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Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
How to catch the sun's comings and goings
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
You are on this page
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
As part of the system
Mastering your master
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
And why no one should hesitate to examine them
Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Without ego projection

In the shadows below Mt. Rushmore, waiting for the dawn to light up the faces of the presidents guarding me, I wondered how they would vote in the presidential elections now a few days away. Photographers get to wait a lot for that right shot, in my case, sniffing around in the dark like some raccoon. The gift of predawn solitude includes uninterrupted musing with a fresh mind in the cathedral of nature.

Washington's dark visage reminded me of how his followers were dumfounded at the end of the American Revolution when Washington refused to be king.

"It's the natural order of things," they probably said, "the way such things were always done."

Washington told them how they were all embarking on a new adventure, a different, democratic way to do things.

"All kidding aside," they said. "The war is won. You don't have to say those things any more."

And then General Washington laid his sword at the feet of the fledgling Congress and went home to farm.

Consider how today's politicians are ready to sell their grandmothers into slavery for power, stepping on everyone to claw their way to the top. As a general, Washington had known power, and his ego surely wanted more. And then he showed us how to honor one's ideals instead.

Then I thought of how I was part of the current system, projecting my ego with my vote. My way or the highway. How could those idiots not agree with me?

Traveling this country, I've seen this ego projection metastasize into an alarming hatred for the other side. Hillary Clinton isn't a ditzy politician with sloppy email habits, but a fundamentally evil person worthy of a bullet in the head. Obamacare isn't a mistake as much as the plotings of a loathsome Muslim in hiding. And lest we assume this is a Republican preoccupation, let us remember the Democratic hatemongering that marked the Bush presidency.

If we check the country's hatemeter, it seems to be going up, and it's not in the interests of politicians to turn it down. They like the power they amass espousing us-vs-them conspiracies. It's up to us, and the fellows atop Mt. Rushmore told me how to do it.

We have to begin by changing why we vote (not whom we vote for). It shouldn't be a projection of our will as much as a service we do for this fine nation. Long before James Surowiecki wrote The Wisdom of Crowds, our Founding Fathers suspected its fundamentals, in fact, they placed a large bet that it could lead to a better form of government. We need to look at it the same as if a friend asked whether she should serve Coke or Pepsi at her party. We give the best advice we can, but we don't harass her to go with our recommendation. We have to trust her to use our vote well.

So, how did the boys atop the hill suggest I vote? That is always the punchline. Although I think Clinton is a dedicated and respectable statesman (statesperson?), we Republicans don't agree with her tax-and-spend approach to solving our problems. I base this on some timeless words from the second guy atop Mt. Rushmore, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have."

Although I agree with some of Trump's slogans, I don't like a guy speaking of women like pieces of meat and hiding his tax returns. But the nail in his coffin came at the close of the last presidential debate. When asked if he would bow to the will of the voters if they didn't agree with him, he made it clear that he wasn't ready to trust us and democracy all that far. His ego seems to find it more important to become President Trump, to achieve The Donald's ultimate branding triumph.

So it was that I betrayed my party and decided to vote Libertarian. At least I like their "less government = more freedom" slogan. I am under no delusion that my candidate will win, and more than one of my friends has told me that I'm throwing away my vote. But the take-away from Mt. Rushmore was that I am not responsible for what happens to my vote, only that I vote my conscience.

Voting is just a duty I perform for my country, like picking up trash along the hiking trail. What the country does with my vote is no more my concern than what they do with the contents of the trailside trash can. This country has suffered buffoons in the past and come out OK. And every now and then, I believe this system will produce someone outstanding enough to add to Mt. Rushmore. That is trust and love, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I feel both for my adopted country.

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Night guardians at Mt. Rushmore

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Washington had no nose hairs

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Lincoln before dawn

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Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there

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Spearfish Canyon

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Lost in turbulence

For more pictures of South Dakota, click here.

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