Guest Commentary: Polarization and judgement needs to stop, everywhere
It is with deep and humble gratitude that I thank you for your encouragement & support for the appointment to the Lee County Board of County Commission. It moves me beyond words, as you selflessly walked beside me on this journey. Because of this, I want to take a moment to share with you a summary of this experience as I contemplate, learn and grow from it.
On July 11, 12:02 p.m. I received one of several calls from The Governor’s Chief of Staff, excited to share that The Governor has selected me for the vacant District 3 County Commission seat. He stated that he is now working on the press release, and would be sending it out within two hours. Before he hit send, there were three calls he would make. Two to big local Republican donors, and one to the acting chair of the Board of County Commission, Brian Hamman. They felt it best these folks heard the news directly from The Governor’s Office before it hit the press. He said he would be calling me back within 120 minutes, and would hit send on the release. I thanked him, and told him I would wait to hear back from him.
A few hours later, Shane did call me back. He immediately asked if I had hosted fundraisers for Democratic candidates. I replied that I had not hosted any fundraisers for Democratic candidates. I did share that in 2018, I attended a local gathering to meet Nikki Fried who was running for Commissioner of Agriculture. This invitation was extended by a wonderful Republican friend who felt Ms. Fried would make an excellent Commissioner. Ms. Fried is a Democrat. After hearing her message celebrating pro-business, pro-growth, pro-agriculture and pro-hemp, my husband and I gladly donated to her campaign.
The second question I was asked is if I was affiliated with the REC. I replied that I was not a part of the REC (Republican Executive Committee).
The third and final question was in reference to my stance on women’s reproductive rights. That I am a supporter of Planned Parenthood. I calmly began to explain that the County Commission does not make decisions regarding this issue. But regardless, I expressed that I do not sit in judgement of pro-life / pro-choice. Many decades ago I was robbed of the opportunity to have children, and I choose not to judge others.
In June 1990, a month after graduating from college and yet to find an adult job / health insurance, I found myself meeting a young man and realizing I might get involved with him. I sought birth control and thankfully a friend told me about a free health clinic a few miles away in New Haven.
After being examined at this clinic, I was not given birth control, but was asked to come back the following week to be seen by a physician from Yale who donates one lunch hour a week to see four patients. This nurse wanted me to be one, as she felt like something was wrong. I was not pleased! But by the grace of God I went back the following week. And within 24 hours I found myself on an operating table at Yale-New Haven hospital having “exploratory” surgery. I woke up 11 hours later to learn that I had ovarian cancer, and that both of my ovaries were removed. At 21 years old, with zero symptoms and zero health insurance…. this accidental discovery literally saved my life. So yes, I have shared many times that Planned Parenthood saved my life.
I didn’t get to share this entire story with Shane. He stopped me a few sentences in by saying “I know, I read the article.” I still to this day don’t know which article he is referring to. Most interviews I have done include this story. When asked “Why are you so positive?” or “What experience most impacted your life?”, I always cite this one. To find this cancer so fatefully, at a free health care clinic in the middle of New Haven….. I knew that I was left on this earth for some reason bigger than me. And still to this day I take that responsibility VERY SERIOUS.
As our conversation came to a close, Shane told me to sit tight, that he would be back in touch. And when we send out the press release, to use this office when connecting with the media. I shared that I would be happy to do that, and appreciated the opportunity.
I never heard from Shane again.
For the past 21 days, I have sat with this experience. I chose to remain quiet during this phase, so that the process would work itself out without my interference. Today, as we learn how this seat will now be filled, I choose to reach out to you and share because of your gracious support. I am at peace knowing that this experience has made me a stronger, more whole person. I proudly stand by my morals, values, honesty and integrity. I embrace my collaborative mind, not following the tribe just because I am a part of it, but taking each and every person & issue individually and making the best decision I can. Nikki Fried has NO IDEA who I am, or that my support of her has forever changed the trajectory of my life. Yet I will forever be thankful that I chose her. After years and years of donating to only Republican candidates, this one-time fateful donation has been an incredible gift showcasing my core belief in convening and co-existing.
I applaud amazing women who are tirelessly shedding light on the vital importance of access to health care, and family planning. Barbara Pierce Bush, who’s Republican Daddy and Grandaddy ran our country… visited Naples this winter sharing this exact message at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser. www.gulfshorelife.com/2018/01/30/barbara-bush-and-the-battle-for-womens-health/. U.S. Senator Susan Collins R-ME also received their 2017 Barry Goldwater Award which recognizes Republican lawmakers who champion reproductive health care issues and who work to ensure the rights granted to women.
I am a Republican woman who can see the good in the other side. Who supports access to health care and family planning. Who has spent two decades in this community working toward a healthier, happier more connected community. My story is not one about membership into a particular political party. It is also not about Planned Parenthood. And shame on those who made it about that.
This week in my daily mediation practice, Deepak Chopra shared…. Use Your Energy to Heal and Transform. And this I will. This polarization needs to stop. This hate and fear needs to stop. This judgement needs to stop. We are hurting ourselves, and one another. We are destroying our planet. We are toxifying our water supply, our air, our minds. I am forever thankful for this experience, and the 21 day reflection. I know deep in my soul that the answers are available, if we choose to sit quietly long enough to hear them.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I am forever in gratitude for your love and support,