I think I was in third grade in my rural Iowa classroom in 1962 or 1963 when my teacher Mrs. Schneckloth gave our class an assignment that probably changed my life forever. She asked us to find a magazine with a photo, or an image of an historical event, paste it to construction paper (remember that?), and on the back, do some research and write about that historic event. The image I found was a reproduction of a painting, an idealized representation of a battle in the Civil War. I think the image was from either Life or Look magazine. Old timers will remember those grand old magazines fondly.
I found that image of the blue and gray battlefield compelling, and I pulled the encyclopedia we had at home—The World Book—off the bookshelf, and started researching the Civil War. And writing. Soon, I had filled the one sheet of construction paper, in what was probably a rambling and certainly plagiarized essay.
I asked Mrs. Schneckloth if it was OK if I kept writing about the subject even though I had turned the assignment in, and a little surprised, she introduced me to The Palimpsest, a magazine published by the State Historical Society of Iowa. I read and read, and wrote and wrote a great many pages, for months afterward.
I was pleased to learn that Iowa was a Union State, and on the right side of a terrible war that ended the abhorrent practice of slavery. When I told my grandpa about my research, he told me about his grandpa, who fought on the Union side for the state of Ohio. While we weren’t Iowans yet, my chest swelled with pride as my grandpa told me stories of his grandpa, a quiet man who loved music who fought in that great war.
As I grew older, I continued my research as a bit of a hobby. I learned that Iowa soldiers fought valiantly in the Civil War, and that it was the Iowa 22nd who broke the back of the Confederacy at Vicksburg. The Iowa troops were the only ones to break through Confederate lines during that battle, hastening the end of the war. A total of 76,242 Iowa men, including a black regiment, served in combat. Over 13,000 died of wounds or disease, and 8,500 men were wounded. Iowa men died in southern prison camps, and today lay at rest in graves across the south, little remembered. No other state, north or south, had a higher percentage of its male population between the ages of 15 and 40 serve in the military during the course of the war.
Are you proud of that? I’m proud of that. All Iowans should be. Every citizen of every Union state should be proud of our historic role in ending slavery, and anyone who displays the Confederate flag here is not only disrespecting those who lived under the yoke of slavery and their descendants, they are also disrespecting our veterans—our ancestors—who fought and died to help set them free. So Iowans, quit flying those damn Confederate flags. Historical revisionists try to say that the war between the states wasn’t about slavery, it was about states rights. They are lying. It was about slavery. The right for states to decide or whether or not slavery was legal. An abomination. If you fly it just to “own the libs,” you’re stupid.
Congressman Steve King has shown that disrespect for years, and he continues to do so today. He displayed the Confederate flag on his desk in Congress, reportedly taking the flag down in 2016 after the shooting death of two metro Des Moines police officers. Their alleged killer had unfurled a Confederate flag in the stands near African-American students at an Urbandale football game.
Yet, as far as I can tell, King has not apologized for flying that damn flag, or given a reason for taking it down. He may have succumbed to political pressure. At the time, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said they disagreed with King’s decision to have a Confederate flag in his office. Kaufmann has also countered King’s controversial remarks on immigrants, saying, “I do not agree with Congressman King’s statement. We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity is the strength of any nation and any community.”
Just this past week, the conservative Weekly Standard magazine called King “America’s Most Deplorable Congressman,” saying he’s an embarrassment to the Republican Party and to America.
While many Fourth District voters have rationalized King’s disrespect of Iowa’s honorable past, our Civil War history, his weakest-in-congress performance record, racism and hate, simply because he delivers a reliably conservative vote. And sure, some voters rationalize that the Civil War is a long time ago, and that King really isn’t racist, the Democrats are overreaching, and King’s just protecting our culture, and our borders.
Sure, ignore his Confederate flag, even if it insults our great Iowa past, veterans, and our black friends and neighbors who live the legacy of slavery. Ignore his insults to our immigrant friends and neighbors as well.
Are you willing to ignore his Nazi flag too?
While he may not be flying it yet, his association with and support of the alt-right neo-Nazi movement in America and Europe is clear.
King didn’t condemn the torch bearing neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville in August of 2017 that resulted in the death of a young woman after a protester drove his car into the crowd. He found equal fault with the counter-protesters of the Nazis.
In June, King tweeted in support of Mark Collett, a British white-nationalist, on immigration.
King visited Austria in August and gave an extensive interview to a far-right publication there in which presented his white nationalist worldview. King talked with Caroline Sommerfeld of the Austrian far-right propaganda site Unzensuriert. Sommerfeld is a prominent intellectual in Europe’s neo-fascist identitarian movement, which has deep connections to America’s alt-right.
On October 16, he endorsed white-nationalist Faith Goldy for mayor of Toronto. Goldy has praised a book that calls for the extermination of “the Jewish menace.” In August 2017 Goldy was fired by Rebel Media for podcasting with the neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer.
King was offered a clear opportunity to declare that he wasn’t a white nationalist, and to distance himself from the alt-right and neo-Nazi movements on WHO-TV’s The Insiders with Dave Price this past Sunday. He declined. Instead, he turned Price’s question into a free speech issue and ironically complained about being “cyber bullied,” when he himself is an internet troll extraordinaire.
I could go on. These are but a few examples of his ties to the neo-Nazi movement.
King, like me, and many of you, appears to have an ancestor who fought for the Union in the Civil War. A little genealogical research suggests that King’s great grandfather Samuel M. Whiting served in the Union Army. He enlisted in Company I, Iowa 20th Infantry Regiment on 22 Aug 1862. He mustered out 12 Oct 1863 in Davenport.
What do you believe Mr. Whiting would think of his great grandson’s admiration of the Confederate flag that he, his family, friends and neighbors fought against to save our nation and free slaves if he were able to speak with him today? I suspect he would hang his head in shame.
King, like me, and most of you, also likely had family who fought in World War II against the Nazi genocidal regime of Adolf Hitler. What do you think they would think of Mr. King’s embrace of neo-Nazis? What do you think?
Iowa’s Republican leadership is embarrassed by Steve King. So is the conservative media, and other conservative leaders.
Does the fourth District really want a congressman who the Weekly Standard declares an “Embarrassment to the GOP and America?”
That for voters to decide, but do you know who REALLY, REALLY, REALLY wants King to stay in office?
Former KKK grand wizard David Duke, a supporter who tweeted “GOD BLESS STEVE KING!!!…”
The Civil War and World War II aren’t over—only the battlefields have changed. Which side are you on?
A native Iowan, Robert Leonard hosts a public affairs program for KNIA/KRLS Radio in Knoxville/Pella and is an occasional contributor to The New York Times, The Kansas City Star, and other publications. He has appeared on CNN, Meet the Press Daily with Chuck Todd, MSNBC with Katy Tur, and more. firstname.lastname@example.org @
by Robert Leonard
Reprinted from Storm Lake Times