Written by Guest Blogger: Brett Leigh Dicks
Standing on the observation patio and staring out at Mt. Rushmore solicits an array of emotions.
My grandfather’s family first came to North America in 1607. My grandfather 11 generations back – James Davis – was part of the Virginia Company of Plymouth’s expedition, which established the short-lived Popham Colony in what is now Maine. After overseeing the crafting of a ship and sailing it back to England after the collapse of the settlement, Davis returned to North America in 1609 with the Virginia Company of London, this time settling and eventually becoming a landholder in Jamestown.
My grandmother was an indigenous Australian. Her people have occupied the Australian continent for at least 65,000 years. Then travelers from afar – not unlike James Davis – came and stole their land from them. As I stand here I wonder how the indigenous people of North America feel when they see these four faces etched into the sacred stone of their traditional lands. The Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868 granted the Black Hills to the Lakota, but the United States then seized the area from them after the Great Sioux War of 1876.
I was born and raised in Australia, but followed family tradition and immigrated to the North America in 2008. In the ten years I have been a US citizen I have lived under three presidents and more recently seen hope give way to a desire to reassert America’s greatness. With that in mind, I look upon these four monumental figures and wonder what they would think about the way are currently going about making America great again.
My son was born in the United States to an Australian/American father and Australian/Croatian mother. As I stand here before these four larger-than-life figures I tried to put myself in his shoes and glean an insight into what these four men represent to him.
George Washington he told me was the father of America. Thomas Jefferson wrote the declaration of Independence as well as a recipe for ice cream. Theodore Roosevelt loved nature and animals and worked hard to protect them both. And Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and loved cats. Of these four figures, Samuel tells me his favorite is Lincoln because they share the same spirit animal – a cat – although Samuel also feels it is important to note that sometimes he shifts between cats, dolphins (when he is playing in the water) and Big Horned Sheep (when he is climbing on rocks).
The thing is, the America we are crafting now is the one Samuel will inherent. And like any father, I hope his future to be great.
When Gutzon Borglum selected the four presidents to be cast in stone, he did so for very specific reasons. Washington was chosen for leading the fight for American independence from which the nation was born while Jefferson was selected for his championing the democratic growth of the union. Lincoln was picked for preserving the union through an embrace of equality and Roosevelt for the continued development and betterment of the United States.
As Samuel and I sat and watched visitors to Mt. Rushmore outstretch their cell phones bearing hands and posed for selfies in front of the four presidents, it reinforced to me that we’re all in this together and that the basis for a reasserted American greatness might be right here in front of our very noses…
Opposing Forces Exhibition Launch and Artist Talk | Thursday August 2, 7-9pm
Come meet the artist, Brett Leigh Dicks, and learn about his collection of photographs on display in the Diefenbunker’s Vault. You’ll also be the first to hear about his intriguing Cold War journey with his photographs from Santa Barbara, California to the Diefenbunker in Ottawa. Reserve your free tickets on Eventbrite.
Brett’s exhibition “Opposing Forces: Photographs of Abandoned Nuclear Missile Bases” will be on display at the Diefenbunker from August 2 – September 9, 2018.