By Emily Erickson
Reader Publisher Ben Olson’s most recent “Back of the Book” piece, “The Morning After the Election” [May 19, 2022], had a phrase that I can’t get out of my head. Amid his decompression from reporting on the election day prior, Ben reflected, “In the blood sport that is politics, bullies tend to come out ahead because they believe their cause is righteous enough to trample anyone who gets in their way and voters reward this behavior with votes.”
I have rarely felt fully represented by any Idaho candidate for office, tossing my support to the person handling themselves in the most respectful, articulate and moderate manner — even when their platform is far from what I consider inspiring. But this past election cycle, inundated as it was with smear campaigns, fear-mongering and bully behavior, I felt the bar of my expectations drop well below inspiration, to common courtesy and basic decency.
My expectations may not match everyone’s, and my voice might not be in line with the Idaho majority. And frankly, I’m sick of talking about politics. But in fear of the beliefs of this community being pigeonholed into one-dimensional shouts by bullies or the misguided claims by those who moved here because they thought we were all the same thing, I feel compelled to talk about what representation looks like to me.
I want to be represented by people who have actionable ideas — plans for moving forward that are relevant and researched and inspiring. Being against things is easy. Looking backward, trying to rewind progress to restore a misremembered and nostalgic past, isn’t a solution for present-day problems. Platforms built on anti-ideas, fed by fear and misplaced anger, are not foundations on which communities can actually stand. Rather, they’re chasms that can only perpetuate the growing division between us all.
I want to be represented by people who prioritize human lives over laissez-faire gun legislation. The interest of everyone lies in compromise, in the gray area between “freedom of anyone, at any time, to bear any kind of arms” and “taking away the guns” — not the trickled down logic from capital-at-all-costs organizations telling us there’s no in-between. There is bravery in addressing nuanced situations with collaboration, using both sides of a debate to arrive at the concessions worth making and the absolutes that should never be compromised.
I want to be represented by people who understand that the land we live on and the resources within them are precious and worthy of being preserved. North Idaho is one of the most beautiful backdrops in the country — a rare mix of lakes and mountains and rural charm. Yet, with development running rampant, shorelines being degraded, mines being championed and litter peppering the roadsides, the beauty we’re all so fortunate to live amongst risks being compromised beyond repair.
I want to be represented by people who prioritize education, who don’t want our teachers to shy away from sensitive topics; but, instead, equip students with the tools to navigate the complex issues within our society. Understanding nuance, thinking critically, questioning absolutes, and learning to not only draw conclusions but rethink positions when presented with opposing information, are invaluable lessons that extend well beyond the time spent in a classroom. In contrast, those who champion banning books, sharing half-truths and omitting entire pieces of history, are trading short-term comfort with an increased likelihood of repeating the mistakes of our past.
I want to be represented by people who strive to know the individuals who’ve become institutions within their communities — those who embody their surroundings because they both built and were built by them. There’s a well of wisdom in people with generational roots and knowledge that can only be acquired by witnessing change first-hand. And there’s also wisdom in the values and ideas of the next generation — those who will inherit the reality that we’re creating for them, every day.
I wanted to be represented by people who lead with kindness, who navigate the world with integrity and humility, who surround themselves with diverse perspectives and experts in various fields and who seek to positively impact their communities — considering as many people and lives as possible before making choices that affect them and, especially, reflect them. But these people seem to exist in the margins, their quiet voices drowned in the clatter of others climbing and clawing their way to positions of power.
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