With dogged care, attention and nurturing, democracy in Kansas and beyond can thrive – Kansas Reflector


Columnist Dave Kendall’s terrier can still make his way along a nature trail despite losing his sight. It takes help and guidance, however. (Dave Kendall)
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. Dave Kendall served as producer and host of the “Sunflower Journeys” series on public television for its first 27 seasons and continues to produce documentary videos through his own company, Prairie Hollow Productions.
Our canine companion for the past decade — a 35-pound “Benji” terrier — was diagnosed with diabetes last year. A few weeks ago, his deteriorating eyesight reached the point where he could no longer see. In addition to giving him his twice daily insulin shots, I have now become his guide person, helping him find his way around.
He has adapted pretty well, using his memory of the space around our rural residence as well as his hearing and acute sense of smell to navigate. But without a little assistance, he often bumps into things and strays off track.
That’s where I come in to assist. Through my whistles, finger snaps and verbal cues, I help alert him to obstacles and keep him moving in the right direction. My main goal is to help him stay active, realizing that his ability to adapt and stay engaged with his world will affect his longevity.
Although he can no longer chase squirrels or jump up to snag Frisbees out of the air, he has a limited ability to romp across the open spaces of our yard and maintains a spring in his step as he moves along the more familiar parts of our nature trail.
When we’re taking a walk together, the pooch sometimes drifts into the tall grass and can get further off course and confused until I guide him back to the path. 
It appears that a similar, but opposite, dynamic has contributed to our current political predicament, in which candidates cast doubt upon the integrity of our elections. Voters can get lost in the weeds as they hear politicians pushing false narratives, repeating lies they surely know are not true.
But instead of helping their followers find their way back to the path, where fact-based, verifiable truths are found, many choose to double down on the lies, keeping their followers agitated, frustrated and angry. Sometimes this contributes to violence, as recently happened with the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Our politics have been moving in this direction for quite some time. Too many politicians perpetuate lies and baseless conspiracy theories, driven by blind ambition that preys upon fears, activates latent prejudices and obscures the truth.
 
Although journalists have traditionally sought to maintain objectivity and balance in their reporting by giving voice to “both sides” of an issue, things have now gotten so far off kilter with the questioning and subversion of our electoral process that this approach has become untenable — at least when it comes to this subject.
Robert Costa, chief campaign and election correspondent for CBS News, spoke with media critic Margaret Sullivan about this in a segment broadcast onCBS Sunday Morning recently, noting that one party has become associated with election denial.
“The Republican Party is gripped by people who are election deniers,” Costa pointed out. “How should the press contend with that? It’s happening inside one particular party.”
“We hold both parties to the same standards,” Sullivan replied. “But when one party is the one who’s doing this very troubling thing, we need to be very straightforward about that.”
Of course, these two individuals are part of the mainstream media and therefore not likely to be considered trustworthy by those inclined to believe claims of widespread voter fraud or who doubt the veracity of our elections.
When all but one of the Republicans in our federal delegation chose not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and our attorney general joined a lawsuit contesting that election, it’s understandable why they may feel that way. But it should be noted that not all Republicans feel that way.
 
Out on the path, our dog used to chase squirrels into the woods, although he was never able to catch them and wouldn’t know what to do with them if he did. Now when he hears them, he’s learned that it doesn’t pay to run after them. He seems content to let them chitter away, knowing that he’s free to ignore them and will be better off if he does.
Although it’s not new to this election, the subject of crime has become like a squirrel popping up in our political landscape, with campaign ads presenting dark and dramatic images intended to stimulate fear and mistrust.
Kevin Willmott, the University of Kansas professor who won an Oscar for the film Black KKKlansman,” contends that this type of reference to crime represents a not-so-subtle way of playing the race card.
In a recent post on social media, he wrote: “Anytime you see a commercial, just substitute the word ‘crime’ with ‘scary Black folks’ and understand how racism works as a political tool.”
Many candidates are also hyping economic concerns such as inflation and high gas prices, placing blame on those who have little direct control over such things while ignoring the fact that these are global problems exacerbated by an ongoing international conflict.
Again and again, it seems that campaigns are employing diversionary tactics to keep us confused, confounded and confrontational, deliberately seeking to blind us to fundamental realities.
 
Not long ago, when my wife and I were on the back deck soaking up the quiet serenity of the early evening, our vision-impaired dog wandered off the deck into an immediate encounter with a passing skunk, which promptly unloaded on him.
The noxious odor permeated the calm, evening air as we launched an attempt to cleanse the dog. The smell soon pervaded much of the house. We did what we could to clear the air, but eventually we had to abandon our bedroom for the night and sleep in a remote space away from the fumes.
It wasn’t the dog’s fault. He wasn’t chasing after anything. He couldn’t even see what hit him. He just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But almost a month later, he carries a faint reminder of that fateful encounter. I still catch a whiff when I bend down to scratch behind his ears.
We’ve heard from lots of folks raising a stink about the integrity of our elections, claiming that they can’t be trusted. Some people even suggest that they may not honor the results. We need to stand firm and resolve that here in Kansas our democracy won’t get “skunked.”
We might also remind ourselves that we don’t have to chase after every “squirrel” that comes along. That can be exhausting!
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.
by Dave Kendall, Kansas Reflector
November 6, 2022
by Dave Kendall, Kansas Reflector
November 6, 2022
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. Dave Kendall served as producer and host of the “Sunflower Journeys” series on public television for its first 27 seasons and continues to produce documentary videos through his own company, Prairie Hollow Productions.
Our canine companion for the past decade — a 35-pound “Benji” terrier — was diagnosed with diabetes last year. A few weeks ago, his deteriorating eyesight reached the point where he could no longer see. In addition to giving him his twice daily insulin shots, I have now become his guide person, helping him find his way around.
He has adapted pretty well, using his memory of the space around our rural residence as well as his hearing and acute sense of smell to navigate. But without a little assistance, he often bumps into things and strays off track.
That’s where I come in to assist. Through my whistles, finger snaps and verbal cues, I help alert him to obstacles and keep him moving in the right direction. My main goal is to help him stay active, realizing that his ability to adapt and stay engaged with his world will affect his longevity.
Although he can no longer chase squirrels or jump up to snag Frisbees out of the air, he has a limited ability to romp across the open spaces of our yard and maintains a spring in his step as he moves along the more familiar parts of our nature trail.
When we’re taking a walk together, the pooch sometimes drifts into the tall grass and can get further off course and confused until I guide him back to the path. 
It appears that a similar, but opposite, dynamic has contributed to our current political predicament, in which candidates cast doubt upon the integrity of our elections. Voters can get lost in the weeds as they hear politicians pushing false narratives, repeating lies they surely know are not true.
But instead of helping their followers find their way back to the path, where fact-based, verifiable truths are found, many choose to double down on the lies, keeping their followers agitated, frustrated and angry. Sometimes this contributes to violence, as recently happened with the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Our politics have been moving in this direction for quite some time. Too many politicians perpetuate lies and baseless conspiracy theories, driven by blind ambition that preys upon fears, activates latent prejudices and obscures the truth.
 
Although journalists have traditionally sought to maintain objectivity and balance in their reporting by giving voice to “both sides” of an issue, things have now gotten so far off kilter with the questioning and subversion of our electoral process that this approach has become untenable — at least when it comes to this subject.
Robert Costa, chief campaign and election correspondent for CBS News, spoke with media critic Margaret Sullivan about this in a segment broadcast on “CBS Sunday Morning“ recently, noting that one party has become associated with election denial.
“The Republican Party is gripped by people who are election deniers,” Costa pointed out. “How should the press contend with that? It’s happening inside one particular party.”
“We hold both parties to the same standards,” Sullivan replied. “But when one party is the one who’s doing this very troubling thing, we need to be very straightforward about that.”
Of course, these two individuals are part of the mainstream media and therefore not likely to be considered trustworthy by those inclined to believe claims of widespread voter fraud or who doubt the veracity of our elections.
When all but one of the Republicans in our federal delegation chose not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and our attorney general joined a lawsuit contesting that election, it’s understandable why they may feel that way. But it should be noted that not all Republicans feel that way.
 
Out on the path, our dog used to chase squirrels into the woods, although he was never able to catch them and wouldn’t know what to do with them if he did. Now when he hears them, he’s learned that it doesn’t pay to run after them. He seems content to let them chitter away, knowing that he’s free to ignore them and will be better off if he does.
Although it’s not new to this election, the subject of crime has become like a squirrel popping up in our political landscape, with campaign ads presenting dark and dramatic images intended to stimulate fear and mistrust.
Kevin Willmott, the University of Kansas professor who won an Oscar for the film “Black KKKlansman,” contends that this type of reference to crime represents a not-so-subtle way of playing the race card.
In a recent post on social media, he wrote: “Anytime you see a commercial, just substitute the word ‘crime’ with ‘scary Black folks’ and understand how racism works as a political tool.”
Many candidates are also hyping economic concerns such as inflation and high gas prices, placing blame on those who have little direct control over such things while ignoring the fact that these are global problems exacerbated by an ongoing international conflict.
Again and again, it seems that campaigns are employing diversionary tactics to keep us confused, confounded and confrontational, deliberately seeking to blind us to fundamental realities.
 
Not long ago, when my wife and I were on the back deck soaking up the quiet serenity of the early evening, our vision-impaired dog wandered off the deck into an immediate encounter with a passing skunk, which promptly unloaded on him.
The noxious odor permeated the calm, evening air as we launched an attempt to cleanse the dog. The smell soon pervaded much of the house. We did what we could to clear the air, but eventually we had to abandon our bedroom for the night and sleep in a remote space away from the fumes.
It wasn’t the dog’s fault. He wasn’t chasing after anything. He couldn’t even see what hit him. He just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But almost a month later, he carries a faint reminder of that fateful encounter. I still catch a whiff when I bend down to scratch behind his ears.
We’ve heard from lots of folks raising a stink about the integrity of our elections, claiming that they can’t be trusted. Some people even suggest that they may not honor the results. We need to stand firm and resolve that here in Kansas our democracy won’t get “skunked.”
We might also remind ourselves that we don’t have to chase after every “squirrel” that comes along. That can be exhausting!
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.
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: [email protected]. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.
Dave Kendall served as producer and host of the “Sunflower Journeys” series on public television for its first 27 seasons. He also produced documentaries and community affairs programs for KTWU, the PBS station licensed to Washburn University in Topeka. In 2015, he left to form his own company — Prairie Hollow Productions — through which he continues to produce documentary videos. He’s currently engaged in the production of a documentary about the local impact of a changing climate.
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