I went to our mailbox a couple of days ago and retrieved two letters – one addressed to me and the other addressed to my wife. The letters were dated October 13 with the usual local Columbus, Ohio postmark. I opened my letter, unfolded the one page contents, and began to read the enclosed flier.
The flier informed me that Kevin W. Johnson, candidate for Scioto County Commissioner, was (1) a gay activist, (2) an alcoholic, (3) an atheist, and (4) a troublemaker (the word in all caps) who had wrecked the city while serving as Portsmouth Council member.
To make matters worse, the flier heartlessly featured a photo of Mr. Johnson's “gay lover who died of AIDS” and pointed accusations of Kevin Johnson being an unwanted outsider “not from Scioto County. In large, bold print at the close of the flier, it read “IS THIS WHO YOU WANT AS COUNTY COMMISSIONER???” The intent of the correspondence clearly was to defile Kevin Johnson.
Shock and a feeling of utter disgust filled me as I realized the letter was the most despicable, slanderous election scheme I have ever seen. Of course, this vicious attack was carried out by some of those supporting Kevin Johnson's opponent. There is no doubt about this although no affiliation or signature was used. How cowardly of the perpetrator(s) to remain anonymous.
Angered, I wondered how any low-life slug(s) could have printed such garbage and mailed it to me. In fact, although I felt exceedingly sorry for Mr. Johnson as the victim of his opponents, I took it as a personal affront because I support Kevin W. Johnson for county commissioner. I have discovered this mailing was perhaps targeted.
I know Kevin Johnson, so I knew he would respond forcefully to this affront. He said this on his Facebook page in response to the letter:
“Though I was advised that my opponent's campaign (or a supporter thereof) would resort to malicious and repugnant attempts to defeat me, I never thought they would attack my Paul as well.
“How DARE they !! Paul suffered from bone cancer for six painful months before passing away on March 20, 2009. HOW DARE THEY !!
“Say all you want of me; even if not true (like absolutely all this malignant screed except for the fact I am not from Scioto County). But if you wish to attack Paul, please join me out back of my place any night, you scum.
“Evidently my opponent's campaign needs to resort to this type of crap. IS THIS WHO YOU WANT AS COUNTY COMMISSIONER???”
Kevin W. has served the City of Portsmouth with distinction as a council member. I admire his intellect and his initiative as he strives to make our community better. He can be outspoken, and I like this about him. He is not one to sit passively and merely rubber stamp decisions and ideas. Kevin cares about details, and he will act independently when necessary to meet critical standards. In short, he is the kind of leader I want to guide our county.
I really don't have to defend Mr. Johnson against his opponents. He is perfectly capable of doing so himself. Yet, I feel obliged to make some comments about the “charges” leveled against him.
Vindictive campaigns in Scioto County are symptoms of a sickness in the political system. Perpetrators of maintaining the system employ threats and lies to insure their domination of the local government in this county. With a “good old boy” mentality, that group exerts tremendous pressure and control that fosters inequality and injustice. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am a realist who has experienced firsthand how the system works. Money, power, and influence control much of the county.
Those in the system are often guilty of homophobic, prejudiced behavior, but they cloak it under the guise of being Bible-thumping, “right-thinking” Conservatives. In truth, they are judgmental hypocrites bent on keeping the poor and underprivileged under the boot of oppression. They frequently use accusations as a tool to “dirty” the opposition. And, let's not forget that money – as Kevin said, “expensive color copies” – also insures greasing the system in place.
No person should be subjected to the violations endured by Kevin W. Johnson. With the clear intention of demeaning him – no, destroying the man – his opponents attempt to besmirch Johnson with unspeakable ad hominem attacks designed to play upon bias and false rumors. Think of it. In one page, Kevin W. is accused of being an alien troublemaker, an alcoholic, and an atheist. And, we all know what labeling him “a gay activist whose gay lover died of AIDS” is meant to convey to the closed-minded in Scioto County, don't we?
Politics can be messy. Politics can even be falsely accusatory. However, politics must never cross the line of decency as criminal behavior. I would ask you once more – “What kind of person(s) would resort to this level of foul, lewd behavior in a misguided attempt to sway an election? I think the answer is obvious.
As First Lady Michelle Obama said while defending her husband's legacy, Barack Obama has risen above personal attacks and taken the high road even as opponents have questioned his patriotism, his honesty, his citizenship and his faith.
"Are you going to get angry or lash out?" she asked. "Or are you going to take a deep breath, straighten your shoulders, lift up your head, and do what Barack Obama has always done — as he says, 'When they go low, I go high.'"
"That’s the choice Barack and I have made. That’s what has kept us sane over the years. We simply do not allow space in our hearts, minds, or souls for darkness," she said.
I believe Kevin W. Johnson, an ex-Marine, will also remain “always faithful” to taking that “high ground,” and he will defeat the dark forces that threaten to destroy his character. I believe that those who connived to write this letter will pay for their despicable conduct. I believe that love always defeats evil -- this is no exception.
* Here is the text of the letter so that you can refer to it for yourself: