Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Before Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Lexington restaurant, before the Attorney General of Florida was heckled at a movie theater, before the Kentucky Senator was accosted at his vehicle, I spoke to a group of young ladies at Girls State in Farmville. This is always a great opportunity to hear the issues and ideas of nearly a hundred young ladies. Each year, I find them some of the most intelligent rising high school seniors in the state. They have fun asking serious questions on a wide range of issues, and I, in turn, have fun answering questions or requiring them to delve deeper into issues. All of us enjoy the back and forth on issues.

This year was slightly different. There were no questions about education testing nor abortion issues. Many of the questions related to the role of teenagers taking leadership roles, such as the students who protested after shootings in Florida. Some wanted to know if I objected to high school students publicly addressing issues. I assured them that I had no qualms about young people being involved. This issue arose with slightly different elements several times. Each time I responded that there is nothing wrong with speaking out as long as it was done in a civil and respectful way.

Later, as we prepared to leave, several young ladies stayed to speak to me one-onone. Two young ladies, separately, came to me and told me similar things. They were afraid to state their opinions in the group because they were afraid that it would define them as conservatives. They perceived that almost everyone else in attendance was more liberal than they. They wanted to speak out on issues but believed that they would be ostracized by all the others. I tried to talk them through the situation, however, it does relate to what is and has been happening nationally, an effort to shut up others using aggression.

The issues at the beginning of this piece did the exact opposite of that in which I advised. They were neither civil nor respectful of those with which they disagreed. These were not the first, but it should be a warning that we are not teaching our young people that, in a free and open society, this is unacceptable. No group of people have a corner on this type of behavior, but it has gotten worse in the last 10 years. The Occupy Wall Street stepped up the obnoxious activities several years ago leaving filth in cities all-around the country. Senator Chuck Schumer from New York and Democrat leader of the Senate and Congresswomen from California Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters all seem to believe that this is proper behavior and do nothing other than to fan the flame. The president, likewise, fans the flames with his rhetoric. I would point out, however that knowing that his personality is such that he responds to attacks with counter-attacks, they began attacking him within moments of the polls closing. It used to be that Presidents had several months in office before the attacks started. I assume that era is over.

Hopefully, the two young ladies at Girls State did speak out expressing their views, those on the different side of issues did likewise, and they all left Farmville as friends as in years past.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen. Ruff@verizon.net.