Opinion

We’ve endured a week of historic despair. Let’s keep the embers of hope alight in Kansas.

July 2, 2022 3:33 am
After a week of challenging news, writes Kansas Reflector opinion editor Clay Wirestone, he retains hope for the future of our state and country. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

After a week of challenging news, writes Kansas Reflector opinion editor Clay Wirestone, he retains hope for the future of our state and country. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

After a week of horrible news, I’m here to write about a word that wasn’t used a lot.

Hope.

I’m writing about hope today despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s egregiously incorrect rulings on abortion and emissions, despite the appalling testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, despite the fears of what rights will be targeted next in Kansas and our country. I’m writing about hope because in this case it isn’t an idle word based on personal feelings.

My hope is about knowledge. My hope is knowing that we have faced tremendous adversity before and persevered.

Our country has gone through brutality. We have seen abortion bans. We have seen lynchings and cruelty beyond imagination — the same chapters of history that so many ideologues want to obscure. We fought an enormous, deadly war amongst ourselves over the right of an enslaved people to be free.

Yet we persisted through these dark chapters. We moved beyond them.

The reason we did so, and the reason I hope we do so now, is because this nation understands that we can fix mistakes. We understand that public officials fail, sometimes catastrophically. We understand that our founding document — the Constitution — needs fixing at times. That’s why we’ve amended it 27 times.

I do not want to understate the challenges ahead. When you pile a skewed Supreme Court atop a gridlocked national government atop egregiously gerrymandered states, you have a ball of yarn that has been played with by a box full of kittens. That is, a mess.

But there’s no other choice. We can’t self-segregate into states that reflect our personal values, girding for unending conflict. We can’t resign ourselves to a worse world. All 50 states have women, people of color and LGBTQ folks. Every one of those people in every one of those states deserves equal protection under the law and a government that works for them.

The work may take just a year or two. It may take decades. It may take lifetimes. But I know that everyday Kansans and activists alike have already dedicated themselves to these challenges, and many more will join them.

– Clay Wirestone

We have to sit down and untangle that ball of yarn.

The work may take just a year or two. It may take decades. It may take lifetimes. But I know that everyday Kansans and activists alike have already dedicated themselves to these challenges, and many more will join them.

I don’t want to deny or understate current difficulties. The political landscape looks challenging now, and the next couple of years appear especially precarious. Much will depend on whether we’re able to get through the 2024 presidential election without the machinery of democracy being overridden to produce a particular result. Much will depend on the willingness of conservative ideologues to temper their rhetoric after the midterm elections. We can’t continue to target teachers and transgender youths with abrasive abuse.

Yet even if these things don’t happen, even if circumstances deteriorate further, those nurturing visions of a better world will persist. The work will remain, and as long as there are people willing to do it, my hope will remain as well.

Each one of us can only do so much. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the limits of the news media during these times. Those of us in the business can tell you all what happens and why — in this opinion editor’s case, I can tell you what I think about it — but we can’t actually effect change. That’s up to all of you, as a collective force.

That, however, gives me the most hope of all. You see, since I began at Kansas Reflector in August of last year, I’ve heard from hundreds of Kansans. I’ve listened to what you have to say.

Your commitment, your values, your willingness to engage in the issues of the day, lift me up day in and day out. You’ve shared all of those in your columns, feedback and interviews. Those who dismiss our state, or who wrote off whole swaths of the United States, don’t know what they’re talking about. You are passionately devoted to fairness, equality and progress toward a more perfect union.

This Saturday before Independence Day, I could paint a bleak vision of the future. But I prefer to share my hope instead, thanks to what I know about our readers and about this beautiful state.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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