Why must I own the label of being a polarizing figure simply because I exercise my right to free speech?
I often grapple with this. I've discussed the discomfort I have in being labeled controversial, or in my page being labeled as such. My parents and I have starkly contrasting views. I don't hang up the phone and describe them to my friends as controversial.
If you prefer cake to pie, I don't declare you a polarizing, controversial person dividing society. But really? There's only one right choice, and it's pie.
And, I ask this because "controversial" is tag often affiliated with me. There she done go again, that woman just writing what she thinks, whenever she feels like it, however she wants! The nerve!
I mean, sure, people generally place themselves into two categories: "left" or "right," and of course we have a few middle-grounders. But, even though I consider my values left-leaning if we have to categorize them, I don't vehemently hate "the right." I don't have a knee-jerk reaction to Republicans. I have knee-jerk reaction to those who are racist, sexist and xenophobic, but that doesn't mean that I think these labels automatically apply to one side (at least not in the way many may apply them, but that's an entirely larger and different conversation to be had).
I'd prefer to be a unifying person, at least in the sense that even if we disagree, I've hosted a space that allows and encourages differences of opinion and open dialogue, where people can debate and both parties can come out alive at the end. I realize this isn't realistic with all people and on all issues, but one can dream, can't they? I mean, I hope that people have read my page and walked away having learned something or perhaps taking away a different perspective. I know I've learned things from those who comment on my page.
Today, I've been attempting to keep a lower profile and that is something I always fail at. I can still see all the posts and and the comments. I can still read all of my messages. I just can't reply to any of them until Sunday. Further, I am still active on Twitter, my current outlet, as well as going through emails.
I've been reading insane posts asserting crazy conspiracies. There is one group that has a thread going that is theorizing that I convinced my boss to basically produce a fake email, and email himself pretending to be Dunn (which is insane, especially considering that Dunn himself has now stated publicly multiple times that he authored the email). The thread further asserts that I have called women and their children names (what?), and that I've called their places of employment (DOUBLE WHAT?) in order to try and get them fired... no one can come with receipts however... but those false accusations spread and live on and people actually believe them. I'm fine taking the heat on actually truthful things about me. I willing to admit I've made posts in the past that I have regretted or that were petty... but I refuse to take ownership for simply false and inflammatory assertions that I am actively bullying or harassing anyone.
A woman wrote to my husband last night that we were going to have to "learn things the hard way" and that we're going to need luck because she doesn't "wish what's about to befall" us on anyone. I'm not sure what that means. Are people planning to harm me? My family? To attempt to dox me? To show up to my house? What exactly does this woman, who interacts in a far-right leaning group that has a secret setting on Facebook know about what is going to happen?
You see, it's one thing to sit through the usual hate comments. I'm accustomed to them now. When people don't know how to debate you they accuse you of being a cyber bully with a "potty mouth." If that's the most damning accusation someone is going to throw my way, well, fuck. I mean, I don't consider myself a cyber bully, but I understand that there are those who will grasp at straws when they feel defeated or left out (and I imagine if you've been banned from my page for what I consider hate speech or racist speech, you probably have a large, bitter bone to pick with me.) That's life. I've accepted that.
But, ominous, vague threats directed at me or my husband, well that's a new one. Defamation is a new one as well. Mike Dunn gave a statement to a media outlet last night stating I was "known for telling lies" and then he further went on to suggest, in a boldly sexist take at that, that I was a "foot soldier" for my boss and that I'm just here doing my boss's bidding. It must be an inconvenient fact that I had had my page for a year and a half before I took employment with my current company. We wouldn't want to kill the whole "women can't speak for themselves" narrative, would we? And further, despite being directly asked multiple times for examples of these lies, Mr. Dunn deflects.
But mostly, I'm just bummed that we are all fighting. I'm bummed that certain board members have fostered such a divisive environment when I really believe that most of us do want to see what's best for all of the kids that receive their education in the public school system. We care about the reputation of our district — many of us chose our homes specifically for the education here in the CVUSD for our children. And, so when groups with more extreme needs attempt to censor and cater public education to their preferences, as opposed to for the greater good... it unfortunately becomes a problem. And, I don't want to make this an issue about parent choice because I support parent choice. I admire that parents are taking a passionate stance regarding their children's education, even if we don't agree. But, that doesn't mean I won't exercise my right to voice my concern when I believe over-regulation of our curriculum's literature is damaging and will have long-term impacts on the quality of education our students receive. You can disagree with me... but threaten me? Plant lies about me? To what end? What purpose does that serve?
You don't like that I use the words "fuck" and "shit" in my blog? That's ok because you can actively choose not to follow my blog or my page. Isn't that fantastic how that works? I have yet to encountered an instance where I've forced anyone to read anything I write, and so, I often wonder why some take the time to create multiple posts about me in multiple groups, day after day. The infatuation factor is strange, and yet, it's also something I've learned to accept as part of the territory in having a public page.
When it's all said and done everything I've said above doesn't matter though, when we are reviewing the situation that is playing out. It doesn't matter at all because when you simplify this situation to its bare bones and the basics, you have a publicly elected school board trustee threatening a constituent's employer unless the employer silences the constituent from exercising her free speech at a public school board meeting, during public comments. No one should ever fear this retaliation, no matter what we agree or disagree on. I will always support your right to free speech and we should hope that is true of everyone in this community.
And, I hate that Mr. Dunn has put me in this position. There are so many things that the district needs to be focused on but they are inundated over this situation. And where does that leave me? Am I supposed to stand down? I think on the surface, this looks like a petty battle of the egos... but I've stated before, I don't believe threatening a constituent's free speech, her employer, and her livelihood is small potatoes. I really don't. And I feel this situation places me in a position to be the bad buy. If I continue the conversation... I'm the bad guy. I'm the one harming the district because this is a distraction.
On the note of polarizing, many have been asking me to run for school board this year. I believe that due to my unintended nature to create divisiveness, that I would, at least at this time, not be the best candidate to help bring the district together given the current climate. We need a board that can work together, put differences aside, and truly make the best decisions for our students and I don't want to harm that process in any way.