Keystone, SD -- As I stare up at Mount Rushmore and the much larger-than-life visages of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, I can't help but wonder why Americans can get away with this kind of megalomania, while we in Canada seem to be resigned to making do with the Wawa Goose ...and the aptly-named New Brunswick Tidal Bore.
Yes, there is the whole American Exceptionalism thing. But let's be serious, is Canada no less exceptional? Do we not deserve our own Mount Rushmore? Of course we do! We have been diffident and modest far too long. But getting over that is the easy part. Assuming we take the bold step of celebrating our own heroes, who, exactly, should we enshrine in granite?
We could go the American route and chisel politicians into a mountainside (or at least the ones who haven't chiselled us). If we look at Prime Ministers, for example, we could consider using the 2011 ranking by Maclean's magazine as a guide, which placed Wilfrid Laurier #1, followed by John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson.
Yes, there are issues with this lineup. Some would say there are too many Liberals. Japanese Canadians would have issues with Mackenzie King, given that he interred thousands of them against all reason. Others would say that to do John A. Macdonald justice we would need to find a mountain with pink granite. More to the point, many would say that, unlike the United States, with their Presidential Libraries and billion dollar Air Force One, we do not present our leaders as modern-day Emperors.
But if not Prime Ministers, whom? We could look to the 2004 CBC Greatest Canadian line-up. In rank order, the top four finishers were Tommy Douglas, Terry Fox, Pierre Trudeau and Sir Frederick Banting. Not a bad list (although, due to Trudeau, it might limit us to mountains in central Canada). But it does, like the Prime Minister's list, seem to be quite obviously lacking in a variety of ways, including gender diversity.
If you look at the CBC Greatest Canadian rankings, the top three women, in order of preference, were Shania Twain, Laura Secord...and Pamela Anderson. And no, I am not going to make a cheap comment about the latter -- because you are already thinking it.
What about Jack Layton...or Roberta Bondar...or Chris Hadfield?
I asked my spousal unit, Karen Shigeishi-Waite, for her views. Her choices? Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, Jann Arden...and John Candy. And, again, I will make no comment regarding the need for a bigger mountain. But those are certainly interesting nominees.
When I asked a close American friend with Canadian family ties, Cheryl Arvidson, for her opinion, she offered up Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.
For my part, I'd like to see Tecumseh, Fergie Jenkins, Chantal Hebert... and whoever approved my citizenship papers when I immigrated to Canada.
So what do you think? Which four individuals do you think most deserving? Or do you think a Mount Rushmore-like imitation violates Canadian values of modesty and rectitude? And if you have a mountain (and a semi-insane sculptor like Gutzon Borglun) to donate to the cause, please let me know.