What do Mitch McConnell, Matt Bevin and the John B. Castleman statue have in common?
They’re each at the center of superficial, highly publicized political battles — a lot of nattering over a lot of nothing that affects, or barely affects, people’s lives.
First, Gov. Bevin created a rap video about U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine because Kaine sent out a fundraising letter on behalf of the Andy Beshear’s gubernatorial campaign.
Oh, the punditry and snark flew…
But instead of faux rapping, why didn’t Bevin use his bully pulpit to speak out about this summer’s wave of gun violence? He hasn’t even offered thoughts and prayers. Why hasn’t Bevin reached out to help the coal miners of Blackjewel LLC, a Southeastern Kentucky coal company, whose latest paychecks bounced?
No, Bevin rapped about a former VP candidate who is completely irrelevant to the state.
We should not be shocked. Bevin is disinterested in addressing issues that affect Kentuckians but, instead, is totally engaged when it comes to fighting self-aggrandizing political battles.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. McConnell is waging his own cosmetic, cultural-proxy war against Nike and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. When Nike announced that it was ceding to public pressure from Kaepernick and pulling a shoe designed for the Fourth of July that included the Betsy Ross American flag — the first American flag with only 13 stars — McConnell piled on, feigning outrage.
“I hope Nike either releases these shoes or some other shoemaker picks up the flag, puts it on a pair of shoes, and starts selling it. I’ll make the first order,” he said.
(McConnell may be legitimately offended, since he was there when Betsy Ross unveiled the original red, white and blue.)
McConnell was widely chided for sticking up for a flag that didn’t even include Kentucky, the state he has represented for 34 years.
But why waste time engaging in this controversy? It’s what McConnell wants: It distracts us from the real damage he is doing in Washington, D.C., such as packing the courts, protecting and enabling Donald Trump, ignoring and obstructing real legislation, including funding for healthcare for the heroes of 9/11 and protecting our democracy from Russian sabotage.
Then, there is the statue that just won’t die.
The Castleman statue remains in Cherokee Triangle, despite repeated vandalism and an exhaustive government process that has included a series of hearings and appeals. Now that the process has run its course (and then some), defenders of the statue have gone to court to, again, fight to keep the statue in place. They argue, among other things, that Castleman the man had supporters within the black community back in his day.
“So the statue has Black friends. Got it,” LEO columnist and poet Hannah Drake responded in a tweet.
How important to Louisville — all of Louisville — is the statue controversy?
Certainly, there is value in debating what messages are being sent by public art, statues and monuments. But the debate has been had, and it’s time to move on.
Black Lives Matter leader Channel Helm told WFPL the Castleman controversy is important mostly to people in The East End, while the black community wants to work on other, real issues.
“Right now the black community is upset that there is active murders of our children right now. The black community is upset that we don’t have grocery stores,” she said. “If more people are saying destroy it, destroy it because I can tell you the everyday black person in this city does not know this is taking place, and this is not on their plate.”
Gun violence is surging this summer in Louisville. No progress has been made to help alleviate the food desert in The West End. The city’s budget cuts are going to create more economic inequality and hardship.
The debate over Castleman had to happen, but now, like Bevin’s rap and Mitch’s flag waving, it’s just a superficial distraction. •