While visiting the Capitol yesterday, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of crosses hanging from the walls. There weren’t any in fact. You’d think there would be, considering that we’re
not a Christian Nation. For example, the painting on the canopy of the Rotunda illustrates a First Commandment violation so powerful as to make Jerry Falwell rise from the dead and claim it was painted by Larry Flynt.
The painting is called the Apotheosis Of Washington by Constantino Brumidi — with our first president depicted as God-like and surrounded by various Roman deities.
In the central group of the fresco, Brumidi depicted George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame. A rainbow arches at his feet, and thirteen maidens symbolizing the original states flank the three central figures. (The word “apotheosis” in the title means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god, or the glorification of a person as an ideal; George Washington was honored as a national icon in the nineteenth century.)
Six groups of figures line the perimeter of the canopy; the following list begins below the central group and proceeds clockwise:
-War, with Armed Freedom and the eagle defeating Tyranny and Kingly Power
-Science, with Minerva teaching Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, and Samuel F.B. Morse
-Marine, with Neptune holding his trident and Venus holding the transatlantic cable, which was being laid at the time the fresco was painted
-Commerce, with Mercury handing a bag of money to Robert Morris, financier of the American Revolution
-Mechanics, with Vulcan at the anvil and forge, producing a cannon and a steam engine;
-Agriculture, with Ceres seated on the McCormick Reaper, accompanied by America in a red liberty cap and Flora picking flowers.
Hmm. Where’s Jesus, Moses and all the rest? Where’s Noah and his magical boat which somehow accommodated two every animal species on the planet? Where’s Adam and Eve who existed a mere 5,000 years ago — when the universe was formed?
Huckabee, by the way, believes in Creationism, which means that — yes — the universe was formed 5,000 years ago and that a banana was specially designed by God to fit the human hand. Will he make laws declaring this to be the belief structure of the land? Maybe, but no-one challenges him on this. Everyone’s too busy wondering whether the Romney Unit wears magic underpants; or whether Senator Obama will overthrow the government.