Bleeding Kansas, 2014

I haven’t been a resident of the state for almost 16 years, but Kansas will always be my home. When I tell people that I’m from Kansas, I usually get a response along the lines of “wow, no wonder you moved to Colorado”, or “I’m sorry”. I usually shrug those off…I think you have to be from Kansas, or have lived there a long time to really appreciate the true beauty that is Kansas: the rolling hills and endless sky, the amazing sunsets, the slow pace of life, the state pride, the rich history, the small towns, and the genuinely nice people. People who will wave to you on a county highway, and who won’t hesitate to pull over and help when you have flat tire. Who will remember your name and face and will say hi, even when you haven’t lived in the state for a decade or more. People who remind you of all the good things about Kansas, and Midwestern life, and small towns.

I love my home state. But right now, it’s hard to like it. Kansas has been a red state for years on the national election scene, but in recent years, this conservatism has become extreme. And the action of the far-right legislature these last few days has crossed into heartbreaking. I can’t believe that the state that I’m so proud to call home, a state that entered the union as a free-state, the state that was home to Brown v. Board of Education, a state that played pivotal roles in every major civil rights fight in the last 100+ years, from abolition to women’s suffrage, to the civil rights movement—and that has built a state story and identity around that heritage, is now taking action in 2014 to become the first state in the union to legalize blatant discrimination  based on sexual orientation.

It breaks my heart that a handful of extremists are on the cusp of forever tarnishing the name of my home state. A state that is better than that. A state that’s history is better than that. A state that’s people (current, past and future) deserve better than that.

I’m hopeful that the actions of these extremists will spur the population to action. Some of this is happening already, with demonstrations at the Capitol this weekend. I’m hopeful that these uprisings will affect change. That these extremist (and dare I say “unKansan”) actions will be remembered on the next election day, and for every election after that. And that the actions of the last week will go down in history as the day the pendulum started the leftward swing; that the extremist movement in Kansas started to lose its momentum.

I’m sorry to my friends and family left to fight. I’m sorry that I’m not there beside you. I’m sorry that there are likely thousands of us who have left who can’t be there beside you now. That you are fighting for the heart of our state for all of us.

I’m here. I’m in another state, but I’m still a fighter, and I’m not ready to let my state go down without a fight. Call on me and my resources when you need me. I can’t be on the ground with you, but I will support you. I’m a voice that can spread your message to my friends and family and classmates and colleagues still in Kansas. That can reach my network of ex-pats with voters still in Kansas. That can lend moral support. And make phone calls. And mobilize voters. And help take back the state. Our state.

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