All over America, people have spent the weekend in shock over the senseless murder of six people and the wounding of another 13 in Arizona. It was heart breaking to read quotes from the father of nine-year-old, Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in the attack, "She was excited about the political process."
Unfortunately, the political process is ill.
In the last election cycle, when I ran for State Representative, I received several threats of gun violence on the campaign trail. The most serious involved Holden City Councilman Jim Nipko. On the day of the primary, I went to the polling location in Holden where I stood and greeted individuals as they left the poll after voting. Nipko heard me speaking with another individual about labor issues as he left the poll with his wife. He became very hostile with me and claimed that he would do whatever possible to see that I wasn't elected after hearing my support for workers.
Quoting directly from the police report on Nipko's side of the story: "According to him they argued and increased until she asked if he was going to hit her. His reply was, 'No but can you outrun a nine millimeter?'"
To me, this was a threat and I was concerned enough to go to the police. The county prosecutor, Lynn Stoppy, refused to pursue the case, dismissing it as only an implied threat.
I didn't draw attention to these incidents during the race. My point in sharing this story now is not to rehash the past campaign. I want to offer a very specific local example of violence in politics. We would like to think that the vitriol is only a part of the national political scene, however, it made its way to Johnson County.
I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves, Democrats to Republicans, conservatives to liberals, to respect our democracy and political process as well as each other. Our political environment has become more and more hostile. The unseen victims of the current chaos are all of us. Constructive debate is overshadowed by cheap slams and dishonest robo calls. Not only does it cost us respect for our neighbors, it crowds out the reason needed to solve our collective problems and make coherent decisions about the future.
We can commit to civility. We can be an example of faith in the democracy that has guided us to being the greatest nation on earth. Just as the mother of the young girl who lost her life this past weekend pleads, "I want her memory to live on that she's a face of hope...a face of us coming together as a country to stop the violence and hatred and evil words."
Courtney Cole of Warrensburg ran for State Representative in the 121st District against Rep. Denny Hoskins in 2010.