The current administration of the executive branch of the United States government is white nationalist. This means that, to President Trump and his cabinet and all the agencies under its command, all lives do not matter. Not Black lives, nor any other non-white, non-Christian, non-male, non-hetero lives. Nor anti-racist, nor anti-fascist lives.
We know this now from President Trump’s recent public diatribes, which bullied up to the rhetoric of racial purity not so long ago offered by former White House staffer and 2016 Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon to the French fascist Marine LePen’s National Front on March 10, 2018, exhorting his white supremacist pan-national allies to “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativist. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger, and they get weaker…. I did not come here as a teacher, I came here as an observer, and to learn. What I’ve learned is that you are part of a worldwide movement, that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary — bigger than all of it. And history is on our side.”
Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore was hateful but mostly pablum. Much of the coverage of the event was seen through the lens of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and the national uproar over a seemingly endless series of fatal confrontations by marginalized communities with police brutality amid the wider scope of systemic racism. Indeed, the Mount Rushmore event was confronted by Lakota demonstrators who had blockaded a road leading into the park, fresh from currently escalating legal battles with Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem over the First Nation’s covid-19 wellness checkpoints at state road entrances through their reservation.
Trump’s speechwriters did not quite cross the line into obvious declarations honoring racism, xenophobia and nativism. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, however, as Trump spoke from the stage at the foot of what was once the Six Grandfathers rock formation sacred to the Lakota People, We the People were left with some strong hints. “There could be no better place to celebrate America’s independence than beneath this magnificent, incredible, majestic mountain and monument to the greatest Americans who have ever lived,” Trump spoke. “I am here as your President to proclaim before the country and before the world: This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced, their legacy will never, ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
So much for the freedom of the Lakota, who had signed a treaty to that effect in 1868 with the United States government at Fort Laramie, Kansas, promising those Black Hills, including the Six Grandfathers, to their people. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” the president warned his cult at the foot of Mount Rushmore. But, as history would have it, there was gold in them thar hills and the treaty was broken less than ten years later by that same United States government. And if understanding any of that is evidence of left wing indoctrination, then so was the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1980.
Thirty-nine years after George Custer’s last stand in the war that resulted from breaking that treaty, sculptor Gutzon Borglum struck a deal with the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a frieze into the face of Stone Mountain near Atlanta as a “shrine to the South,” consecrating the project in 1915 with a torch-light ceremony with the Ku Klux Klan which had agreed to fund the project. As Borglum began carving the images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson into Stone Mountain, the Klan fumbled its fundraising commitment. By 1927, Borglum had accepted the Mount Rushmore project and quit the job on Stone Mountain — which would be completed by a succession of two other sculptors by 1972 — and began carving the presidential heads into the sacred Lakota Six Grandfathers rock formation.
“One of their political weapons,” continued Trump oblivious to the irony in his rant against the so-called radical leftist threat to American Greatness, “is ‘Cancel Culture’ — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.” Sure, it is. Now tell it to Colin Kaepernick.