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Mount Rushmore Redesign
Transcript of Mount Rushmore Redesign
The lack of bodily context invokes a sense of detachment for spectators. In the original design of Mount Rushmore, the presidents were supposed to be sculpted to the waist. However, due to a lack of funding, the design for the monument had to be scaled back.
How was Mount Rushmore originally intended to be read by the public?
Mount Rushmore was originally designed to represent the first 150 years of American history. The four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, were chosen for the monument because of their pivotal roles in the preservation and expansion of the country.
The monument is a bold symbol of American pride. The four stern, solemn faced presidents gaze down from atop the mountain, creating an imposing and humbling setting for spectators. Each sculpted face represents far beyond itself: Revolution and independence for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the emancipation of slaves and the unification of America for Abraham Lincoln, progressivism and global expansion for Theodore Roosevelt.
Spectators are meant to look at these sculpted faces as not just representations of famous presidents, but as a historical timeline of America’s early history. The monument is intended to provoke thought amongst the public. Spectators must engage the monument to decipher what the sculptures are intended to represent. Viewers are meant to feel humbled yet prideful as they gaze upon the colossal faces of these four presidents.
The monument invokes a sense of justified nostalgia amongst the public. It allows Americans to reflect on their country’s brief history. The sculptures are meant to remind Americans of everything their country has overcome and to commemorate the men who have helped lead us through these hardships.
My rhetorical critique of Mount Rushmore:
At first glance, tucked away in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the placement of Mount Rushmore may seem a little strange and arbitrary. At second glance, the placement of the monument is ignorant and offensive.
The area where the monument was sculpted was seized from the Lakota Tribe by the United States government following the Sioux War of 1876. An earlier treaty also promised this land to the tribe permanently. The Lakota tribe is in the process of sculpting a larger monument to rival Mount Rushmore.
Essentially, the United States slaughtered thousands of Native Americans, seized their land, and placed a monument dedicated themselves.
It is also important to note that the face of civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony was meant to be the fourth face on the monument, not Theodore Roosevelt, somehow Roosevelt ended up getting the nod. This highlights another grievance I have with the monument. America was founded on diversity, representing the first 150 years of US history with 4 powerful white men is a thoughtless and inaccurate representation of America, but perhaps that is the only way to accurately portray our history. The monument provides viewers with a totally distorted account of our history.
The rhetorical design of the monument is not so admirable either. There seems to be no organization or unity in the four sculpted faces. Each man is looking in a different direction and Roosevelt looks as if he was squeezed in at the last second. It is as if the four presidents are sitting together at a press conference and none of them can find where the questions are coming from. They look disorganized and confused.
The whole structure of the monument seems to say ‘Yeah I couldn’t figure anything else out so I just threw a few fancy heads up there and called it a day.’ Perhaps if the sculptors went with their original idea of sculpting each president down to waist, the monument could garner a splash of legitimacy.
The serious stares of each face invoke laughter, not pride. The location and design of the monument are a little bizarre. Instead of placing a monument in an area they acquired through an unjust war, the United States government could have constructed some sort of monument memorializing the horrific plight of the Native Americans.
Some may argue that each face communicates a different aspect of American history. However, what does a face really communicate? An identity. The identity of one man, not an entire country. Yet, taking into account the vast intelligence of the American public, the majority of Americans would probably have trouble identifying one out of the four faces anyway. Overall, Mount Rushmore is a shallow, fragmented monument that fails to communicate its intended message.
My Alternative Design:
The original intention of the Mount Rushmore monument was to represent the first 150 years of America’s history. After extensive analysis, I decided that Mount Rushmore completely fails in this rhetorical goal.
In my alternative design, I chose the same rhetorical goal as the original designers of Mount Rushmore, except this time I decided to take a more satirical approach at depicting the first 150 years of America’s history. I am a huge advocate of satire. Sometimes it takes an element of humor and a strong dose of sarcasm for the general public to realize and accept unfortunate truths. Thus, I chose a satirical path for my redesign of Mount Rushmore.
First, Location. Some arbitrary mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota, on territory taken away from Native Americans is no place to celebrate America’s history. A monument commemorating the expansion of America should be placed at a location where expansion was once a highly debated issue. For this reason, I decided to place my monument on the border between Maryland and West Virginia.
Next came the design of my monument. The rhetorical goal of my design was to satirically represent the first 150 years of America’s history. So I began thinking about America’s early history. What defines the first 150 years of America? Gaining independence from England, the Civil War, and unwarranted expansion. I took these three ideas and began designing.
The two headed man represents the north and south in the Civil War as well as the general divisions plaguing American society throughout the 19th century. Each head is trying to destroy its counterpart just as each side tried to destroy the other during the Civil War. A two-headed man battling himself is the perfect metaphor for one country dividing and then declaring war against itself. One cannot win a war against themselves.
My design represents the bizarre and senseless nature of civil war. The man has just broken loose from British chains, signifying the paradoxical nature of American history; we break free from the stranglehold of Great Britain only to fight amongst ourselves for centuries, we escape an imperial power only to become a one.
There is a copy of the US constitution tucked away in the man’s belt to expose how Americans justified their ruthless expansion. The term ‘Manifest Destiny’ (the idea that Americans were destined to expand across the continent) was coined by a US politician, this gave Americans the idea that it was okay to slaughter thousands of an indigenous population if it was for the cause of expansion.
It was also a widely held belief at the time that God wanted America to expand, hence the bible in the mans belt. The bag on lands the man has slung over his shoulder is also meant to represent America’s insatiable appetite for new land during the 19th century.