Editorial: From basketball to bricks, incivility finds a home in Lawrence

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Civility has not been rampant in Lawrence recently. The uncivil incident that much of the country saw last week involved an end-of-game brawl between the KU and Kansas State basketball teams. But the incident that should stick in the minds of those who live in the community involves a brick through the mayor’s window.

First, the brawl. KU and the Big 12 Conference handled the aftermath pretty well. The suspensions were fair, and both coach Bill Self and Athletic Director Jeff Long seemed appropriately concerned.

Unfortunately, some KU fans didn’t perform nearly as well. They made a lot of ill-conceived attempts at justification. In that regard, they were no smarter than Silvio De Sousa. Both need to know when to throw up their hands and walk away.

We will see what happens next, but fans — and, more importantly, Long — should use this incident to pause and take stock. Put the fandom aside. Is this basketball program really trending in the right direction?

Now, the rock through the window. Mayor Jennifer Ananda confirmed what the Journal-World had reported. A brick was thrown through the window of her home. It included a message related to the contentious debate about funding levels for services for the homeless.

Ananda said she refused to meet “rage with rage,” and invited the person to participate in restorative justice and meet with her to discuss the issue of homelessness. That’s admirable, and such a conversation could be appropriate. But, make no mistake, it should happen in the visitors room of the Douglas County Jail.

Hopefully the individual who threw the brick will be caught, and hopefully prosecutors will find a law to charge the individual that goes beyond simply vandalism. Just like how battery of a law enforcement officer is charged differently from battery on a normal individual, there should be a higher law that applies to vandalism or threats against public officials. A person is not just attacking an individual, but rather is trying to damage our system of government. We should take that seriously not only in Washington, D.C., but here at home.

Ananda, who along with her two traumatized children deserve our good thoughts, is correct that discussion is needed in the aftermath of this incident. It should be a broad community discussion, and it should go beyond the idea that we need to be more civil. We all know that.

Instead, we need to have a discussion about how to use the enormous amount of energy that exists in Lawrence. Currently, there are few positive outlets for that energy. Railing against something or someone consumes much of the community’s energy. Lawrence is at risk of having its brand become the Angry Activists. We need to guard against that.

One strategy would be to really work at finding an issue where we all could direct our energy at creating something positive rather than stopping something negative. Yes, there are times we must all take stands, and sometimes those stands involve negativity. That will continue to be the case. But we need to find a common cause to offset some of that negativity.

To do that, we must first agree on some sort of common vision. What can Lawrence be the best at? To have that conversation, we must first get everybody to come together. That is no easy task. Lawrence is in need of a crossover leader: someone who can earn the respect of people in multiple camps. It is unclear who that will be. Maybe one of the new voices on the City Commission can play that role. It would be their most important contribution to the community.

Let’s hope that happens. In the meantime, let’s thank Ananda and all our public officials for their service. There is a risk to serving, and we should thank them for taking it. We should give thanks because it is the civil thing to do. Recent events show we could use the practice.


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