No social distancing is planned

Big day out.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump head to Mount Rushmore National Memorial on Friday to celebrate an early Fourth of July at a gathering of an estimated 7,500 people during a global pandemic.

No social distancing is planned for the event despite the record-high new coronavirus cases in the United States. And the event takes place amid environmental concerns over the use of fireworks in the dry land and as the country engages in a reckoning over its own monuments and racist history.

In other words it’s a huge poke in the eye to reasonable people, in multiple ways. Score!

The dark history of Mount Rushmore’s sculpture itself takes center stage with Trump’s visit. The President, who has stoked racial animus since he first entered the political arena, has moved to defend racist monuments in the face of nationwide protests over the treatment of Black Americans. Friday’s event, however, was planned before the nationwide unrest.

Of course; Trump has been both racist and stupid all along.

The Black Hills are a deeply sacred place of spiritual and cultural significance to the native peoples of the area, nearly 60 tribes. The 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty established the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, according to the National Archives, but the lands were systematically taken by the US government after gold was discovered in the area in the 1870s.

That is, the ink was barely dry on the treaty before the US government treated it like so much toilet paper.

Generations of Indigenous Lakota people have been opposed to Mount Rushmore since its construction, said Nick Tilsen, a citizen of Oglala Lakota nation and founder, CEO and president of the NDN Collective, a nonprofit organization supporting Indigenous people.

It’s an ugly piece of crap that doesn’t belong on a cliff face. (For the record, I hate that giant Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, too.)

“Indigenous people and my ancestors fought and died, and gave their lives to protect the sacred land, and to blow up a mountain and put the faces of four White men who were colonizers who committed genocide against Indigenous people — the fact that we don’t, as Americans, think of that as an absolute outrage is ridiculous,” he told CNN in an interview Wednesday.

I can’t disagree.

Friday’s festivities also come with an environmental risk. There were July Fourth fireworks at Mount Rushmore for several years, but they were discontinued in 2009 over environmental concerns, including increased risk of fires.

Pine beetle infestations in nearby forests were the cause of concern when the fireworks were discontinued. These infestations can kill trees, which increases their flammability risk and, in turn, poses a potential wildfire hazard. Fireworks increased the risk that a fire would ignite.

“We’re getting them at the great monument. We’re getting them. I got fireworks. For 20 years or something it hasn’t been allowed for environmental reasons. You believe that one? It’s all stone. So I’m trying to say where’s the environmental reason? Anyway, I got it approved, so I’m going to go there on July 3rd, and they’re going to have the big fireworks,” Trump said during a May appearance on the Dan Bongino podcast.

Did he succeed in saying where’s the environmental reason? Because if so surely someone could have answered. “Sir it’s not all stone, sir, it’s adjacent to forests, sir, the forests are very dry, sir, they could go up like matchsticks sir.”

Bill Gabbert, former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region, warned against fireworks given abnormally dry conditions in the region in an interview with the Rapid City Journal.

“Shooting fireworks over a ponderosa pine forest, or any flammable vegetation, is ill-advised and should not be done. Period,” Gabbert told the publication.

So they’re doing it anyway.

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