This is what we’ve been reduced to and the saddest part of all is that we no longer find such behavior shocking.
On March 22, at a Fort Dodge restaurant, a 26-year-old man — a Jefferson, Iowa, native transplanted in Lafayette, Colo. — tossed a glass of water onto U.S. Rep. Steve King and the congressman’s dinner mates. The man, Blake Gibbins, was immediately arrested and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors.
That same day a woman who knew Gibbins when they were both younger and now lives in King’s congressional district, Carly Johansen of Ames, began fundraising online for Gibbins’ legal defense expenses. The GoFundMe site had a goal of $3,000 and, as I type, it has raised more than $5,000 from 254 donors in a five-day span.
It begins, “Nearly everybody knows Steve King is a boob. Blake did what many of us wish we could do.”
Gibbins’ attorney told reporters his client isn’t involved with the fundraising campaign, although is grateful for the assistance it will provide. When a trial begins April 30, the attorney says more information about the altercation will be revealed. Until then, we’ll just need to be patient because Gibbins isn’t talking.
King, in contrast, can’t seem to keep his mouth shut. No, not about this particular incident — King has remained uncommonly quiet on that front — but on the types of things that cause people to consider public shaming appropriate.
Most recently, for instance, at a town hall meeting in Charter Oak, King compared Katrina disaster victims in the South to current flooding disaster victims in the Midwest, whom King believes “take care of each other.”
“Here’s what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, ‘Who’s gonna help me?’ ” King told the audience while recording his remarks for a post on Facebook.
Another lawmaker could perhaps be forgiven for drawing such a contrast. It could be regretfully dismissed as an aberration, a political misstep or poorly chosen words intended to highlight Iowans’ resiliency. Unfortunately for King — and for all Iowans still forced to own him as a duly elected public servant — too much has been said for too long to offer the benefit of doubt. For King, immigrants are stray animals, unworthy of any support lest they stick around. He wants Americans to ponder how white supremacy, white nationalism and western civilization became offensive. Although voicing such nonsense ultimately left him bereft of Washington committee assignments, he nonetheless remains in Congress where he tells anyone who will listen that he represents the Hawkeye State. On paper and when other, shameful politicians want 4th District votes, perhaps.
Even so, a public shower accomplishes nothing more than drawing empathy and sympathy to a man who deserves neither. How did we arrive at this place where giving in to our worst impulses, however non-violent they may be, is celebrated and underwritten?
Gibbins will soon receive his judgment. It’s going to be a much longer road for the rest of us. Hate is hate.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on March 30, 2019.