A commercial was droning by, as I tried to watch the NBA game and tool around on the laptop. Something about Memorial Day tie-in at the local Jeep Wrangler dealer. I glanced up just in time to see a panoramic shot of Mt. Rushmore.
It occured to me, in that moment, that I finally have a way of getting my students to understand that ever-thorny issue of temple destruction in South Asian history i.e. the Muslim invaders destroyed Hindu temples and erected mosques on those sacred sites. Historians have countered this incendiary claim in the Hindutva arsenal by pointing out that temple destruction was a common fact of medieval warfare and Hindu kings were just as prone to do it as Muslim ones. But why, I remember a student asking me, destroy their sacred site at all? He was rather insistent that all this temple destruction pointed to some natural urge in the Eastern mind which was all bent on being religious. I think I mumbled something about the Parthenon but made little headway.
But, there an example stands: a sacred mountain blasted up to build a temple to our own nationalist gods – specifically to drive worshippers to that far-off land [promised to them natives]. That should explain it.