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The American Psyche on Display: Roger Minick’s ‘Sightseer’

Throughout my hours of driving and time spent at hundreds of overlooks––from Yosemite National Park to the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Old Faithful Geyser to the rim of the Grand Canyon, from Niagara Falls to the St. Louis Arch, from the Crazy Horse Memorial to the World Trade Center, from The Alamo to the Washington Mall, from Zion Canyon National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains––there was one question that continued to press upon me for an answer.

What was it that motivated people, by the hundreds of thousands, at great expense of time, money, and effort, to visit these far-off places of wonder and curiosity?

I must confess that there were times in my travels, squeezed elbow-to-elbow with my fellow travelers, that I viewed their presence at the overlooks as nothing more than another example of mindless, boorish, behavior. I thought they were there simply to get their pictures taken as quickly as possible, the one tangible validation of their trip, and then head on to the next overlook, the next campground, motel, bus stop, then home––the experience at any one of the dozens of overlooks remembered only later through a snapshot they barely recalled taking.

But in the end I came to believe that there was something more meaningful going on––something stronger and more compelling, something that seemed almost woven into the fabric of the American psyche.

I would witness this most dramatically when I watched first-timers arrive at a particularly spectacular overlook and see their expressions become instantly awestruck at this their first sighting of some iconic beauty or curiosity or wonder.

After seeing this happen innumerable times, I began to compare what I was seeing to the religious pilgrimages of the Middle East and Asia, where the pilgrims are not just making a trip to make a trip, or simply to return home with some tangible piece of evidence that they were there––the snapshot––they have instead come seeking something deeper, beyond themselves, and are finding it in this moment of visitation.

For as with all pilgrimages, they have made the journey, they have arrived, and are now experiencing the quickening sense of recognition and affirmation, that universal sense of a shared past and present, and, with any luck, a shared future. MANY MORE IMAGES AT The American Psyche on Display: Roger Minick at“ AMERICAN SUBURB X

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  • ghostsniper December 10, 2019, 4:24 AM

    I’ve done all the “sightseeing” I’ll ever do decades ago when the people attending were less intrusive. Now, everything I look at, Yellowstone, Rushmore, Grand Canyon, etc., shows exceptionally high numbers of people visiting them each year. None for me, thanks. I can barely tolerate the idiots all over the grocery store. Just stay my ass at home and lament what has been lost. Just about everything in this country, now, is too much. Everything needs to be halved, then halved again. When the 1950’s ended everything started coming apart at the seams and now, 60 years later, everything is shredded and barely recognizable. This place used to be America. Now it is Disney World on krak-meth.

  • Ann K. December 10, 2019, 4:44 AM

    I agree 100 percent, @ghostsniper!

  • James ONeil December 10, 2019, 10:32 AM

    Not faulting the sightseers, the pilgrims, but I guess I’ve been more of a wanderer than a sightseer over the decades. My travels have been more to find out what’s around a corner, or over the hill to see what’s on the other side (including tramping up more than a few mountains to do so), rather than seeking out monuments, or popular views.

    I do remember going to the Louvre specifically to visit Leonardo’s Mona, but the line was too long so, tipping my hat to his David, I wandered down to what seemed to be a basement and spent a very pleasant hour with armless Aphrodite instead.

  • Joe December 10, 2019, 1:41 PM

    America is the most beautiful country in the whole world. Long Live America

  • WDS December 12, 2019, 9:22 AM

    I thought that scene looked familiar. Enjoy the vibrant diversity…. https://imgur.com/hEXlJfv