Controversy

Display causes uproar in state Capitol

There are 1,805,832 of us here in West Virginia, according to the Census Bureau. Is it any wonder that there are a few bigots, sociopaths and idiots here?

One of them made national news Friday at the state Capitol. She should not have been the headline, however. The real story was how Mountain State officials reacted to the situation.

Friday was “GOP Day” at the Capitol, on which the Republican Party organization set up exhibits inside the building. Such events are common.

But as legislators scurried to and fro getting the public’s business done, someone noticed something wrong. Amid the other exhibits was a table on which was a poster many viewers judged to be a bigoted statement against all Muslims. Beyond doubt, it was a vicious, unfair attack against a member of the U.S. Congress.

A picture of an airplane slamming into the Twin Towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, was on the poster. Also there was a picture of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota. She is Islamic. “‘Never forget’ — You said,” was printed on the poster. Over Omar’s picture were the words, “I am the proof you have forgotten.”

A number of pamphlets were on the table. The topic of one: “Readin’, Writin’, And Jihadin,’ The Islamization of American Public Schools.”

In reaction to the episode, Omar herself cited “the GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them.”

That was not and is not true, on two levels. Omar was engaging in naked misrepresentation for political purposes.

First, West Virginia’s Republican Party organization had nothing to do with the poster and pamphlets. They were taken into the Capitol by a woman who said she was part of the ACT for America organization. ACT has been labeled by some as a hate group.

Second, condemnation was swift in coming and sweeping in scope. Both Republican and Democrat legislators joined in criticizing the display and expressing their disgust with the sentiments in it.

At one point, the sergeant at arms in the House of Delegates made what some said was a comment that “all Muslims are terrorists.” She resigned — no doubt after it was made clear language such as that is way out of line. Later, she insisted she never made the statement of which she was accused. What she said was prefaced with a “not,” she said.

Of events on Saturday, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said, “We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state, to become a cancer on our Legislature, to invade our chamber in a way that, frankly, makes me feel ashamed.”

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, called the display “hateful and wrong. Above all, it is not representative of the values that the vast majority of West Virginians hold dear.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, visiting the Capitol on Saturday, told a reporter, “I deplore what happened … It does not in any way, shape or form represent the feelings of the Republican Party or everybody I know that’s in the party.”

Bigotry and its inevitable result, hatred, is present everywhere on our planet. Unfortunately, there are those — most of whom, we suspect, have never been to West Virginia — who believe we in the Mountain State harbor it to a greater extent than some other places.

They are wrong. “Live and let live,” with all that implies, is a way of life for the vast majority of Mountain State residents.

Carmichael put it best on Friday evening: “We, as a state, are far better than what we saw today.”

Indeed we are.

COMMENTS