Recent Kansas editorials

July 23, 2019

The Kansas City Star, July 19

‘Send her back’ reminds Kansas Muslims of Olathe shooting, Garden City terror plot

Oh, for the good old days, when crowds at Trump campaign events merely chanted calls for the imprisonment of a political adversary. “Send her back!” invokes the kind of rallies you really don’t want to defend.

We’ve walked a long way in the wrong direction since Barack Obama told us that, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Or from when Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, at the height of their presidential campaign in the summer of 2008, admonished a supporter that she was wrong to say that Obama couldn’t be trusted because “He’s an Arab.”

“No ma’am,” he told her. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

“Send her back,” was of course inspired by President Donald Trump’s tweet that four minority congresswomen, three of whom are U.S.-born and all of whom are U.S. citizens, should “go back” to their own countries.

“So interesting,” the president wrote, “to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx; Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Chicago; Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit; and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar came here as a refugee from Somalia.

The president, who seems to be in constant communication with our lesser angels, would no doubt be outraged at the suggestion that somebody, somewhere, might take his “go back where you came from” ugliness to heart and act on it.

But for Kansas refugees from Somalia, it’s neither a new worry nor much of a leap.

Last year, a jury in Wichita convicted three Kansans who called themselves “the Crusaders” of scheming to kill as many Somali refugees as possible in a Garden City, Kansas, bombing that never happened.

The defense actually argued that the men had been influenced by 2016 campaign rhetoric. Though whose they did not say, they tried to pack the jury with as many Trump voters as possible. In a motion the judge rejected, defense attorneys wrote that they wanted voters from redder counties in western Kansas that went even more heavily for the president in 2016 included in the jury pool.

In hours of taped conversations, Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright talked about hoping to start a race war by detonating a series of bombs at the Garden City apartment building where many Somali refugees they called “cockroaches” live and worship.

They “wanted to send the message Muslims are not welcomed here — not in Garden City, not in Kansas, not in America,” prosecutor Risa Berkower said in her opening statement.

And where did they get that idea?

“If you all think back to the summer of ’16,” said Wright’s attorney, Kari Schmidt, “that was a very difficult time.”

Jim Pratt, the attorney for Stein, said his client believed that whatever the result of the 2016 election, Obama was not going to move out of the White House, but would instead declare martial law.

“Hate ruled the day,” he told the jury. “It was into this mix that we land.”

And from this mix that we must decide to extricate ourselves.

Moussa Elbayoumy, the Kansas board chair for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said local Muslims also remember that a white man yelling racial slurs shot two Indian engineers in a bar in Olathe two years ago, because he mistakenly thought they were Muslim.

“Get out of my country,” Adam Purinton yelled before shooting them and a third man who tried to intervene.

The president’s rhetoric and the crowd’s chant, Elbayoumy said, “present a clear and present danger to anyone who’s seen as ‘not one of us.’ People are concerned about traveling, driving and going out.”

The antidote, he said, “will take all of us saying this does not represent our values.”

It doesn’t, right?


The Manhattan Mercury, July 18

Moran was right to call Trump’s tweet ‘inappropriate’

We’re proud of Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, who this week rightly condemned a tweet by President Donald Trump.

President Trump, as you’ve probably read, had told four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to their own countries.

Sen. Moran responded to a question about the tweet during a town hall discussion in Louisburg on Monday.

“My view is that the congresswomen who the president referred to are American citizens; they are elected officials,” Moran reportedly told the 50 or so people gathered at Louisburg City Hall. “It is inappropriate to suggest they go home to any place. They are home.”

Moran also said that while he disagrees with the congresswomen on policy, he sees no reason for personal attacks.

We applaud him for sharing this classy, sensible point of view. He is the only member of the Kansas delegation who has spoken out so far.

We know that the word “racist” is especially charged these days. But that’s what President Trump’s tweet was.

Of the four congresswomen to whom he was referring, only one (Ilhan Omar of Minnesota) was born outside the United States. They are citizens, and that means they belong here. If you’re implying otherwise about a group of non-white people, then what are you really getting at? And what does it say when a president indicates that some people are less American because of their immigrant ancestors?

The House this week voted to condemn the tweet as racist. We’re disappointed that the vote count fell almost exactly along party lines. Perhaps some Republicans didn’t agree with the tweet and just didn’t agree with the resolution. The discussion about the measure reportedly devolved into a pretty big spectacle before it came to a vote.

We think more people should have followed Sen. Moran’s lead, understanding that this is not an issue of differing politics, but one of professionalism and good old-fashioned etiquette. We’re proud that Moran is showing people that this is what Kansas represents.


The Wichita Eagle, July 18

More hungry kids could get fed if Wichita schools would get with the program

Once again, the Wichita school district plans to opt out of a program that would allow many schools to offer free meals to all students.

Once again, for the sixth year, district officials say logistical concerns, paperwork and questions about potential costs will prevent them from applying for the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal initiative designed to combat hunger at high-poverty schools.

Once again, Wichita remains reluctant to implement the free-meals-for-all option, which is working well in Topeka, Kansas City, Kan., Hutchinson and Derby.

Enough with the hesitation and excuses. It’s past time for the state’s largest school district to figure this out and make it work.

The Community Eligibility Provision, a piece of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, has been available to Kansas districts since 2014. The program gives schools in high-poverty areas the option to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost to families, no questions asked.

Groups that advocate against childhood hunger, including Kansas Appleseed, say it would help ensure that more children get two healthy meals while they’re at school. And we know that well-nourished children are better able to focus in class and ultimately do better in school.

Officials in Topeka, which implemented the free-meals-for-all option five years ago, say the program’s benefits far outweigh any initial start-up struggles. This fall, 20 of the city’s 29 schools will offer free meals for everyone.

To secure state funding for at-risk students — a perennial concern voiced by Wichita officials — Topeka continues to have families complete free-lunch applications during enrollment.

Nicole Jahnke, director of child nutrition services for Topeka schools, says the paperwork and meal-tracking under Community Eligibility is no more onerous than the standard federal lunch program.

“There really isn’t any extra work that needs to be done,” Jahnke said. “Our families love the program because it saves them time and money, and our teachers love it because they know kids are getting fed.”

Qualifying districts can implement free lunches at one school, a group of schools or districtwide. Wichita could implement the program at its highest-poverty schools at no additional cost to the district.

Wichita schools have made strides toward feeding hungry children. Recent initiatives include extended serving times in cafeterias, grab-and-go meals, and “second chance breakfast,” in which students are offered breakfast after homeroom or first period. Many schools offer free after-school snacks.

The district also helps administer the Summer Food Service Program, which ensures that children in low-income areas receive nutritious meals during school vacations.

District spokeswoman Susan Arensman said infrastructure challenges will keep Wichita schools from trying the free-lunch-for-all program this year, “but (we) would still like to pilot in the future.”

We hope that’s the case. Because stalling on Community Eligibility — eschewing even the idea of a pilot project at a handful of schools — means Wichita is missing out on a program that could help thousands of families.

It’s past time to give it a try.