On Windy Hill: Nov. 4 is Anti-Bullying Day; exercise your right to stand up to bullies – Osage County Online | Osage County News

On Windy Hill: Nov. 4 is Anti-Bullying Day; exercise your right to stand up to bullies

Ann Mah, flanked by fellow state representative candidates Teresa Briggs and Virgil Weigel, answers a question posed by the Santa Fe Trail High School debate team during an Oct. 1 legislative forum.

Last night at Santa Fe Trail High School gymnasium, I was among a small crowd of people who came to watch a game. Unfortunately, only one team showed up. Fortunately, it was the team I’m cheering for.

Even though we were in the gym, it wasn’t a basketball game; we were spectators in the game of politics. The Santa Fe Trail Education Association and Shawnee Heights Education Association had scheduled a legislative forum, apparently a couple months in the planning, and had invited state representatives and candidates for legislative districts 54, 56, 59 and 76. Only candidates Ann Mah, D-54, Teresa Briggs, D-76, and state Rep. Virgil Weigel, D-56, showed up to play the game. The other team was conspicuously absent; an apparent forfeit.

All the candidates who spoke offered informative and common-sense answers to questions posed by Santa Fe Trail High School debate team members. I mostly agreed with their comments, but what I learned that will help form my vote was the fact that one team thought the easy way out was to not show up for the game. Out of four Republican candidates invited, not one could change their schedule or make arrangements to voice their opinions in front of an Osage County crowd.

Admittedly, I don’t understand all of the rules to the game of politics, as I’m sure no voter does. But it seems to me that during a campaign, a candidate ought to not be afraid to share their beliefs or defend their position on issues they care about. Frankly, as a registered Republican, I was puzzled and dismayed by the visiting team’s decision to forfeit the game.

In the small crowd in the gym, I recognized many people from around the county, with probably half of the audience from the Overbrook area or connected to the school as parent, teacher or taxpayer. No one in the crowd appeared menacing, although a few wore red shirts, which apparently disturb some Kansas legislators.

After the forum, I asked some people if they knew why the Republican candidates hadn’t shown up. One District 76 citizen bluntly described the legislators’ absences as “chicken sh*t”. I had to agree.

Organizers informed me that some of those absent had responded that they had prior commitments; but at least one didn’t bother to respond at all.

It sounded like a good excuse – like a kid would have his mom write in a note to take to school – but it didn’t seem believable to me. It’s campaign season, the election is only a month away, and they couldn’t have sent at least one person from their team to answer kids’ questions and eat cookies and drink punch?

So I asked a prominent member of the Osage County Republican Party, who was in the audience, why no Republican candidates showed up. I won’t say his name here, because he asked me not to quote him, but his frank answer was “some of them thought they were being set up”. He had encouraged them to attend anyway, he said.

Reading between the lines, it was apparent the only reason a candidate would feel they were being “set up” at a public forum is if they were worried about having to defend a decision, vote or position they’ve taken. Noting who had organized the forum, I concluded the candidates were just downright afraid to face school teachers, whom the Legislature had bullied during the last session.

To be fair, it appeared the debate team might have been coached on some questions; many had to do with school finance and the multiple subjects railroaded through in this year’s school funding law. But for students who are trying to learn to think like adults, questions about subjects that affect their lives should be expected by a candidate running for public office. The teaching moment here, though, was that if our current elected officials don’t want to be confronted about their votes or decisions, they think the best way to handle it is to just not show up. Today’s legislative lesson: Hey, kids, are you worried that test/class/game tomorrow will be too tough? Get your mom to sign the note and just don’t show up.

Not surprising, the bullies are now afraid to face their victims in the light of day, although they had no qualms about pounding on them during a late-night legislative session. We are taught the best way to deal with bullies is to confront them. Last night’s absenteeism and similar situations around the state show the bullies are starting to fear the victims. Legislators from around the state have expressed their growing fear of the “red shirts”, in reference to education association members who have begun to publicly stand up to bullies.

Unfortunately, as was discussed last night, teachers are not the only part of Kansas citizenry that have been bullied by Governor Brownback and his cronies in the Legislature over the past few years. Don’t like public schools? The solution? Bully those teachers, manipulate school funding, connive a way to use tax dollars to fund private schools or home schools. Don’t like Kansas judges’ decisions or the state court system? The solution? Take a poke at them by toying with their budget and manipulating how judges are selected. Don’t like disabled people occupying bed space in a state facility? Bully them, kick them out on the street, “help them” by forcing them to live without your corporate friends’ tax dollars. Don’t want old people, poor people, disabled or minorities to vote? Bully them with laws making it difficult to vote. And governor, if you don’t like a teenage girl Twittering to your face, sic your bully communications director (Sherienne Jones-Sontag, now employed at the Kansas Lottery) on her. These teenagers nowadays need to be taught to show some respect on social media.

Last night’s no-show is just one indication the bullies have finally learned the victims are tired of being victims – and the bullies are scared. For voters, legislators playing hooky instead of answering to the public should be considered unexcused absences. The punishment should not be a mere detention, it should be expulsion. And in the game of politics, the rules allow citizens to expel elected bullies at the ballot box.

Hopefully voters learned a few lessons last night at Santa Fe Trail High School: Show up for the game, don’t forfeit, and exercise your right to stand up to bullies on Nov. 4.

(Note: The Kansas State Board of Education and the Kansas State Senate have designated Oct. 6-12, 2014, as Anti-Bullying Awareness Week.)

State legislators and candidates invited to last night’s forum included: Ann Mah, D, and Ken Corbet, R, District 54; Virgil Weigel, D, and Lane Hemsley, R, District 59; Blaine Finch, R, and Scott James Barnhart, D, District 56; and Teresa Briggs, D, and Peggy Mast, R, District 76.

On Windy Hill, Wayne White sometimes writes about things he thinks about. He not only lives on a windy hill, he’s been known to be a windy writer.

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