Being the good tourists that we are, we certainly didn’t want to miss out on Mount Rushmore. Thanks to the fact that the Mountain Time Zone starts in the middle of South Dakota, we gained an hour and were still able to visit the place in the evening. At the entrance we were told that we arrived just in time for the “lighting ceremony”. Little did we know that what we thought was basically switching on some flood lights, would turn into a most bizarre manifestation of American patriotism.
After a seemingly endless appraisal of the four presidents depicted in the monument, including, with some difficulty, of the somewhat misplaced Theodore Roosevelt (what the heck is he doing up there with Washington, Jefferson ad Lincoln anyway?), the female ranger who led through the event managed to cram into the remaining 20 minutes or so the following: the “Star-spangled Banner”, the unofficial national anthem “America the Beautiful” (the one that has the line “From sea to shining sea”), the “Pledge of Allegiance” (Fahneneid), a formal introduction of all former and present soldiers in the huge audience, all with name and troop unit, and finally the ritual lowering of the flag. Those were probably more patriotic acts than I have experienced in Germany during my whole life time. The idea of having only a fraction of this at a German national monument, say the Brandenburg Gate, is a completely impossible thought. I was relieved, though, to hear from Tish that she found this event in its intensity a little disturbing as well. Of course that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t sing along to the national anthem with fervor.