J.C. Derrick: Putting down roots

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, June 11th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Managing editor J.C. Derrick is back now with some thoughts on putting down roots in a society trending away from them.

J.C. DERRICK, MANAGING EDITOR: I’m currently listening to an audiobook called Them. It’s the latest title from Senator Ben Sasse.

The main theme of the book is about how our culture is split into tribes. It’s us against them—from politics to education to economic class. Everything seems to divide.

Sasse argues that’s because we’re collectively churning out adults who are disconnected from everything—friends, family, neighbors.

Even our careers are now compressed into just a few years. Mostly gone are the days of working for decades at one company. And as a result, gone are the days of building long-lasting relationships at work.

In a few months or years, you’ll likely be moving on. So why put down roots?

These ideas formed the backdrop for my family’s recent visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Crazy Horse is a massive sculpture under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When finished, it will depict the 19th century warrior Crazy Horse in epic fashion.

Today, only the face is finished—making the mountain reminiscent of nearby Mount Rushmore. But eventually, an outstretched arm and horse’s head will make Crazy Horse the largest sculpture in the world.

It’s a sight to behold, for sure. The sculpture’s eyes alone are 17 feet wide!

But the history of the project is what stuck with me the most.

The story begins with an Oglala Lakota chief named Henry Standing Bear. He tried and failed over a period of almost two decades to find a sculptor to honor an Indian hero.

Finally, Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski agreed to do it—or, well, start it.

See, this project started in 1948. It’s literally as old as the nation of Israel—71 years.

Ziolkowski took on the project not because he would finish it—but because he believed in it. He later turned down $10 million in federal funds to make sure government strings would not interfere with the effort.

Ziolkowski labored on the mountain for the last 34 years of his life. And you might think that would be the end of the story.

But, no—after Ziolkowski died in 1982, his widow and seven of his children took on the work. And today, his grandchildren are involved.

The story resonated with me in light of the Sasse book. As the cultural currents sweep us all toward an utter lack of roots, we need these countercultural examples.

For some of us, it might be saying no to digital addiction, or intentionally getting to know the neighbor next door.

It might mean starting one of those local associations Alexis de Tocqueville said made America so special.

And for some, it might be finding meaningful work that inspires the next generation to take up the cause.

Regaining a sense of rootedness is key to overcoming today’s “us versus them” society.

And it won’t happen overnight, or through any legislation. It will happen one action, one relationship at a time.

Almost like taking a hammer to a mountain—chipping away at it one swing at a time.

For WORLD Radio, I’m J.C. Derrick.

(Photo/Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation)

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