Having been in and around government and politics the better part of my life, I expected differences of opinions, disagreements and frankly some measure of internet backlash when I became a candidate for municipal office this year. What I did not expect, nor should we tolerate, is the vitriol and threats against those who give of their time to participate in the electoral process, especially when those threats are directed toward young people.
Our society depends on a series of agreed upon social principles, the most important of which is a wall between differences of political opinions and personal vendettas. I fear that the structural integrity of this wall is severely damaged.
On January 6, most of America watched in horror as fellow citizens stormed the U.S. Capitol building hurling bike racks, stones and racial epitaphs and beating police officers with American flags.
On October 2, I posted a photo on my campaign Facebook page of myself and two exceptional young people who had given of their Saturday to volunteer in the local election. By that afternoon the post had been screen-shotted and shared to the page of a group that has assaulted the governor and called legislators murderers. In the comments, men said they would need to work on their impression of a serial killer in case we came to their door, and quoted lines known to refer to imminent danger to young women.
It is, and should continue to be, the right of all potential constituents to disagree with my policies and the ideas I have for the town, but in no decent society can it be socially acceptable to threaten children.
All municipal leaders, be they elected officials, coaches, PTA chairs or religious leaders, must stand together to reject the violent rhetoric that is permeating our social fabric not only at the national level, but likewise at the local level.
As a teacher of and student of history myself, I can not help but think of President Abraham Lincoln who famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Not only is our nation dividing against itself, but our state and community are following this ruinous path. Before the decades and centuries of work done by our forefathers and foremothers is lost, those of us who believe in a Connecticut and United States of kindness and decency can no longer afford to be silent.
As the Department of Homeland tell us, “If you see something, Say something”. If you see or hear words of hate or violence don’t let them stand, call them out and counter them with words of community.
Each of has a role in building our local future and creating a “more perfect union.”
Jennifer Dillon is a candidate for Cheshire Town Council.