Speaking up

One year ago, Stearns County Commissioner Joe Perske called those who rightly questioned election processes to be undermining democracy and pseudo-patriots. While commissioners have often ignored citizens who have asked questions about county elections, it’s less common for commissioners to make their feelings so plain. Reflecting on this period, where I attended and paid close attention to county commissioner meetings, had me today reviewing this post from October 2022, detailing 6 election-related stories. How far we’ve come in such a short time! In October 2022, it wasn’t yet clear to many how broken the election process is. This October, it is plainly obvious to many more. And it’s not only that people are questioning presidential elections, but all elections.

Not that everyone we would hope has been outspoken about it (but that’s also part of the learning process—be careful who you follow). Even the commissioners or auditors or clerks I have come across who seem to get it have had to walk carefully given the eyes on them in their offices.

About 55 days prior, feelings had also been made plain by at least one commissioner, when on August 2, 2022, in a meeting of the Sherburne County Commissioner Board, a citizen was removed by the bailiff while making a public comment at the podium, a clear violation of the 1st amendment. (I was ashamed that I did not speak up for her—I want to be someone who does what he says he will do and be a champion for those asking for accountability—but I did support her as she made her case to the Sheriff’s Chief Deputy who helped her come back into the board room where she continued her speech, only to yet again have her mic cut.)

Two weeks later, something changed—apologies were made by the commissioners and the county administrator. (But not for hiding the truth about election process, systems, and results in their county, merely for removing someone from a public meeting with no right to do so.)

What happened in the interim? I don’t know. But I think someone was doing their job, possibly the Chief Deputy, and realized the gravity of removing someone from a public comment (open forum) period when there was nothing wrong with what was being said. And that if the county didn’t try to reconcile, there could have been real grounds for some kind of a 1st amendment related suit. (Based on the footage, there probably still could be.)

But what matters more to me personally is what I learned watching myself not speak up when I saw my fellow citizen being removed. If I wasn’t going to stand up and speak up in that situation, who was? And when would I stand up and speak up?

The world I want to live in is where each one of us takes personal responsibility in each of our domains and speaks and acts when called to. It’s a choice. Having to work through the deep tangles we are in is great practice for what’s to come.

A writer I read has put it well, that the military can protect us from extinction events but we the people must work for accountability, making it a daily practice, if we are to have a place worth living and also to thrive after justice is brought. It is as though the battle is akin to the Micky Ward vs Alfonso Sanchez matchup in The Fighter, where the enemy only has so many punches before they leave themselves too weak to a strong well-placed and decisive counter-punch. Micky was not leaving himself undefended. He was taking punches, yes, but he was braced for them, prepared, so that each one did minimal damage. Until it was time to strike back and take down his adversary.

While taking the punches, there’s also the matter of separating wheat from chaff. The matter of discovering who will stand up in support of you, and who will shy away. Remember, each of us has to choose accountability or even freedom—that can’t be forced upon anyone. The recent activity around the MNGOP has been indicative of that. Regardless of whether the party retains or loses major party status, something was learned about each person who was confronted with the information. Were they dismissive? Curious? Evasive? Helpful?

In general, I’ve often recommended documenting what is happening and what you are doing in your local areas, like these Anoka citizens are doing. When shared it shows those around you what is possible and what it takes to sometimes stand alone before others join in. How to be consistent, sometimes taking punch after punch, just waiting for the moment when the opposing side’s lies have run out, when they have reached the point where there are no good moves left.

What a difference a year makes.

And where will we be in another year?

Keep in mind, our CIC has very recently said, “I don’t know that it takes another year, you wanna know the truth.” That encourages me to continue the practice of speaking up.

For more on how CIC’s comms point to a significant resolution months prior to election time next year (and how he is the CIC), Derek Johnson’s posts are instructive, mentioned briefly in a previous post, Too many laws? Be prepared to read.

The 17th basket at Riverside in St. Cloud, MN