This is the second in a series of posts about our May, 2017 trip to South Dakota.
I, like many Americans, love our national parks. Nothing gets to me like expansive, natural beauty and remembrances of great battles and veterans.
Many of our vacations center around national parks, battlefields, and monuments. Our South Dakota trip was no exception. In addition to the Black Hills National Forest and Badlands National Park, we visited Mt. Rushmore National Memorial twice – once during the day to walk the Presidential Trail and once at night to attend an evening ceremony.
A Champion of Conservation
Every night from Memorial Day weekend through September, people gather at the Mt. Rushmore outdoor amphitheater for a lighting and a flag-folding ceremony. The night we attended, the park ranger spoke about each president carved into the mountain.
When the ranger began talking about Teddy Roosevelt, his tone brightened. This was not surprising. Teddy Roosevelt was a conservationist who established five national parks, plus many national forests, preserves, and monuments.
More importantly, Roosevelt signed into law the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which enabled future presidents to establish additional national parks and monuments.
A Sniveling Coward
As the ranger spoke about Roosevelt’s reputation as a park champion, defender of people against corporations, and proponent of national healthcare, a subtle defiance crept into his voice. If you followed the early days of the Trump presidency, you’ll know that defiance was directed at Trump.
Trump has proposed cutting the budget of the Department of Interior, which operates the National Park Service, by 12% or 1.5 million. Trump’s subsequent donation of $78,333, his first presidential paycheck, to the Park Service’s battlefields is paltry compared to the funds needed to repair and maintain them (the battlefields need $229 million for deferred maintenance alone).
The Park Service manages about 80 battlefields, military parks, and historic sites, plus 14 national cemeteries. These sites of remembrance honor veterans who risked or lost their lives protecting our nation and its people.
For Trump to call himself a patriot and use his Park Service donation as a publicity stunt is offensive. This is a man who never served in the military and insulted a Gold Star family because their dead son was a Muslim. Of Senator John McCain (R- Ariz.), Trump said “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Well, I like people who aren’t sniveling cowards.
This Isn’t Funny
As I was writing this post, Trump joked during a Youngstown, Ohio rally that he should be on Mt. Rushmore because, like all the Mt. Rushmore presidents, he believes in protecting American industry.
“Now here’s what I do, Trump said. I’d ask whether or not you someday think I will be on Mount Rushmore.”
“But here’s the problem, if I did it joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say ‘he believes he should be on Mount Rushmore.’ So I won’t say it. Okay? I won’t say it.”
So he said it.
And I got the joke. But it’s not funny. Nothing about Trump or his presidency is funny.
As for protecting American industry, Trump has done little more than submit memos, executive orders, and verbal decrees that have effectively done nothing. Spewing words using a limited vocabulary and 140 characters at a time will not make America great again .
You’re No Teddy Roosevelt
Listening to the park ranger talk about Roosevelt’s commitment to conserving natural resources and fighting corporate corruption, I heard a thinly-veiled dig against Trump.
Like an echo of Senator Lloyd Bentson’s famous response when Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy during a vice presidential debate, I imagined the ranger saying “Trump, you’re no Teddy Roosevelt”.