Opinion

In an environment of threats and fear, Kansans have the chance to create a more loving state

July 24, 2022 3:33 am
We live in a time of encroaching threats and fear for many Kansans. But we can work together as a state to truly unify. (Getty Images)

We live in a time of encroaching threats and fear for many Kansans. But we can work together as a state to truly unify. (Getty Images)

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Brenan Riffel is a graduate student studying higher education administration at the University of Kansas, where she serves as both an academic advisor and assistant complex director. 

I truly believe that people in their very nature are good. I believe that all of us are filled with love and compassion. 

However, we have been conditioned and taught that we have to understand before we can show compassion. Our social and political climate has ingrained in us that conceding or admitting to not understanding something is losing ground. Examine the political rhetoric today, and you will see what I mean.

There is this idea that liberals and conservatives are in competition with each other, which is not unfounded or untrue. However, our fight for our ideals isn’t because both groups are pushing further and further to the extremes of the political spectrum. It’s because rather than being progressive and open-minded, we’ve created a system where the loudest and angriest bunch “win.”

Debates are no longer tied to who brings up the better points. Instead, we focus on who can control the conversation. Right now, the alt-right is screaming the loudest, while stripping away our basic human rights. Many of us are angry, upset and distraught.

This is not the end.

Yes, our rights are being threatened, but not all is lost. We can get riled up, too. We can pour our compassion and love into a fervor that shouts loudly into our government offices at our city, state and national levels. We have to activate and mobilize in a way that is most American — with our voices and with our votes, not with a petty, violent attack on our capitol.

We have to shift our attention. We cannot waste time entertaining those who have no intention of opening their world view. We have to prevent misinformation and call it out when we see it.

We may be walking through a downpour of toxic vitriol, but a storm can only last for so long.

Yes, our rights are being threatened, but not all is lost. We can get riled up, too. We can pour our compassion and love into a fervor that shouts loudly into our government offices at our city, state and national levels.

– Brenan Riffel

The most imperative thing for the future of Kansas and for our country is to promote and spread messages of unity and teach others to do the same. We cannot look forward to a future in which we entertain or give credence to messages of discord and dissonance.

Our country was built with systems of inequality purposefully put in place. One of the most patriotic things you can do is be critical of your country. Since our country’s founding, our Constitution and laws have been amended and expanded to include more and more people. 

Is it perfect? No. 

Does it still exclude and create a system that privileges some and diminishes others? Yes.

Does that mean we should stop working on it? Absolutely not.

We may not get things right on our first go, but that doesn’t mean we should stop improving our laws and each other.

Including others does not take away from your own personal liberties. Women’s (or transmasc and nonbinary folx- anyone with the capability of becoming pregnant) ability to make medical decisions for themselves does not take away from your own personal liberties to make decisions for your body.

When I buy a skirt and a blouse and wear them outside, that does not take away from your personal choice to wear whatever you want.

We must strive for choice, and we must strive for compassion. We need to teach that it is OK to be wrong, and it is OK to change your mind.

We don’t have time to attack each other. If we keep attacking each other, we are going to run out of time to protect ourselves. The issue isn’t that we don’t care about each other, but that we allow feelings of fear and hate to guide us rather than compassion and love we have for each other. We must show that compassion and unity will prevail, and we must show this through civic engagement.

As some of you may know, I’m a fairly nerdy person. I hope to continue writing opinion pieces for Kansas Reflector and feel the need to close out this piece with a quote that feels inspirational for these times.

“Good is good in the final hour in the deepest pit — without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis.” — River Song, Doctor Who

In these extreme times, remain virtuous, remain kind, and remember unity.

Kansas needs unity, our country needs kindness and our kids need a compassionate future.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

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Brenan Riffel
Brenan Riffel

Brenan Riffel is a graduate student studying higher education administration at the University of Kansas, where she serves as both an academic advisor and assistant complex director. She holds a Bachelor's degree in secondary education from Kansas State University and is passionate about supporting kids and their dreams. She lives in Lawrence and upon graduating plans to remain in the Kansas City area.

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