Dear Representative Kauffman,
You and I have only met in passing once or twice, so I will not presume to know your motives in putting forth what you termed your “Suck it up, buttercup” legislation, which press reports say you plan to introduce when the legislature returns in January. What I can tell you, though, is that the proposal is intellectually, logically, and compassionately void.
Suggesting that you, or any third party (especially in government), should have the authority to decide what is or is not a legitimate fear, worthy of receiving compassionate counseling or friendly support, demonstrates a disturbing lack of empathy. I do not know if you have had personal or family experience with trauma, but one defining characteristic of it is that the person experiencing it knows it to be very real, and when a person who is not experiencing it attempts to delegitimize the fear, well, that is simply being cruel.
We both come from positions of considerable privilege, you and I. If I were to submit in public discourse that I knew what it felt like to be a woman in America, or an immigrant, or a minority of some type, I would be roundly castigated and then laughed out of the room. Your contention that such people should simply “suck it up” demonstrates privileged contempt for people who are different from you. So does referring to them with the pejorative “buttercup,” as if feeling fear means a person is weak or frail.
I was fascinated to read, in a transcript of your interview with the CBC radio show “As it Happens,” that you began the interview by stating, “I believe the national conversation needs to take place with both sides coming to the table.” Speaking as a person who has spent a lifetime gathering people around tables, I can state with expert authority that calling people names like “crybaby,” or denying them help that they desperately feel they need, is not an effective way of asking them to sit at your table. It makes people uncomfortable – perhaps in the same way you felt uncomfortable in that interview, which would explain why you hung up on your host.
You also made it a point to address the protestors who briefly blocked traffic on I-80. You and I can agree that doing so was dangerous, and the local authorities were right to break it up right away. It appears, however, that your main objection was their message, not their means. Do you honestly believe, sir, that if the election had gone the other way, a different variety of protestors would not be doing precisely the same types of activities across the country as we have seen in the past two weeks? They certainly promised that they would. Can you say with a straight face that you would not have accepted those protests as legitimate?
There are a few weeks between now and the beginning of the new legislative session. I am writing today to ask you to take these weeks – gathered around what I hope is a bountiful holiday table full of wonderful food and surrounded by friends and family – take these weeks and ponder in the spirit of those holidays what it means to let your decisions be guided by love and understanding.
Kurt M. Friese, Iowa City
Johnson County Supervisor-Elect