This is not my home or my country
The geographic center of the U.S. is located near Lebanon, KS. That's about 100 miles from my house, in round numbers. You don't get much more heartland than that. Kansas is known for many things: honest, hardworking, no-nonsense people; a conservative worldview that values traditional American farm and ranch-based sensibilities; a love of Jayhawks, Wildcats, and Shockers; and unfortunately, along with much of the U.S., experimentation with political theories that don't work, which have damaged the state's educational system and infrastructure.
But that's all fine. A well-grounded worldview is the basis of a civilization. Political experiments, although disruptive, enable us to learn to not do that again. But what happened on Friday is not fine.
On Friday, the FBI announced the arrest of three men who allegedly planned to park trucks full of explosives at the four corners of an apartment building and blow up the building with all inhabitants inside--men, women, and children. This would have occurred about 250 miles from my house, again in round numbers.
This is not my Kansas. Not by a long shot.
A reminder of how we came to be who we are
The name Kansas (or a variant of it) predates the formation of the U.S. Kansas chose to be a Free State, putting it in conflict with its neighbors in ways that some would argue have not been resolved to this day.
Kansas is a state of immigrants: Along with thousands of newly-freed African-Americans, Kansas was settled by Scandinavians, Germans, Czechs, and French. My own grandparents descended from German immigrants. Lindsborg calls itself the Swedish capital of Kansas. McPherson holds a celebration of its Scottish history every year.
That is my Kansas. A fascinating discussion of family heritage and history with folks that I talk to. A genealogy of honorable family people following the American dream. A story of heartbreak and destruction due to the dust bowl years--which caused my own grandparents to give up their farm and move to Oregon. A story of resilience and perseverance that rivals any in our great country. That's who we are.
Who we are now
We are a state of immigrants. We always have been.
Immigrants have established their right to be Americans by working hard, contributing to the economy and the tax base, and above all, exhibiting tolerance and acceptance to the immigrants who have followed. These have included Mexicans, who have been good, hard-working citizens that enabled Kansas agriculture and ranching to be successful.
And now, the group that wants nothing more than to work hard, contribute to the success of America, and forge their own success story of the American dream happen to be from Somalia. They happen to be people who fled their homeland to avoid extermination by political forces--like your ancestors. They happen to be people who love family, hard work, honesty, integrity, and the American dream--like your ancestors.
While it's true that immigrants have not all initially been welcome, all have earned their way into our state through hard work. These Somali families only want the same opportunity to succeed. And we as Americans and Kansans should offer that to them.
Insist on that being offered to them. That's who we are.
Or maybe not
Just think about the horror of having someone who does not know you hating you so much that they would park a truck of explosives near your home in an effort to kill you and your children. I've never experienced that. Have you? Just imagine how it feels to be someone who has given up everything familiar in their lives to save their families, only to have someone at the destination even more determined to kill you.
Is that America?
Is that Kansas?
I sure as hell hope not.