King Arthur: Please go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest, and if he will give us food and shelter for this night he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail.
French knight: Well, I’ll ask him, but I don’t think he’ll be very keen. He’s already got one, you see?
If anyone really has the ability to pass the hat and come up with $70 million in private money to build something in Utah that extols American history, why in the name of George Washington would they have so little imagination as to build another Mount Vernon.
We’ve already got one, you see. A real one. Where George Washington really lived and farmed and entertained and bought and sold slaves. And, to his eternal credit, to which he kept trying to retreat after each of those times he did way more than his share to create the United States of America.
It’s got the real key to the Bastille — a gift from the real Marquis de Lafayette — and a “fully functioning” reconstruction of what was, in 1799, one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America. You can get there by car, tour bus or — the best way — by boat.
If anything, one might think that the political leadership of Utah — folks who make their living resenting the federal government and all things, well, Washington — would prefer to put their efforts and their funds into creating something that said American West.
Something that honored pioneers, Mormon and otherwise. Or Native Americans. Or our contributions to science and technology. Or create, somewhere along the rapidly urbanizing Wasatch Front, an enclave devoted to honoring the natural wonders of Utah that are remote and yet in danger of being loved to death.
The idea that has captured the imagination of Sen. Orrin Hatch (if only so he can tell another I’m-so-old joke) and Sen. Mike Lee (who said it would be better than a Utah Disneyland) is called the George Washington Museum of Natural History.
It is envisioned as a full recreation of Washington’s home, on 18 acres, to be built in Highland. Or Salt Lake City. Or maybe Fillmore. And to be ready in time for the 250th birthday of America, in 2026.
If backers can really raise the $70 million they say will be necessary to create the museum, and the hundreds of millions more to keep it operating into the future, and can really do it without later asking the taxpayers to bail them out, that’s their business.
Though being independent of public funding might also make it independent of any responsibility to be historically accurate and instead create a propaganda icon posing as history.
We have museums and other repositories of our history in Utah, natural and human, government and private. Many of them could make good use of an inflow of $70 million-plus.
America is a forward-looking nation. If we want to spend so much money on something that highlights the above-average patriotism of Utahns, make it something that looks with wonder to the future, not an unimaginative copy of the past.