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Saturday
July 31st, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

earl wattL&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

There is great difficulty in having our elected officials make the trip to Southwest Kansas, and with the accusations cast at them this past week, it could become even more difficult.

The Liberal Chamber of Commerce has been an excellent host over the years for our elected officials in Washington, D.C., and we want our elected officials to know we are an important part of Kansas. We may not be a suburb of Wichita or Kansas City, but our needs are just as important.

Liberal is a diverse community with many differing views, much like the rest of Kansas and America.

Yes, Liberal has a very conservative history. Seward County has not voted for a Democratic senator or presidential candidate in more than 100 years. This has been one of the most conservative regions despite a growing migrant population.

Last week, both Representative Tracey Mann and Senator Dr. Roger Marshall made stops in Liberal to discuss the issues in Washington, D.C., and to get input from community members.

In the past year we have seen a few voices rise up about migrant issues as well as other social issues, and one person who has led that charge is Kathleen Alonso.

Alonso organized a march to end police brutality against people of color after George Floyd was killed by an officer in Minnesota. The march was peaceful and it brought people of all colors together in one voice to denounce racial discrimination and police brutality.

Walking right alongside the march last summer were members of the Liberal Police Department. Even though the proper permits for the march were not filed, Chief Cutshall and his staff made sure the march could take place and also made sure the marchers were protected from traffic and any other issues that could have arisen.

Alonso also spoke at city commission meetings after federal officials coordinated four local arrests of illegal immigrants with local law enforcement. Alonso wanted the city to either refuse access to or not help at all federal officials, and I am sure this will be a campaign issue for those seeking seats on the city commission.

Alonso was quoted as saying that the Liberal City Commission has turned a blind eye to issues of the Hispanic community.

Last week, when Rep. Mann spoke about his problems with Critical Race Theory, he said he believed in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision that we not judge people based on the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Alonso spoke out and said it was “shameful” for Mann to “hide” behind MLK’s quote.

We will have differing views on issues like CRT, but to call a representative shameful, or that he is hiding behind one of the most enlightened quotes of the civil rights movement?

I was ashamed this was happening in my hometown.

It’s fine to question why a representative has differences, but to speak to a representative in this manner doesn’t help the cause or Liberal.

It would have been fine to ask, “How should students be taught about racial injustice?” or “Do you believe people of color are being unfairly judged by the color of their skin?” But to call our elected official “shameful” for quoting MLK?

The next day when Sen. Marshall opened the floor to questions he discussed election integrity and the number of states currently auditing their election results and the processes they used. He pointe out that the Constitution gave election oversight to the legislatures of states, not to other state officials, and that many states violated their own state laws and the Constitution.

Alonso then accused Marshall of pushing “dangerous conspiracy theories” and being “very partisan.”

“Why would you do that?” Alonso asked after making the accusations.

“Because I am going to tell you the truth,” Marshall responded.

She also said Marshall was not being truthful when pointing out that some have chosen to receive unemployment benefits rather than get back in the workforce.

These are just a sampling of the confrontational style Alonso employed at these meetings, and as a citizen she has the right to do it.

It may score points with the far left wing of the Democratic Party. But we have so few opportunities to visit with our representatives in Washington we shouldn’t be looking to score points from the audience. We need to talk about the need for better highways, rural internet expansion, getting an office in Southwest Kansas to help reduce the burden for migrants seeking to become citizens and a multitude of other worthwhile issues that could make life better.

Only a few seats away from Alonso was a Hispanic gentleman who asked questions about policies, and he did so with respect and without accusations.

This gentleman asked good questions, and he also avoided the partisan jabs.

Alonso is a bright young woman who is passionate about her issues, and I am fearful the approach she is employing will bring the divisiveness we see on the national media home to Liberal. We do not need lines drawn and people placed into the groups we see being pushed by those who seek to divide us.

We can and should always be on a journey to make tomorrow better than today, but it will do little good burning bridges to get there.

The foundation of America must remain in place despite those who are seeking to destroy it. Whether espousing socialist policies or making misguided racial references like CRT, there are those seeking to remove the flag, the Constitution and a history of expanding freedom, and it will not be beneficial to see that hate pushed in Liberal or anywhere else in Kansas. 

Civility in discourse must be maintained when we practice free speech.

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