Saturday, June 25, 2022

Op-Ed: Truth will help keep us free

by GEORGE SAYLER/Special to The Press
| October 29, 2021 1:00 AM

What do Thomas Jefferson and Jesus have in common? Well, for one thing, they both said something memorable about truth and freedom.

Jefferson said: “If a people expect to be ignorant and be free, they expect what never was and never will be”, and Jesus’ words were: “Then you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Although they were dealing with two different realms, their words have relevance today in our community.

We all do love freedom. The question is: What is freedom for — our own desires or the good of all? Surely it must be both, but when one group seeks to exercise ideological control over others, it becomes self-centered rather than other centered. When it succeeds, and becomes a political monopoly, history has shown the freedom of others is threatened.

In Idaho the effort to impose a radically conservative agenda on us is led by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (which really means they don’t like government). Their local voice is the KCRCC, whose goal is political control of Kootenai County.

Why is this of concern? Because of the well-known adage that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

For more than 30 years I taught history and government, and I also served eight years in the Idaho Legislature, which for all practical purposes is a one-party place. When I was there, the very conservative Republican leadership pushed through the closed-primary, which requires that only a party member can vote in that party’s primary.

Logical on the surface, but in reality it was designed to allow the extreme right to control the party. It is mainly their supporters who actually vote in the primaries and thus their candidates who are elected.

This bit of political chicanery took away the right of independents to vote in primary elections and led to the fiasco which was this year’s legislative session.

One result of the stranglehold the ultra-conservatives now have on the legislature is that Idaho ranks dead last in per pupil support for public schools. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Wayne Hoffman, the head of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, is on record as saying: “I don’t think government should be in the education business.” So much for our public school system. And now the KCRCC is trying to take control of our school board.

We are well aware of the disaster that befell North Idaho College when the three new board members, all supported by the KCRCC, took control of the board. The college lost a highly regarded president and may lose its accreditation. The issue is under investigation by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, which oversees accreditation compliance.

Now the college is facing a lawsuit for the wrongful firing of its president, a move supported by the three KCRCC members who initiated the firing.

The KCRCC has once again endorsed its slate of candidates for the general election, all of whom have been “vetted” by the central committee led by Mr. Regan. To be “vetted” means they passed the test for supporting the extremist right-wing ideology of Mr. Regan and the KCRCC, which he now controls.

They have overturned our long-standing practice of keeping local elections nonpartisan, creating more partisan division within our community. They even ousted one of their own conservative members because he would not support censorship in schools and libraries.

Too much power in too few hands spells trouble for the rest of us, especially when those with the power are locked into an ideology. A word that comes to mind is tyranny.

When Mr. Ginorio first began his column, I was heartened that we might be hearing from a more moderate conservative view, however that has not been the case. He blends in enough accepted political wisdom and truths to give him credibility, but then he waffles such as when he acknowledges the difficulty facing school board members and then defends angry mob threats against them, apparently unaware that such actions can and do lead to violence against others.

In his latest column he praises the KCRCC because they want to “reorient government to play a more limited role in our life.” Remember, according to their leader, Mr. Hoffman, that means no more public schools. And really Mr. Ginorio, do you really believe, as you stated in your Oct. 8 column, that the “experts” (education professionals) have given “our children over to fanatics who are now openly working to demolish a recognizable America and build a communist utopia in its place.”

Shades of McCarthyism. You, a history teacher, should remember the lessons of history lest we repeat the mistakes of the past.

I do agree with Mr. Ginorio that our highest loyalty is to God, and that we own our own selves, but two thoughts come to mind.

First is Jesus’ commandment to “love others as we love ourselves” and second, according to the apostle Paul, “all things are lawful but not all things are expedient.” A modern paraphrase would be I have the right to do anything, but not everything is constructive. Choosing to harass others for their views and refusing to wear masks that protect the lives of others fails on both counts.

Jefferson was right: We need educated citizens if we are to maintain our democracy, and spiritual freedom enables us to choose to do good for our neighbors. There is truth in the world, and no one group possesses it all, not even the KCRCC.

What is needed now is educated freedom — that which is based on informed voters who have learned the truth and are not swayed by the disinformation, and the fear and anger that dominates our current election.

• • •

George Sayler is a Coeur d'Alene resident, retired teacher and former state legislator.

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