I’m not much for Christmas. I’ve spent more than half a century hoping each December’s wishes of peace on earth and goodwill to men would come true, only to be eternally disappointed.
But I still wish joy to those who can find it in these darkest days of the year. And this year I wish comfort to some people in particular.
I wish comfort to county health officers and other public health workers who, as thanks for their expertise in trying to keep people safe, have been overruled by incompetent politicians and threatened with violence.
Go ahead and test Kansas’ level of Christmas spirit by sitting for four minutes with this NBC News story about Jennifer Bacani McKenney, of Fredonia:
A couple of weeks after her segment on NBC, McKenney was interviewed on CNN with Gianfranco Pezzino, just after Pezzino resigned as the Shawnee County health director.
“We know that commissioners and legislators, they don’t have a medical background but we do,” McKenney told Chris Cuomo. “And we’ve been training for this kind of thing for years, and so we hope that we could advise our elected officials and help them to make the best decisions possible. But that’s not always happening.”
I wish comfort to those elected officials who are trying to do the right thing, like Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw, who submitted her immediate resignation 10 days before Christmas.
“Warshaw’s heavy decision was made with concerns for her safety after being met with aggression, including threats via phone and email from Dodge City citizens, following extreme backlash due to an article by USA Today published on Dec. 11, regarding the mask mandate,” according to the Dodge City Daily Globe.
Dodge City detectives soon determined the most frightening emails weren’t direct threats to Warshaw but instead were more likely generic blasts from a man in Kentucky who told police he’d sent the emails “due to his frustrations and after having ‘had a few beers.’ ”
But it’s hard to blame Warshaw for quitting, considering the toxicity of these times.
“Prosecutors accused a man in Wichita, Kan., of threatening to kidnap and kill that city’s mayor over a mask ordinance,” the New York Times reminded us in its recap of Dodge City developments. “And the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., received a text message that referred to him using a racial slur and suggested he should be lynched for requiring masks.”
USA Today’s stories from western Kansas were powerful if not what a lot of Kansans wanted to hear.
Its Dec. 12 report from “The Deadliest Place in America” — Gove County — serves as a kind of memorial to all that we’ve lost: our people and our humanity.
When the story ran, Gove County Sheriff Allan Weber was in a Denver hospital, where he’d been “flown by a medical plane” in October. “Weber, 64, was reelected to his post from his hospital bed at Swedish Medical Center in Denver on Nov. 3.,” USA Today reported. “He first tested positive Sept. 28.”
Sheriff Weber didn’t make it.
On Dec. 18, the Facebook page for the Gove County Sheriff’s Office remembered him in words befitting the season.
One more time in the spirit of the season: “In an extension of the ties that bind us as a community, let us also settle into a mindset of peace and wellbeing for one another to honor his memory.”
May this wish from the Gove County Sheriff’s Office come true, and may it be a comfort to the families of 2,448 Kansans who aren’t around this Christmas.