Over the course of the last five months, I have had the privilege to campaign for a position on the town board. I never ran for political office prior to this and I looked forward to the uphill challenge of campaigning as a Democrat in the Republican stronghold we call home.
From the very beginning, many friends and neighbors questioned why I would attempt to run for a position that has been difficult for a Democrat to win over the years. Despite the foreboding, I agreed to run to give back to our community with a campaign of ideas, transparency and a willingness to engage in a public discourse on all issues.
Although the outcome was disappointing, I cannot say that it was unexpected. However, what was unexpected was the reaction of many who at times showed total derision when I answered “Democrat” in response to their inquiry about my party affiliation. Many of you may have seen me outside of CVS or in Reis Park at the Women’s Club Tag Sale/Fourth of July festivities/Fall Festival. I always tried to be open to any questions and engage in a dialog with anyone who wished to stop and talk.
It was disheartening, but not defeating, to have Somers neighbors completely dismiss me without taking a moment to learn anything about me. By simply saying the word “Democrat,” I was subjected to some “interesting” and often angry (and certainly not appropriate for printing here) comments. And, sadly, I witnessed my Republican colleagues be subjected to similar treatment. Fortunately, most of my interactions were cordial and often resulted in lengthy discussions with engaging dialog.
I often wondered why someone could be so angry with me simply because of a “label” when they otherwise knew nothing about me. I would have hoped that I would be asked more than that and then if we disagreed on a specific issue, we could respect each other’s opinions and vote for the candidate who most closely represented respective views on issues affecting Somers. And I would expect the same courtesies be extended to a Republican, as well.
We should be mindful that our public interactions may influence those around us and especially impressionable children. A consequence of witnessing an adult greet someone with a vitriolic comment based upon a one-word “label” could be the intolerance we have witnessed in nearby communities. This includes swastikas being drawn on school property, racial epithets being spewed at children on buses and mocking comments about building a wall made to a child whose parents do not speak English.
We should strive to be better than this. If someone needs a helping hand, I am confident that person would not care about the color or religious faith of that hand and certainly would not care whether it belonged to a Republican or Democrat. Take a moment to learn about the person beneath the “label.” You will be pleasantly surprised to discover you have something very special in common: We are all Somers.