Mayor of Marionville, Mo., trips over vile speech

04/22/2014 7:11 PM

04/22/2014 7:11 PM

In the aftermath of the three fatal shootings outside Jewish-oriented facilities in Overland Park last week, a spotlight was shone 190 miles away, in the town of Marionville, Mo.

The accused shooter hailed from nearby and an avowed friend of his was the recently elected mayor of Marionville, Dan Clevenger. After the horrific killings on April 13, Clevenger had the impolitic impulse to utter a few words about his view of Jewish people in business and government. That put him in line with his anti-Semitic, white Supremacist, charged-with-murder buddy. But it didn’t sit well with many of those around him.

Clevenger, of course, has his free speech privilege to say whatever foul thing comes into his head (with widely recognized limits regarding defamation and inciting violence). No one is denying him that right. But as a public official, Clevenger has now learned that speech has its consequences. On Monday night his community stepped up on the side of civility and forced Clevenger to resign.

As reported, in words and video, by the

Springfield News Leader

, Marionville’s aldermen had voted, 4-1, to begin impeachment proceedings. The public meeting was at times a loud free-for-all. Some residents expressed concern that Clevenger’s ill-advised statements had brought unwanted attention and embarrassment to their community and would harm local businesses.

A former mayor of Marionville, Bob Duda, dressed down Clevenger, saying his words were “vile and disgusting.” Which, of course, they were.

Clevenger made his resignation official with a one-sentence letter delivered Tuesday morning.

That some residents had defended him and subtly echoed his views was evidence that much more work needs to be done in the realm of outreach, bridge-building and tolerance.

In the wake of the shootings, many people have declared that silence was not an option and citizens need to speak up in the face of abhorrent and vicious extremism. The community of Marionville, Mo., population 2,225, did just that, and they should be applauded. And many more communities should follow suit.

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