Written by Ashley Frechette
With November fast approaching all eyes are on Virginia. But Virginia, my darling, we need to talk. Simply put, we can’t have another election cycle where we make the same mistakes we have made before. And by that I mean we cannot elect anyone else remotely close to Amanda Chase and Dave Brat.
I know a lot of people vote party – not candidate – especially at the local level. It’s incredibly easy to do and honestly in the hustle and bustle of life sometimes you don’t have a moment to research the candidates. I get it. But the local level is arguably the most important level to pay attention to. These candidates affect your daily life. You may have seen Amanda Chases’ smiling blonde face and thought “Gee, what a nice lady. And she’s a Republican too? Well that was easy”. And Dave Brat comes across in photos as a respectable professor from Randolph-Macon. But have you researched any further? Do you know who you’re really voting for?
Maybe you do, maybe you’re thinking that you knew everything you needed to know and you agree with them on at least 85% of their platform. That’s great. I’m glad you were an informed voter. Are you paying attention now that the election is over? Let’s just go over a few of the things that have troubled me and a lot of the Commonwealth over the last two years.
Last June, Mrs. Chase made the case that local school librarians should be dismissed if they’re not “recommending books that align with CCPS’ core values”. This stemmed from a piece written for the Chesterfield Observer referencing books that she and some Chesterfield County parents feel have “pornographic imagery” and “vile language”. The books in question? Tyrell by Coe Booth, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Out of the Easy by Ruta Septeys. These were by no means required reading by Chesterfield County Public Schools, they merely appeared on the recommended list. Any student or parent was welcome to chat with a librarian or local bookseller to find out more information if they were not satisfied with the description on the back of the book. But instead, Mrs. Chase feels that books should come with warning labels and that they should be banned from our shelves because they made her hair curl and she felt a little uncomfortable (but millennials are too sensitive? Ok. Sure.)
Books at their very core are meant to challenge standard ideals. They are not meant to make you feel safe and secure all of the time. At one point in time Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and ironically enough, Fahrenheit 451 were all banned. These books have shaped America and American students for decades. To ban a book simply because it doesn’t align with your ideals is childish. We cannot shelter children from the world. Especially not now when we have a President who has publicly used vulgar language when speaking about those with disabilities and women while campaigning. News flash – take a stroll in any middle or high school across America. All of those things you’re hearing about from books? It’s nothing new to these kids. They’ve heard it all before and chances are they’ve used some of the words themselves.
Mrs. Chase’s inability to deal with opposing viewpoints became loud and clear when she hosted Dave Brat’s town hall meeting. Located in Mrs. Chase’s church, Mr. Brat and Mrs. Chase did not listen to opposing views. Instead they threatened to kick people out because, after all, it was “her town hall”. It was also at this town hall where Mr. Brat spent most of the time dwelling on how a majority of people that showed up to the town hall were not supporters of his and dancing around the questions he was being asked.
Let us never forget that Mr. Brat, a member of the House of Representatives, is on record as saying that women are “all up in his grill”. Yes, Mr. Brat, women want you to hold a town hall. When you ran for office you didn’t run to just represent the men. You represent all of us. So yeah, we’re going to hold you accountable. Friendly reminder – your constituents are your boss. You work for us. But you’re completely out of touch with us. You’re not listening to anyone except what your supreme leaders believe to be truth. That may be your truth, but it’s not the reality. And here in reality-land, we need conversation and we need you to actually understand everyone you represent. Not just those constituents that are convenient for you.
True to his history, Mr. Brat is still not answering questions and is refusing to attend a town hall with Virginia activists. Mr. Brat feels that these activists aren’t looking to have a productive conversation, yet he cannot know this without first sitting down and attempting to speak to them. A great politician not only listens to those that support them, but all of their constituents. It is also their job. How can we have a productive conversation if our representative refuses to sit down and have that conversation? How can Virginia move forward when Brat is so content on having us stay idle or regress? If we cannot have open dialogue then you are not a true leader and you have no business holding office.
We cannot afford to go back. The only way forward is to have uncomfortable conversations and to listen to each other. Even if we don’t agree on every issue, we need to be able to find common ground. The Founding Fathers didn’t agree on everything. Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison all argued over the financial plan. They eventually moved forward, but that was because each one knew they had a greater responsibility. They had to work together. Maybe it was a testament to the leadership they had from Washington. Or, maybe they just knew when it was time to be an adult and have a conversation. Either way, they got the job done unlike our current Congress.
Despite Mr. Brat and I sharing very few things we could find common ground on, I would love nothing more than to have a sit down conversation with him in regards to the state of the Commonwealth and the Country.