A couple of days after the 2014 general election, a young man I know well came to my office to talk. He was depressed because a candidate he supported had lost. He brought out a piece of campaign literature, a mass mailer, he had picked up somewhere. The glossy, full-color tract was folded up in his pocket and he handled it carefully, like it was full of germs and he didn’t want to get infected.
“Can you believe this was mailed out to people?” he asked me, flinging it on my desk.
The mailer called my friend’s candidate a “Traitor,” who “Betrayed our children.”
Turning the mailer over, it said the candidate voted for “Obscene material”, and “forcing acceptance of dangerous sexual behaviors,” among other horrible things to subject children to.
My friend knew this candidate had been a long time teacher and coach and knew these charges were not true.
Small print on the mailer connected the candidate with the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” which he supported and which was passed by the Minnesota Legislature, and signed by Governor Dayton last April. The Act created a tough new set of rules for Minnesota schools to follow to protect students from being tormented by classmates...from bullying.
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act replaced a 37-word anti-bullying law that was widely considered one of the nation’s weakest. The law requires school districts to track and investigate cases of bullying and to better train staffers and teachers on how to prevent it.
The mailer was paid for by a group called Child Protection PAC. While it is hard to find anything about this shadowy group, outside the fact that they are headquartered in a town north of the Twin Cities, they seem to think that if schools try to stop bullying, they are harming the bully.
The young man in my office graduated from a local high school not too long ago and he saw bullying. He knew young people who were scarred by it; who committed suicide because of bullying. He also knew that the candidate he supported, who was attacked by this nauseous piece of paper, had seen the devastating results of bullying as well.
The youth who visited me that day, is entering the prime of his life. He was becoming interested in the world around him, wondering how it all works, and has been thinking about public service and if he can actually do some good in the world.
The state and nation need this type of young person to be the leaders of the future.
I don’t think he is so interested anymore.
We have become a nation where “Freedom of Speech” means we allow huge corporations the freedom to spend any amount of money they want, saying any sleazy outlandish thing they want, to help their candidate win.
That is not “Freedom of Speech,” not even close. In fact, that is bullying plain and simple. No wonder they spent millions ousting legislators who are trying to stop bullying.
Voter participation on November 4 was the lowest in over 70 years. If we don’t find a way to stop these bullies from taking over the political process in this country, no one, especially young people, will care to engage in it anymore...and then democracy is dead!