05 September 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

No he did not fly an airplane.  That was Sky King.  Starr King, Thomas Starr King to be precise, was a Universalist minister serving the new Unitarian church in San Francisco at the time it was seeking to join the Union.  He is, or rather has been, one of the two personalities representing California in the national statuary hall of the US Capitol.  

Why is he there at all?  Abolitionist in his views, he stumped all over the California Republic to win its entry as a free state, working so hard that he died at the tender age of forty.  An ally and acquaintance Lincoln, it is no wonder that he was regarded, along with Father Junipero Serra, as a ‘father’ of the state.  Hence his place in the Capitol.

But that’s about to change.  According to the NYT, the state legislature has voted to replace King with a statue of…

Ronald Reagan.

I am trying to set aside my religious and political views here - being both a Unitarian Universalist and a Democrat.  King was never Governor or President of the United States.  He is largely forgotten because his work is now far in the background.  And King was a Republican, among the earliest in fact.  So it is not political equity that is at work here.  

Sadly, the reality I suspect is at work is that the national statuary hall is a place to trot out famous sons who made good.  Dwight Eisenhower replaced a national unknown recently.  I am sure more famous sons (daughters one can also hope) may be brought in by other states and their less known predecessors taken down to the minors like King, to stand in State Capitols.  

I will try to console the departure of one of my spiritual kinsfolk with the hope that maybe Georgia will send us a Martin Luther King, Jr. or New York a Susan B. Anthony.  I would be glad if states gave us their best lights and mightiest minds to admire.  

But if the standard is national success, why not Bill Clinton for Arkansas?  He was a governor who became president.  And Arkansas? If there was a state with unknowns in the hall that has to be one.  Or Bill Gates for Washington State, and Warren Buffet out in the plains of Nebraska?  Virginia must be very proud of Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell who have large national followings.  

And what about Richard Nixon?  Maybe he was never governor of California, but a native son, a member of Congress, a Senator, Vice President and President.  That’s an impressive record.  And ultimately, the current governor is a great candidate, for not only is an American success story, but no one could make a better subject for a sculptor.  

In the current world, people like Thomas Starr King, who merely gave their lives for ideas like freedom and did not have the perspicacity to become famous while they were alive, are simply not Capitol Quality.  

Cross posted on Daily Kos

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