Community perspective: Kathleen Kelley should explain if she wants to lead

A contributed perspectives piece by Taven Wilson

Editor’s note: The Citizen welcomes civil, reasonable perspectives pieces on local political issues. If you submit one, please be prepared to participate in fact-checking.

In recent years there has been a well-documented increase in the propagation of conspiracy theories both here in the United States and around the world. While some alternative avenues of thought (theories about the Earth being flat, for example) are relatively benign, others spread false and dangerous lies about things like “New World Orders,” shadow governments, and predictions of violent race wars. Many of these conspiracies draw direct lineage to centuries-old racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant ideas that have persisted through the ages in relatively obscure corners of human society. Occasionally, often during times of civil and economic unrest, these conspiracies make their way closer and closer to the mainstream of society and unfortunately it would appear that this is occurring today.

Kathleen Kelley, who is running for city council with the support of Harrisonburg’s Republican Party establishment, has posted content that directly references and supports these despicable conspiracies. While her campaign is ostensibly about love, unity, and conservative values for our community, the material she has presented online looks to sow division and promote hate, distrust, and, by extension, violence.

In both the immediate and distant future our city is going to go through some tough times. Getting through the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic recession/depression will necessitate top to bottom cooperation in our community and crafting a better world for all our citizens, from the affluent to the marginalized, will require leaders who strive to unify us. Historically we have come through the darkest of times into periods of great progress and growth and with positive and forward thinking people at the helm, starting with our local council members, this could be the greatest recovery yet. If Kathleen Kelley is striving to be one of the individuals that this community looks to for guidance in this uncertain future, she should recognize that her words matter and establish beyond a doubt that she wants to bring us together.

While it is imperative to understand that our community is not a monolith and freedom of speech is one of our most important and sacred rights, as long as Ms. Kelley is striving to be an elected leader in our city she must be accountable for the message she presents, no matter the capacity. The ideas presented by Ms. Kelley in her online posts are not legitimate political standpoints or social opinions; they are hate speech and they require explanation.

The intention of this letter is not to smear Ms. Kelley or her campaign but rather to give her the opportunity to take accountability and give explanation for her motives. There is always time for forgiveness and redemption, but until she recants and apologizes for her hurtful and dangerous actions the Harrisonburg GOP should not support her campaign and people should not vote for her in November. This letter calls on Ms. Kelley to prove that unity and love for everyone in our community is a part of her campaign while encouraging our city to be on the right side of history.

Taven Wilson was raised and lives in Harrisonburg. He has always had a deep appreciation for the relative diversity of his home town and hopes it can grow into a more inviting and inclusive community, which can only be built if we come together.

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