Several months ago, the city of Moberly started talking about annexing land adjacent to one of the fields my parents own. I don’t remember the whole story now, but it was something like this: At the meeting where the proposal was being discussed, one person said “well, why not annex THAT?” and another person said “who owns THAT?” and someone else said “that’s the state representative’s land,” and before you knew it, my mother stood publicly accused of abusing her authority to keep her land from being annexed. And that was how my parents found out the annexation was even under consideration.
Having a mother in politics means that I have had to grit my teeth and listen to horrible attack ads about someone I love. I could go on for some time about how much I detest our political system, the truth bending and fact choosing that happens in virtually all campaigns. But there is nothing that chafes so badly as having to accept that people are spreading lies, half truths, or just generally bashing people you care about.
Last night, I got a little taste of what that feels like in person.
Christian and I discovered in April that the city plans to build a trail behind our house—like three feet off our property line, in our beautiful woods, which are the reason we bought this house. We purchased this house for the privacy and the access to undeveloped woods. It was the closest we could come to living in the country. The idea of having a concrete trail back there, of having to build a fence or a hedge to block people out—of erecting a barrier between us and the woods that were the reason we purchased—well, you can imagine we got pretty hot. We felt we should have been told. In fact, we were specifically told that the land would not, could not, be developed, that it would remain as it was.
So all spring and summer, we’ve been on a campaign to take on the city. I talked to reporters, collected signatures from affected neighbors, spoke to the planning people…it took up most of my emotional energy for about 6 weeks earlier this year. And we made progress. They pulled our portion of the trail off the “priority one list,” hoping that we would drop our opposition. We didn’t, because 1) other property owners still had the trail behind them, and 2) the planners made it perfectly clear that this is only a stay of execution—they still intend to go through with it 5 or 10 years down the line.
Last night I went a public hearing and spoke my piece. When I came home, the hearing was still going strong, and Christian was watching on TV. Shortly we heard a fellow resident of our subdivision speak in favor of the projects. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been; he did admit that we had reason to be upset. But one of the first things he said was that we had claimed to survey the whole neighborhood, which was not true as no one had asked his opinion.
It rankled to have that brought up. It isn’t a lie, it’s just a misunderstanding that has now been claimed as fact, even though it isn’t true. This man had brought up the same argument earlier this spring, after one of the news articles in which I was quoted. But I never claimed to survey the whole neighborhood. There are something like a thousand homes out here–how could we? We spoke to the neighbors directly affected. The reporter’s question was: could there have been more signatures, if you’d had more time? And my answer was, yes! We went along the trail route and didn’t find everyone at home, but everyone we did find was of one opinion, and many of the neighbors had spoken to the people who weren’t at home.
That particular interview was done by email and under the gun, b/c the reporter was on a deadline and I had kids screaming for dinner, and it was twenty minutes till the first piano students arrived for lessons. So it’s quite possible that I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. But to have it thrown in my face last night, when it had nothing to do with the subject at hand… Well, it was one of those things that keep you up at night.
So, after this long and rambling post, I am finally getting to a global point. Lies (and misunderstandings), unfortunately, spread far faster than the truth that is offered to rebut them. So I would like to challenge everyone—EVERYONE—as we rumble toward the coming elections. Don’t spread emails and nasty stories about candidates. I don’t care who you’re supporting, it has no place in politics. If we want our country, states, and cities to do good work, we need our leaders to be people of integrity. You and I have no control over what candidates or House Republican or House Democratic campaign committees say—but we do have control over the forward button. If you hear something nasty and juicy, control yourself. 99% chances are that it’s a pack of half truths. Particularly if it comes from a partisan source. It is unfair to spread lies composed of half truths. It weakens the system. If you love America, CONTROL THYSELF.
Thank you for attending Kate’s Lecture Series. Have a nice day.