To the editor,

I recently fell short of my personal goals as chairwoman of the Williamson County Democratic Party, or at least that’s how it felt as I wrote my statehouse candidate and friend Jenn Foley to explain that I wouldn’t put her campaign sign in my yard. 

You see, I live four houses down from GOP statehouse incumbent Sam Whitson. I consider Sam and his wife, Pam, to be friends and good neighbors, and I honestly don’t think Sam would be offended by a Jenn Foley sign. In fact, the first time Sam and I met, he thanked me for my service. 

He understands that I got into politics because of my desire to serve my community. We stand on opposite sides of the aisle and often have opposing ideologies, but we have a kindred spirit in service.

It’s not Sam who intimidates me; it’s everyone else. When I moved into my home five years ago, I found my reputation preceded me. 

Every time I met a new neighbor, they already knew my politics; someone in the neighborhood had told them. I am turned into City Codes for violations quicker than I can fix or avoid them. Trash gets left in my yard. Rocks were thrown at my house after I put a Black Lives Matter sign in my window. A couple weeks after I was elected chairwoman of the Democratic party, I caught someone repeatedly trying to take my picture while I was inside my home. 

While I cannot prove that my political leanings were the source of all these actions, I cannot assume it’s merely coincidence either. 

In the past month, I’ve heard some unsettling accounts of hatred, vitriol and assault. A man threatened a group of concert attendees at a Democrat fundraiser, cursing at them, leaving the children crying and the adults worried that he’d return with weapons. Candidates encounter abusive language for merely pulling a ballot and running. Most recently, a local was questioned by a man, whose hand was resting on his haltered gun, for wearing a shirt that read “Resist.” 

Through talking with Sam and other elected Republicans, I know that the attacks go both ways, but there is something about the imbalance of power in a supermajority that emboldens people. 

I grew up around state and local politics during a time when being a good neighbor was more important than who you voted for, and today I participate in organizations, such as Rotary and Unite Williamson, that still reflect these values. However, I’m finding that civil discourse is going the way of the boll weevil. When I told Jenn my decision about her yard sign, she said that it was demoralizing but she understood. It is demoralizing.

Williamson County is primarily conservative. In 2018, Democrats received about 38% of the vote across the major races. However, many Democrats still remain scared to be honest about their opinions and viewpoints, and I find that to be heartbreaking. 

Regardless of politics, no one is entitled to spew hatred. No one is entitled to threaten your safety. We should be able to live peacefully in our homes and communities without fear of retaliation. 

There’s no room for hate in Williamson County. It’s time that we call it out and make sure everyone has the right and space to peacefully live. We don’t have to agree on policy to agree on kindness. Civil discourse requires civility. 

If your people are being hateful, it’s time to call in your people. We often think of our cities and county as an example for Tennessee, and it’s time we demonstrate that through action. 

 

Kelly Baker-Hefley

Franklin

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