Class is in session: The Honorable Steve King would like to give a lesson on the foundation of Western civilization.
The Republican congressman from Iowa, recently embattled for his comments on illegal immigration — drug-toting Mexicans have calves the size of cantaloupes, apparently — took the House floor on Thursday to explain in a 27-minute speech the roots of the United States and how the people of this country are not living up to the example of the Founding Fathers.
"I wanted to come to the floor to talk about this country that we have, this civilization that we have, the foundations of our civilization, and what's required to retain them and enhance them and move this country beyond the shining City on the Hill," King started off.
But before he could discuss history, which he did in excess, he had to first delve into architecture:
"A shining city on the hill, standing true and strong on a granite ridge, was built on a solid foundation. And I argue that the foundation of it are the pillars of American exceptionalism, and those pillars are listed in the Bill of Rights, and you add to that free enterprise capitalism, Judeo-Christian values, the foundation of our culture which welcomes all religions, and on top of that the dream that inspired legal immigrants to come to America. And that dream embodied within the vision of the image of the Statue of Liberty."
In order to make this point, he had to go to the beginning:
"And I would take you back, Mr. Speaker, to think a little bit about the formation of, I'll say, modern history."
Enter Moses, who "came down from the mount with the law."
Then move on to Ancient Greece:
"And as the Greeks, masterful people as they were, they were shaping the age of reason. We had Mosaic Law that informed the Greek Age of Reason. And the Age of Reason, where I imagine Socrates and Plato and Aristotle and other philosophers sat around and challenged each other intellectually like gun-slingers did in the West with guns they did it with their brains. And young philosophers would go up to Socrates and challenge him with their philosophy and Socrates would take it apart because he was the top guy."
"But my point in this is that as Mosaic law came down from the mount, was handed to civilization, it emerged through the Greek civilization as the Greeks were developing their Age of Reason, and we're talking about the foundation of Western civilization, and almost concurrently with that Roman law was emerging, as well."
"Now I'll then take you to the time of Christ."
Jesus Christ, King contended, establishes the right to face your accusers and innocent until proven guilty. But, he added, the trials were a little unseemly:
"You need a quick and speedy trial. They didn't have to wonder about that in those days. It happened quickly and the punishment came quickly, as well, right or wrong."
Then he moved on to Germany, England, Ireland, and the fall of the Roman Empire:
"When the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 A.D., then we saw civilization itself tumble and crumble, and we saw the heathens break down everything that represented the old culture. Well, actually, anything that represented real civilization."
Monks and scribes, he said, preserved documents and civilization itself in monasteries across Europe, which are "the centers of knowledge." Before too long, King moved on to Martin Luther, the split of the Catholic Church, Christopher Columbus, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and finally to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
His point was quite simple:
"I challenge this civilization to be reasonable."
But in the end, this speech wasn't about the Romans or the Greeks or the Visigoths. It was about Mexicans.
"Our Southern border is porous."
"We need to build a fence, a wall, and then another fence."
Here's the speech:
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.