Friday, January 26, 2007

Monumental Disappointment

In my true nerdiness, I am sitting at home on a Friday night watching a documentary about the construction of Mt. Rushmore. I am a sucker for a good historical documentary and PBS never fails to deliver.

In the course of the documentary, it was brought up that the sculptor in charge of Mt. Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum, had been the first sculptor to work on Stone Mountain in Georgia. He did not finish Stone Mountain, and actually destroyed the work he began before skipping town. Borglum apparently clashed with the funders of the project, mostly rumored (or known) to be KKK members.

When I was nineteen, I set out on a two week journey traveling with my dad in his semi-truck. When asked where I wanted to go, I chose the South. I had never been there and was interested in seeing some of the cultural differences between Idaho and the southern U.S. We ended up hauling a load to Atlanta.

While in Atlanta, we decided to ride the bus for an hour out to Stone Mountain. I had heard very little about the monument, only that it was a massive sculpture in a mountain. It sounded interesting and was something to do. Upon arriving at the park, I was faced with a cultural difference I had never imagined. Stone Mountain is a shrine the Confederacy.

I was so shocked and in disbelief, I wouldn't even take the tram ride to the top. I wanted nothing more to do with it. I felt I had been jipped. I had wasted my time and travel. It never occurred to me that someone would celebrate the "other" side of the Civil War. I certainly never thought such a large scale monument would be created to honor those who promoted slavery. I still find it hard to believe.

It also brings more meaning and truth to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

"So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring."

It makes me wonder what other tourist attractions aren't what we think.

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