It’s me again. I wrote you back in August about Critical Race Theory and its nonexistence in Arkansas schools. You reached out after that and said you’d like to take me up on my invitation to come to Ozark, tour the public school and visit our ranch. You said you’d look for some dates that would work for you and get back with me. I’m eager to see what those dates are. I know you have been very busy with your tour around Arkansas, and can only imagine how difficult it is to juggle everything you have going on in your life. The invitation remains open.
Until we are able to get together, I need to add something to the list of things for us to talk about. After I saw your first television ad, I commented on your Twitter: “I wanted to like your new ad. Felt hopeful when it started with bipartisanship and celebration of progress in AR. Then it veered completely off course with divisive talk of the ‘radical left’ who want ‘to teach our kids America is a racist and evil country.’ Which is it? Come together or fear each other? Support teachers or scapegoat us to fire up a far right base? Who are you, Sarah? I really want to know.”
When you did not respond to my comment, I texted you the same thing. You did not answer my text either. I hope I am not bothering you. But once again I am asking who you are, Sarah. Because I really do want to know. Especially if you may be our next governor. It’s possible I just don’t understand your campaign messages, but it seems like you send mixed signals.
Here is how I experienced your ad: I thought you seemed earnest and kind and real when you started talking. The film of your dad and Bill Clinton at Central High School was touching to me. I remember that day. Along with appreciation for the obvious importance of the celebration, it felt good to hear you say, “I will never forget … watching my dad, a Republican governor, and Bill Clinton, a Democrat president, hold open the doors for the Little Rock Nine.” You continued, “Good triumphed over evil. That is who we are.” I wanted to shout, “Amen!”
I wish you had ended it there.
But in the next moment your tone completely changes. You’re no longer smiling when you shift the focus of the ad to the “radical left.” You sound angry and even bare your teeth a little when you say they want “to teach our kids that America is a racist and evil country.” Then you shift back, warm again, and say, “But Arkansans are generous, hard-working people.” You see yourself as our last line of defense, keeping Arkansas from becoming socialist, championing our schools, defending our shared values.
By the end of the ad I felt sad and confused. I agree with you that America is not an inherently and forever racist and evil country. But recognizing our past missteps is what ensures that we are not. Ignoring those mistakes or demonizing those who teach the good while also recognizing our past mistakes only dooms our state to repeat those mistakes. Remember what Santayana said, and Churchill after him? “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Are we able to point out our past mistakes without condemning our future as a nation or state? The clear answer lies in that clip of your dad, President Clinton and the Little Rock Nine: it’s Central High’s redemption.
If I accept your argument then I have to believe you think you have to protect Arkansas, and our way of life, from the rest of the country. The irony of this in your ad is that it was America who forced Arkansas to open the doors of Central High School to the Little Rock Nine. It was us — Arkansans — back then who stood in the way. And we were wrong. So terribly wrong. Thank God America the Beautiful demanded better of us. Reminded us of who we should be.
Arkansans are hardworking and generous. I love my home state too, and came back here to raise my family, too. I believe this is the best state in the country. It’s my favorite place in the whole world. I am also honest enough and learned history well enough to admit we have a history of racism, and the overcoming of it, not in small part because our great country stepped in and helped us be our better selves.
Sarah, if your better self is not what I’m seeing — and there are those who say it isn’t — I need you to be braver. Be the same on the outside as you are on the inside. If you want to be governor, rise to the occasion. Be someone who heals us, not increases the hurt. Be someone who unites, not further divides us. Be a leader you, and we all, can be proud of.
No one can serve two masters. Which Sarah are you?