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A house divided

The political climate in this country has gotten so tense that even members of a state representative’s own party turned on him when he took a stance against the execution of Julius Jones.

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The division in our country is so thick you can almost cut it with a knife. Pick a topic right now and you wouldn’t have to try too hard to find someone that would disagree with you and most likely be willing to share a few choice words with you regarding your stance. Albeit this freedom to disagree is something that makes our country great, disagreement has become a catalyst to discord, dissension, and outright disdain for those we are supposed to be living within the community.

Garry Mize (R-Guthrie) - PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • Photo provided.
  • Garry Mize (R-Guthrie)

We have seen this in our state in the last few months regarding the issue of capital punishment. Since being elected I have had many firsts, being sworn in, my first vote, committee meetings, etc. However, I never thought I would be describing these firsts because I shared an opinion regarding an upcoming execution that we had scheduled as a state. Those firsts include, the threat of physical violence, threats of causing damage or harm to my business, intimidation factors, etc. I even received phone calls and emails questioning my faith.

What I said was simply this: “The last thing the state should be doing is taking the life of someone who may be innocent. There is too much doubt here, especially given that Julius Jones’ codefendant has confessed to being the real murderer. We can’t move forward with an execution under these circumstances in good conscience. I hope and pray Gov. Stitt accepts the recommendation of his Parole Board.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I am fine with disagreement, but is this where we have come to in our society? Because someone doesn’t think the same way I do or because they arrive at a different conclusion, we must wish ill for them and or hate them? These aren’t attacks from across the aisle, but happening within both parties on either side of it.

I’ve wrestled with this topic and my stance on the issue. It isn’t an easy topic, and as a matter of fact, I changed my stance on this very issue several years back because of a conversation that I had with someone that at this point I don’t care too much for. My point is this: I don’t believe it has to continue to be this divided. I believe there is common ground, but we must be willing to talk, and we have to be willing to sit with someone whose life may look very different than ours. I’ve said before that governing is difficult and I have tried to offer the best I can in this role with the mindset that we would all be better off walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. I am speaking from experience. I have done this, and I have seen it done and, unquestionably, the outcome is better. This may not lead to a different result or stance on a particular issue, but I can’t help but believe that we make better and more thoughtful decisions with this as our approach rather than what we have read on a social media echo chamber whose platform cares about nothing more than a click.

I am under no misconception that this is an easy topic or one devoid of the emotional aspects of making decisions.  People have feelings and they are important and should be handled with care, but I believe that those activities have to be mutually exclusive. I believe I can have a hard conversation with someone that I disagree with while showing love and concern. I know all that read this won’t share the same faith as me. But what is my faith worth if I can’t display love and concern with those I interact with?  We can’t use the excuse that these conversations are difficult or emotional as reasons not to address this or any other issue for that matter.  I would argue that it’s the difficult topics if addressed and collaborated on to solve, that could lead to the most change and or restoration that needs to happen in our communities, state and country.

My hope is that people will read these words and that it will either spur conversation or at least generate internal monologue about what people believe and why. I am asking that we be bold, be willing to challenge ourselves for the greater good.  As stated in my first editorial for Oklahoma Gazette, this is my attempt to bridge the divide starting in our own communities.  Leadership isn’t easy but it is necessary.  Let us remember we all have a leadership role, most importantly in our
own homes.

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