.

 

Agree?? Disagree?? Who would you add to Mount Rushmore?? Should additions even be seriously considered?? I welcome the thoughts & opinions of The Manoverse.

Separation of Church & State

Little White Church

How much longer until our churches are deemed illegal??

It all started with some well meaning church folk and a big hunk of cheese.

Let’s jump right into this controversial issue by stating as fact that “separation of church and state” as applied and attributed to The United States of America is a complete myth. That phrasing is never used in The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or any other official document. When Thomas Jefferson made a passing reference in a letter to “the wall of separation”, he was specifically referring to The 1st Amendment to The Constitution, which simply says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Of course it goes on to talk about the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. But the part that we’re specifically concerned with is what’s commonly known as The Establishment Clause.

There are two things that jump out at me when I read The Establishment Clause. First, the main focus was anxiety about the federal government declaring an official religion. The people that came here from England had gone through a lot. Britain was a place that went back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism, depending on who was wearing the crown. The prevailing religious doctrine changed merely on the whim of a monarch, and the people had no choice in the matter. Not following the rules set forth by The King or Queen had dire consequences. The founders of the New World, what became The United States of America, wanted freedom to worship God the way they chose, not the way the government dictated. Secondly, the latter part, the part that seems to be so conveniently ignored these days, specifically says that the right to freely exercise this freedom to worship God shall not be prohibited. So why is it that our government, and more specifically The Supreme Court, has done nothing but try to prohibit (or at the very least inhibit) the free exercise of religion?

When did freedom of religion evolve into freedom from religion? We’ve become The United States of the Offended over the course of the past couple of decades. We get ourselves in an uproar over the irrelevant issues but fail to defend the most significant of our freedoms. The “separation” battle has gone so far that we have people fighting to eradicate any and all mentions of God, such as “In God We Trust” on our currency and the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. It’s insanity, and most certainly not what our Founding Fathers intended. They wanted the citizens of this country to decide for themselves how to worship God.

There is no disputing that nearly all the men that laid the foundation of this country were Godly men. They may have followed an assortment of doctrines, but generally speaking all believed in God. For the most part these gentlemen were deists or Unitarians. I will not go in depth on either subject, as I trust my readers’ ability to research such topics if they so choose, but suffice to say that our Founding Fathers believed in God even if they weren’t followers of Christ and were somewhat suspicious of organized religion and “church” as an earthly construct.

So if it can be agreed upon that men like Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed in God and that any philosophical departures were more dogma-centered, why then should God be eliminated from our daily lives?? Christians believe in God. Muslims believe in God. Jews believe in God. Even Eastern religions believe in God in some form, though they may define it differently than what is generally accepted in our hemisphere.

The only people who don’t seem to believe in God in any form are atheists. Depending on what source one chooses to rely on, atheists are about 10% of the U.S. population. Consider this…..about 7% of Americans are vegetarian, yet every town big and small has a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. If someone is a vegetarian they simply don’t eat at those places. Or maybe the more tolerant among that group are able to sit in a restaurant and have lunch with a friend or co-worker who is consuming meat of some sort while they stick to fruits and veggies. Why can’t atheists practice this broadness of mind??

Now I know what some would say…..it’s easy to avoid meat because there are other choices on the menu, but this circumvention isn’t possible when it comes to God. I will concede the point only when it comes to money. Everyone, atheists and believers alike, must make use of the same currency that evokes the name of God. But this is where my indignation kicks in. First of all, it’s ONE thing. That’s it atheists?? That’s all you got?? Secondly, I once again reiterate that we are talking about 1o% of the population. We are a democratic society. And while that does mean that every vote theoretically counts, it also means that the majority rules. I am sick and tired of kowtowing to people who are outnumbered more than 10 to 1. Get over yourselves. If you’re in any kind of contest imaginable and you are over-matched by those odds, you lose. Life isn’t a Rocky movie. Not all underdogs are lovable and most really don’t stand a chance.

Why then have we gotten to the point in 21st century America where The Ten Commandments are not allowed to be displayed in a courthouse and employees are told to utilize the term “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?? The answer is easy: The Supreme Court. The Court’s job was meant to be interpretation of the law, but somehow it has evolved into actively making law, sometimes even superseding The Constitution. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the issue of separation of church and state. As previously stated, the only thing in the original documents that formed the framework of the country that even alludes to the issue at hand is the 1st Amendment to The Constitution, and we’ve already examined this so called Establishment Clause. It clearly was meant to prevent a national religion and ensure each individual’s right to worship God without government interference. However, The Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to loosely “interpret” this clause to justify all kinds of lunacy. In direct contradiction to what our esteemed forefathers meant to happen, religious freedom is being hindered, not supported.

I fear that this is a Pandora’s Box that we will never be able to get under control. Things like eliminating prayer in school have stretched beyond the school day to the point where invocations are no longer allowed at events like graduations and football games. Christmas trees aren’t allowed anywhere near government buildings. The mere mention of God or allusions to anything remotely religious in any type of public setting seems to create a paranoid hysteria, albeit among a decided minority. Of course, as was mentioned, our society seems to bend over backward to please these vocal fringe groups, and therein lies the problem.

Whatever happens, however far we spiral downward into the abyss of Godlessness, just know that it wasn’t supposed to be this way, no matter what anyone says.