This week, the Herald-Dispatch covered a candlelight vigil in Huntington, organized by the local Muslim Association, to memorialize the 50 people killed after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in New Zealand. It was a good way for people to come together to express grief, while also showing love and support for one another in troubling times.
Yet a delegate who lives in Cabell County, where this vigil took place, John Mandt, took to Facebook, sharing a link to the article and stating that he and another delegate had decided to “distance ourselves from this.”
Mandt, a Republican, went on to write, “Anything Muslim is going to be associated with Democrats. It’s better to stay away than be associated with them. Any thoughts?”
Oh, yes. But first a question. By “them,” did Mandt mean Muslims or Democrats? Both? He works with Democrats who represent the same district he does in the Statehouse. He also represents Muslims who live in his district. And his response to his responsibilities is avoidance? What a cowardly and cynical strategy.
Mandt deleted his Facebook post, partly because the other delegate he mentioned, also a Republican, apparently saw it and wanted none of it.
The reworked post that followed from Mandt made note of this, and also stated that he didn’t actually avoid the vigil by choice or protest. He was out of town. He stated that he heard the vigil was “nice.” Then there was an ominous “That being said ...”
Mandt proceeded to claim that a vigil in Huntington, West Virginia, to remember people gunned down while they were praying, was put together not by the Muslim Association of Huntington but by an organizer with links to a group with broader ties to the terrorist organization Hamas. It shouldn’t have to be said, but this is profoundly ridiculous.
Mandt, wheels spinning in the mud, then dropped the tired, threadbare question: “Where were the vigils when Christians were killed in Nigeria or those Israelis suffering under rocket attacks from Gaza and Hamas? Understand what is going on here!”
Understand that what is going on here is Mandt is coming unglued and probably needs to stay away from cable news and the internet for a few days. Possibly longer, if he really thinks a small vigil is going to lead to the Islamic takeover of Cabell County.
“That being said,” it’s a free country. If Mandt wants to organize a vigil for more than half a century of religious violence in Nigeria, he should. If he wants to express his support for Israel in a public forum, have at it. If Mandt wants to make an effigy of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and burn it — not really much of an American thing, but it’s kind of where this path is leading — he can do it.
What Mandt should actually do is apologize to the Muslim Association of Huntington, and to his constituents. There were people of all faiths at the vigil. Of course, apologies and self-awareness aren’t really part of the protocol for monstrous public discourse anymore, so hearing something from Mandt along those lines seems doubtful.
One thing he could do is focus on the issues facing Cabell County, and leave the conspiracies to the bots and the professionals. There’s more than enough of that to go around. A local legislator who is loyal to his constituency? Well, that’s something West Virginia actually needs.