When Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., wandered into the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol hours after the violent, pro-Trump riot had subsided, he was shocked to see the mess. There was broken furniture, pieces of clothing and body armor, water bottles, and other garbage littering the floor of the historical room.
“It’s a room that I love so much — it’s the heart of the Capitol, literally the heart of this country. It pained me so much to see it in this kind of condition,” Kim, 38, told NBC Asian America.
There was only one thing to do: start cleaning. Kim filled half dozen trash bags with garbage and debris. Then he started cleaning nearby rooms, including the National Statuary Hall and the Capitol crypt.
So for the next hour and a half, he crouched down and filled a half dozen trash bags with debris. When he finished cleaning up the rotunda, he began working on the adjacent rooms, including the National Statuary Hall and the Capitol crypt downstairs.
When Kim was done, he returned to the House floor to debate Pennsylvania’s vote count—which lasted until 3 a.m. I hope that Kim, who had been awake for more than 36 hours, was able to get some sleep this weekend!
A photograph taken of Kim, alone, cleaning up the wreckage of a truly violent and disturbing day in American history, went viral. The image was symbolic—the child of immigrants cleaning up the mess of a largely white mob. It was also indicative of the kind of person Kim is and the values he brings to politics.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity as a son of immigrants to be able to serve in Congress,” Kim said. “Democracy to me is this place of opportunity that is affording me a chance to do something extraordinary.”
Kim, who is the first Asian American to represent New Jersey in Congress, was born in Boston to Korean immigrant parents. He was first elected in 2018 and won reelection in November.
“I represent a district where the vast majority of people do not look like me,” Kim said. “But they’ve voted for me twice now to be their representative, and that’s a beautiful thing. There are others who seek to make me seem like an ‘other’ whether it’s because of skin color, or gender, or sexuality. But that’s not what this is about. We’re all Americans.”
“The depth of the divisions that we have isn’t something any single law can wipe off the face of our planet. We also need to recognize that how we get through that is by seeing the humanity in each other. There are ways we can have debates and disagreements but not resort to violence.”
Lead image: Wikipedia