Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Reviving or Reviling

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”

If that quote is not your cup of tea, there’s always “Bloody Kansas” in the British sense of “bloody” (a swear word).

At least that seems to express the viewpoint of the Kansas State Republican party in the wake of the revelation that the party’s state chairman from 1991 to 2003, Mark Parkinson, has re-registered as a Democrat. Speculation is that he will join the Democratic ticket as the candidate for lieutenant-governor in this November’s election.

Parkinson is not the only one to switch. The current lieutenant governor, who is retiring, made a similar switch to run four years ago. Moreover, a prominent state district attorney, Paul Morrison, has switched to challenge the state’s attorney general.

The state, whose general shape emerged in 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law, had earlier been designated Indian Territory. As such, the number of different tribes living in the territory had risen almost four-fold (from 8 to 30) as white settlers drove Native Americans westward. Then there was the question of whether Kansas would be a free or slave state. A referendum gave the nod to slave-owners (mostly from Missouri), but a guerrilla-style war commenced almost immediately thereafter and continued right up to the eve of the Civil War. In early 1861, after four attempts to get a statehood bill passed, Kansas entered the Union as a free state – and has been dominated by Republicans ever since. Currently, both U.S. Senators and three of the state’s four House members are Republicans.

Many have speculated that 2006 may be the year that brings a partial reversal of the 1994 Republican gains in the U.S. Congress. War and the ravages of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan, among other struggles, are creating cross-aisle alliances in both the Senate and House between fiscal conservatives and internationalists who know that the surest way to end war is to prevent it from starting – hence the need for the U.S. to fulfill its international obligations and provide aid that goes toward meeting the needs of the disadvantaged, the downtrodden, and the desperate.

One need not change party label to do the right thing, for no matter how difficult, the “right thing” is embedded in compassion and respect for shared humanity.

“Ad astra per aspera” reads the state motto: “To the stars through difficulties.”

Apt, would you not say?

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