Dear Friends of John Curtis, We are Stronger Together

Dearest Friends of John Curtis,

Thank you for asking how I’m doing after John’s campaign loss.  I am heartened that you have asked; for you understand how much we invested our hearts and souls into this campaign.  You know that something deeper than politics is at stake.

A desire for moral leadership and social justice motivated many of us to invest our hearts and time in John’s campaign.  We worked with urgency because the current depopulation of the region is tied to a lower quality of life for all.  We invested our hearts because the impoverization of the region is demoralizing to all.

The vibrancy and quality of life of this region is interdependent with WIU and we knew that John would have taken risks for WIU.

We worked for our youth. When WIU jobs are eliminated, professionals leave the region, the tax base shrinks, and then our schools lose funding.  Teachers are forced to work more hours for the same pay, which can lead to burnout.  Some of the most talented and caring teachers in Macomb are spouses of professors.  But when WIU professors are forced out, great teachers go with them.  Our young people bear this cost.

A conversation I had with a friend and policy expert in the Poor People’s Campaign last summer motivated me to invest more time and heart in the midterm race. My friend and I were standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a bus to take us to the Poor People’s Campaign rally in D.C.

I told him about the impoverization and depopulation of our district.  I said the realignment of WIU’s curriculum is representative of the war economy that Martin Luther King had denounced:  Dr. King said that the war economy steals from the poor to fund violence and is therefore immoral. Dr. King’s analysis of the war economy is as important as his criticism of voter suppression.

I told my fellow activist about WIU’s divestment in the Liberal Arts and reinvestment into the war economy:

WIU’s administration has stolen from the disciplines that take a critical approach to war, poverty, and injustice (Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, Religion and Philosophy, for example) and re-appropriated those funds to Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and others that provide ideological support for the war economy.  Homeland Security is the institution most responsible for separating families and kidnapping children at the border. For the last decade, Homeland Security has looked the other way as extreme right-wing domestic terrorists have far outpaced Isis and Al Queda in mass killings of Americans.  According to Dr. King’s philosophy, public investment in the curriculum of Homeland Security is immoral.

At WIU, the sacrifices the war economy demands are not subtle:  the month after President Jack Thomas terminated my contract and eliminated my position in Women’s Studies, they advertised two tenure-track positions in Homeland Security.  The current state representative is party to the curriculum of war economy:  she has supported (Ex) Governor Rauner’s agenda of attacking the Liberal Arts; she benefits from thousands of dollars of campaign donations by the former Chair of the Board of Trustees, who pushed for the immoral faculty realignment and recently resigned in a corruption scandal, in which the other board members, Thomas, and various administrators are involved.

My friend in the Poor People’s Campaign listened to my story about WIU, and then advised:  The most important thing you can do, he said, is work to elect John Curtis for state representative.

Post-election, we feel the grief and heartbreak over the missed opportunity to make this district more politically balanced, as well as more vibrant and livable for all.  Grief and heartbreak are much more pronounced than the blow to self-esteem that defeat entails: A willingness to take risks for the greater good is part of democracy, and we would do it again.

We have learned the hard way that even when we are engaged, even when we are walking the district to get out the vote, even when we are doing everything we are supposed to do, it won’t be enough to elect a Democrat in this district.

Even when the incumbent has caused WIU to eliminate jobs and allowed poverty to rise, even when she supported the draining of state resources from our district, a slight majority of voters will reward her.

We are mourning the fact that if John Curtis, possibly the fairest, smartest, most committed, and most competent candidate to seek office in decades, can’t win, no Democrat can.

A missed opportunity for strong moral leadership has imprinted itself in our hearts, shaping who we are and who we will become. But, dear Friends of John Curtis, we have gained momentum to work for a more moral community.

By coming together to realize the values we share, we have strengthened bonds with each other.  We are forming a local chapter of the NAACP,  we are naming bigotry and demonstrating love, and we persevere in the structural work required for peace and justice.

We have gained friends and become closer.  We are stronger together.

Holly

All are Welcome here, but Hate is Not. 

Dear Editor,*

The most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America is scheduled to spew it’s structural (not physical) violence on the WIU campus on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 11:45 am, before a football game with Indiana State University.

This hate group goes by the name of Westboro Baptist (WBC), but they are not affiliated with the Baptists.  They are, at best, a hate group.  Because we now know that hate speech is connected to hate violence, some analysts have argued that the WBC qualifies as a domestic terrorist organization.

The WBC travels the country to spread a message of hatred towards a broad swath of the population: LGBTQA+ people, Jewish people, Muslim people, Siekhs, soldiers, Catholics, Amish, and veterans.

The WBC uses social media to embolden and praise domestic terrorists.  They praised the domestic terrorist who opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.  They praised the domestic terrorist who killed 50 people in an Orlando night club.

When we study the social media pages of domestic terrorists, we often find that they followed hate groups like the WBC.  John Russell Houser, who shot 12 people in a Georgia cinema, followed and backed the WBC.

On Nov. 17, over a thousand advocates of love and acceptance are planning to participate in peaceful rally of love and acceptance for all the folks in the WIU and Macomb community, as well as our guests from Indiana.

I hope you will come to demonstrate love and acceptance of our community, but when you do, do not fall for WBC’s taunts and traps.  Do not engage the WBC; instead, focus on making WIU students, Indiana visitors, and Macomb Community members feel safe and wanted here.

I hate it that the WBC has chosen the grounds of my alma mater as one of the places from which this hate group will continue to knowingly embolden domestic terrorists and later praise the killings, but I love it that we have organized quickly to send a message:

All are welcome here, but hate is not.

*After the WIU and Macomb community learned that the Westboro Baptist is coming here, I sent a version of this letter to the McDonough County Voice, and they ran it yesterday.