Opinion

Sly James: A mayor’s thanks for peace amid polarizing politics

'We are not afraid of immigrants,' mayor tells protesters at KCI

Kansas City Mayor Sly James thanked people protesting the Trump immigration order for their peaceful resistance on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 29, 2017, at Kansas City International Airport.
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Kansas City Mayor Sly James thanked people protesting the Trump immigration order for their peaceful resistance on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 29, 2017, at Kansas City International Airport.

There is simply no getting around the fact that we are in the midst of polarizing times. Because of this, I want to acknowledge concerns raised by residents across our city in recent days and weeks.

For politicians in Washington, it can be easy to toss around slogans or engage in politically motivated policymaking. However, by the time these decisions reach our cities, they have real consequences. They affect real people’s lives. The lives of teachers or parents, business owners and students in our communities. Our friends, neighbors and family. People who want a better life for their kids and families. And what has come out of Washington in the last 10 days are actions that drive wedges between people.

Whether it’s a travel ban that targets a religious group under the guise of national security, proposing walls to keep people out or casually making false claims of widespread voter fraud, these actions question the very foundation of our character as a people and a democracy.

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Just this week, I had the pleasure of welcoming third-grader Finn, newly elected “mayor” of his class here in Kansas City. He is everything we want our kids to be. Bright-eyed, curious and compassionate. Finn’s questions were written on notecards, and we talked for about 30 minutes. His last question said so much. “I have a friend at school. He is a Muslim. I am worried about him. I want to know, will you save him?”

Protecting our country is a priority every elected official shares in every town, city and state. But we also know that our city is made stronger by our openness, diversity and tolerance. So when our community in Kansas City stands up for what it believes is right or stands up against policies that do not reflect our character, I support it wholeheartedly.

We have a lot to be proud of in our city right now, and we have big challenges we must work together to solve.

I am proud of the thousands who have gathered in recent weeks to exercise their constitutional rights, to stand up, speak out and show the country what our city stands for.

But I’m especially proud because our city has done it peacefully. This is the only way we can display what we stand for. Peaceful, focused advocacy.

Mayors are a reflection of the values of the cities they serve. That’s why I told people gathered at the airport this weekend that this isn’t about President Donald Trump or one party or the other. This is not about who we oppose or fear. This is about who we are and who we want to be. This is about us. Our character as a city and community. We cannot surrender to bigotry or manufactured fear. That undermines our focused and peaceful opposition to issues that drive wedges between us.

We cannot realize our vision for a better future through anger. We cannot enhance, or honor, our community by violence.

So it’s on us to speak out. But we can never compromise our character. We must agree on and protect the dignity of all our neighbors.

As long as I am honored to serve the city I love as its mayor, I will do all that I can to both stand up for and protect the citizens of this great city. And we will continue to be a city that welcomes people looking for a better life. A community that builds bridges across our divides and works tirelessly to make our city the best place in the world to live, work and raise our families in peace and fellowship.

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