KING KEEPS DIGGING…. Rep. Steve King, aright-wing Republican from Iowa, was the only member of Congress to oppose a measure this week to honor the role slaves played in building the U.S. Capitol in the Capitol Visitors Center. In his initial explanation, he said his vote had something to do with including the phrase “In God We Trust” in the Visitors Center. The connection between the two is clear only to King.
Faiz Shakir reports on the Iowan’s second explanation, which King offered during a radio interview:
“[O]f the 645,000 Africans that were brought here to be forcibly put into slavery in the United States, there were over 600,000 people that gave their lives in the Civil War to put an end to slavery. And I don’t see the monument to that in the Congressional Visitor Center, and I think it’s important that we have a balanced depiction of history.”
Let me see if I can explain this to King in a way he’ll understand. The Capitol Visitors Center includes information relating to the building itself. That’s why the Capitol Visitors Center exists — to offer visitors information about the Capitol.
Acknowledging the role of slaves in building the Capitol makes sense in the Capitol Visitors Center, for reasons I hope are obvious. Acknowledging Americans who died in the Civil War in the Capitol Visitors Center doesn’t make sense, because those deaths aren’t related to the building. Even for King, this shouldn’t be too complicated.
What’s more, if King is searching, for some reason, for some kind of acknowledgement of the Civil War on the Hill, Faiz added that King “simply needs to open his eyes and look around Washington, DC. If he steps right outside the Capitol, he’ll see the Ulysses S. Grant memorial, a monument that commemorates the former general of the Union Army. Grant’s statue is flanked on either side by monuments of fighting Union Artillery and Cavalry groups. The Grant statue faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial, which of course honors the President who led the effort to free the slaves. In addition, at the Congressional Cemetery lies the Arsenal Monument, a memorial in honor of women who died while performing services for the Union Army. And there’s also an African American Civil War Memorial that honors the contributions that African-American troops made to the war effort.”
King won’t, however, find an acknowledgement of slaves building the Capitol, an omission every one of his colleagues sought to change this week.
Post Script: One more relevant detail here. An alert reader reminds me that King’s complaint about his vote having something to do with “In God We Trust” at the Capitol Visitors Center also doesn’t make sense. As my friend Rob Boston reported earlier this year, “The words ‘In God We Trust’ are prominently displayed [in the CVC] above a video screen that explains how the House functions, and an exhibit about the early days of the Capitol notes that the building was used for ‘religious services and other civic events.’ It includes a facsimile of a story from a Virginia newspaper reporting on a sermon delivered in the Capitol in July of 1801.”
King insisted yesterday, “Liberals want to amend our country’s history to eradicate the role of Christianity in America and chisel references to God or faith from our historical buildings.” In the world where grown-ups live, it sounds like King doesn’t know what he’s talking about.