One could fill a warehouse with the things House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello does not know. Of course everything he says and does is best understood through the lens of his Trumpian worldview (Mattiello is still a registered Democrat) but never underestimate his near total ignorance of the world around him.
His latest gaffe occurred during a radio interview with WPRO’s Gene Valicenti when he appeared unaware that slavery had existed in Rhode Island. From the ProJo,
Valicenti responded that there were slaves in Rhode Island, and you can see their graves in Newport.
I’ll save you the trip Mr. Mattiello, and you don’t even have to start up your car. Roughly 800 feet from the State House is the cemetery next to the Cathedral of St. John where you can find the graves of the Phillis, Rose, and Fanny Chace. (See: RI Historic Cemetery 11.) The Dose even highlighted this gravesite last February for Black History month. And the Providence Journal had a map and listings at “Hidden no more: Black history walking tour brings to light a separate reality.” Madeleine List wrote:
Phillis Chace was enslaved by a warden of the King’s Church and is buried in the cemetery behind the Cathedral of St. John along with her daughter and granddaughter, both of whom were also enslaved.
Clearly Mattiello does not read The Dose, or The Providence Journal — except when they write about him — and he apparently took no interest in the special events taking place locally during this year’s Black History month.
I wonder if he bothered to walk that same 800 feet down to the Center for Reconciliation in the cathedral itself, which for three months this year hosted the excellent installation, Unfinished Business: The Long Civil Rights Movement. This was not focused on Rhode Island history, but he might have learned about Juneteenth. (He told Valicenti he wasn’t familiar with it.)
The ProJo piece ends with this quote:
“I do believe in respecting history. I don’t like taking down monuments and anything else that is happening in this day and age. If you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it.”
(Emphasis mine.) So Mattiello does not support changing the names of military installations named for traitors and he does not support the removal of statues of men like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, men who waged war against the United States? Because if we remove the statues then we would . . . what? Forget the Civil War?
As others have noted, there are no statues of Hitler allowed in Germany, but I don’t think they have forgotten about him or World War II.
From Mattiello’s spokesman, “As this discussion is evolving, the Speaker is asking Rhode Islanders to join him in learning more about this sad chapter in our state’s history.” Well we already started, you moron. Mattiello is 57 years old and this level of ignorance is unforgivable. We have serious problems in this state, problems that require thoughtful, informed, and educated leadership. We don’t have time for his on-the-job training.
The Speaker has made some noise about wanting the issue of removing “Providence Plantations” from the official state name on the ballot this November, but you know who might not be on the ballot in November?
Mattiello could use the time off — he’s way behind on his reading.