The year was 2057 and a mother and her son were visiting the Missouri Capitol.
“Who’s that man in the cowboy hat?” the boy asked.
They were walking in the Hall of Famous Missourians, which since 1982 had been adding bronze busts of Missourians who had gone on to fame and fortune. There was Mark Twain, George Washington Carver, Walter Cronkite, Stan Musial, Harry Truman, and dozens of others.
The boy was preparing to research a famous Missourian for a class project, just like other fourth-graders across the state, and his mother thought a Capitol visit would help him get ideas.
“I don’t recognize that person’s face,” the mother said of the man with the cowboy hat.
She read the inscription.
“That’s Rep. Warren Love,” she said. “He was a Republican from Osceola.”
“What did he do that was famous?”
“Well, son, that’s complicated,” his mother said, wiping a sweat bead from her brow. “You see, 2017 was a complicated year in American politics. That was the year before the impeachment proceedings began on President Donald Trump. There was racial unrest as many Americans were pushing for old Confederate monuments to be torn down or removed from public property. There was a revival of white supremacism and the president was slow to criticize it. He actually embraced some of the racists at one point, and had some of them in his Cabinet.”
“But what did Rep. Love do?”
“Well, amid this atmosphere, he called for the lynching of vandals who had defaced a Confederate monument. It was in a Facebook post.”
“It was how we communicated back then. There was Twitter. And Snapchat. And Instagram. And Facebook. It was actually invented by former President Mark Zuckerberg.”
“So why would a state representative be in the Hall of Famous Missourians for doing a racist thing and calling for people to be killed?”
“Well, like I said, it’s complicated,” Mom continued. “You see this other bust next to Rep. Love?”
“The woman with the big hair?”
“Yes, that’s Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal. She was a Democrat from University City.”
“What did she do?”
“Well, just a few weeks before Rep. Love posted his inappropriate comments on Facebook, Rep. Chappelle-Nadal did something similar. She wrote that she hoped President Trump were assassinated.”
“That’s awful,” the boy said. “I don’t understand why they’re in this hall next to all these other people who did important things.”
“Well, son, the hall isn’t what it used to be. Its downfall started in 2012 when the former speaker of the House put Rush Limbaugh in.”
“The radio guy who used to say sexist and racist things?”
“Yes, that guy,” Mom said. “Once he got in, speakers started making strange decisions about who belonged in the hall. In 2017, both the House and the Senate tried to get Love and Chappelle-Nadal to resign, but they refused. As a joke, a state lawmaker filed a resolution to add them to the Hall of Famous Missourians. He was trying to highlight the absurdity of 2017. It was the year of ‘fake news’ when the president and other politicians simply labeled any critical news they didn’t like as fake. Some of the news really was fake, like the story the president kept telling about former Gen. John J. Pershing dipping bullets into pig’s blood.”
“Isn’t Gen. Pershing in this hall?”
“Yes, he’s right over there. So is Gen. Omar Bradley.”
“So how did Rep. Love and Sen. Chappelle-Nadal get in the hall?”
“Well, the resolution actually got attached to a another bill that passed. Back then, the Missouri Legislature would often secretly attach measures that hadn’t even been debated. Few lawmakers read the bills, and this one passed. It was sort of an accident.”
“Why didn’t the governor veto it?”
“Well, son, the governor at the time was Eric Greitens. When he campaigned he said that all the ‘career politicians’ in the Capitol were corrupt. So he figured putting a couple of career politicians in the Hall of Famous Missourians would be a good way to remember history.”
“I’m going to tell my teacher I want to be Mark Twain. Or maybe Stan the Man,” said the boy. “Anybody but these two people.”
“Good idea, son.”
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