Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kansan

I wrote this early yesterday morning and posted a link to the Google Docs location plus tweeted and provided links on Facebook but have decided to also place it here for those who want easy access to it or don't like clicking on links. Our state's new SRS Secretary, Rob Siedlecki, he was a Kansan because he bought a house here and is paying taxes. Siedlecki has been here less than year so him saying he's a Kansan is essentially the same as me moving to New York City and after a day there considering myself a New Yorker but there is more to being a New Yorker and there is more to being a Kansan, which is something Siedlecki is nowhere near accomplishing.

Robert Hall Pearson, fought in the Battle of
Black Jack in 1856 and bought the land
soon after to start a farm, becoming a Kansan.
I was reading an article about how the new SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki is proposing to move juvenile services to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Opponents of the move, including some Republicans from the Kansas City area, say that the move would harm programs that are helping young people and keeping the public safe and that the proposal was offered without any input from experts. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Senator Tim Owens, a Republican from Overland Park said. Owens also said that it was offensive that people have not bothered to learn what is going on in Kansas before trying to change things. Siedlecki came to Kansas from Florida last year. Siedlecki responded with since he bought a house and is paying taxes here, “I prefer you call me a Kansan.”

Being able to take this picture does not
make you a Kansan. Taken from here.
Just because you bought a house here and are paying taxes doesn’t mean you are automatically a Kansan, especially after a little less than a year. I could buy a place in New York and pay taxes but that doesn’t make me a New Yorker. When you are a transplant from somewhere else, you have to earn the privilege of being called a New Yorker, a Floridian, a Texan and, yes, even a Kansan. Immediately considering yourself one is an insult to the people you live around. By immediately considering yourself a Kansan, you are insulting actual Kansans who were born here and those who have planted roots here. Siedlecki has no roots here. His daughters live with their mother in another state and once Governor Brownback is out of office, Siedlecki is off to the next state. He also has not taken the time to learn about our wonderful state—it’s history, culture, people—despite being given ample opportunity to. Going to a Chiefs game doesn’t make you a Kansan. Going to a KU basketball game doesn’t make you a Kansan.

View looking northeast from the White
Cloud Overlook in Doniphan County.
Memorial for Sarah Keyes, a member of
the Donner Party who died near Alcove
Spring in Marshall County.

Location of the house my grandparents
lived in after moving to Lawrence. The wide
street on the right is Iowa Street, 27th Street
is at the top and the big building in the center
is Sears.
I’ve spent entire days in the heart of the Flint Hills, marveling at how amazing they look; I’ve seen four states from the White Cloud overlook; I’ve traveled the Oregon Trail from Lawrence to the Big Blue River and the Santa Fe Trail from Gardner to Council Grove; I’ve watched the sun set in western Kansas and have wandered many cemeteries. I have immersed myself in this state’s history and culture not because I have to but because I am proud of where I am from and even if we may disagree on some topics, the citizens of Kansas are my brothers and sisters. I pay attention to what happens in my state from Treece to Reading to Greensburg. My Grandma and Grandpa came to Kansas from Kansas City, Missouri in the 1950s and moved to Lawrence. They brought their family with them, a family that remains today. They planted roots here and those roots continue. I have planted roots here by having my own family. I am here to stay. I care about what happens in Kansas because what happens in Kansas also happens to me.

A view of the Flint Hills in Wabaunsee County
Maybe Robert Siedlecki feels it’s as easy as buying a house and paying taxes to become a Kansan but to me, that just shows how out of touch he is and how little he really cares about the people of Kansas. You don’t get to decide that you’re a Kansan, the people of Kansas do and I’m sure they would agree with me. And, while I know it’s kind of silly, what Robert Siedlecki said offended me, he has essentially bastardized and cheapened my heritage all just to make his career look better. You are not a Kansan, Mr. Siedlecki. And you never will be.

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