Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse.
The July Fourth speech, delivered at the foot of Mount Rushmore by the bigot-in-chief, reminds us that under the capitalist system, things can always get worse. Especially when the occupant of the White House seems to have zero boundaries when it comes to outlandishly offensive and medically dangerous comments, positions and actions.
As a civilian boss in the private sector, Trump would probably be even more candid. One can picture him carrying the signs, spotted since his election, that read, “I’m a racist and proud of it.” It’s not hard to picture him carrying a Confederate flag, sporting a swastika or openly proclaiming fascist pride once he leaves public office (the sooner the better!).
As U.S. president, he has to cloak his message in rhetoric upholding “democracy.”
The freedom fighters rebelling in the streets are tearing down — and pushing the state to tear down — monuments to slaveowners and slaughterers of Indigenous people. To punish them for their heroic actions, Trump bragged that he would impose a 10-year prison sentence.
To Trump and his cheering minions, the righteous rebellion in the streets represents “the very definition of totalitarianism.” The president even went so far as to call it “a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.” This turns reality on its head.
White supremacist goons and cops have injured many protesters, some fatally. Yet it’s anti-racist activists arrested since the lynching of George Floyd who have been charged with felonies, with some facing decades or even life in prison.
What is Mount Rushmore?
South Dakota was annexed by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The U.S. government then allowed settlements there, breaking earlier treaties made with the Indigenous Lakota Nation. U.S. Lt. Col. George Custer invaded the Black Hills in 1874, violating the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty that had left the unceded Black Hills with the Lakota, for whom the Hills are sacred.
After Custer discovered gold, fortune-seeking white miners invaded the Hills. In 1889, North Dakota and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states. Like all 50 states, from Alaska and Hawaii to New England, South Dakota is land stolen from the Indigenous population.
Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe (“The Six Grandfathers”) or Igmútȟaŋka Pahá (“Cougar Mountain”) to the Lakota, the mountain was renamed after Charles Rushmore, a wealthy businessman who frequented the area on hunting and prospecting trips in the 1890s. The massive desecration began in 1927 with removal of huge amounts of granite to create the familiar busts of the four U.S. presidents. This work took 17 years and cost almost $1 million — a hefty sum of tax dollars in 1944.
The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, was a KKK member, who previously helped construct the massive Confederate monument on Stone Mountain, Ga. Borglum’s son Lincoln, who completed Rushmore after his father’s death, envisioned more desecration by setting in stone the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Louisiana purchase and the Panama Canal Treaty.
Whose heads desecrate the Black Hills?
The presidents depicted — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt — represent various stages in the development of the U.S. imperialist empire. The two so-called “founding fathers” were wealthy slaveowners with vast tracts of land. Lincoln, portrayed as the benevolent leader who singlehandedly ended slavery, essentially freed the slaveholding states for capitalist expansion.
Roosevelt, according to Trump’s version of history, “led the famous Rough Riders to defeat the enemy at San Juan Hill.” This imperialist stage of capitalist development does coincide with the U.S. seizure of Spanish-held colonies in 1898; Puerto Rico remains an impoverished U.S. colony. But San Juan Hill is in liberated territory — socialist Cuba — something a thousand Mount Rushmores can never erase.
Trump’s gushing nostalgia over the falling monuments is reminiscent of Alabama Gov. George Wallace declaring in 1963: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
We don’t know how long the gigantic, lucrative tourist trap will continue untarnished — hopefully not much longer. Courageous Indigenous treaty defenders were able to hold up Trump’s fascist hate rally for several hours.
We look forward to the day when each and every monument to slavery and genocide is taken down and destroyed. Workers World Party is committed to eradicating, not just these hated flags and statues, but every trace of the capitalist system that spawned the crimes against humanity these objects symbolize.
The fascist gang assembled at Mount Rushmore is dangerous, as is the rhetoric that pulled it together — the threat must be taken seriously.
But we are hopeful! As the monumental movement still unfolding has reminded us, nothing is set in stone.