I learned important lessons about free speech growing up on a ranch. As a kid, the hired hands would teach me interesting new words down in the barn. I’d practice my new vocabulary on the walk up to the house.
When I, with a certain pride, clearly enunciated my new word to Mom, out came the Lava soap. Lava is gritty, foul and tastes like a toxic waste dump, but it was a great mechanism for teaching me about free speech and consequences.
I learned that not every word is suitable for every occasion, despite the First Amendment. I learned that our language is very powerful, and like any powerful thing it is most effective when used with circumspection and wisdom.
There is a GOP precinct committeeman in Park County, Troy Bray, who has not learned those lessons and has obviously never tasted Lava soap. He recently wrote Wyoming Senator Tara Nethercott, castigating her for how she does her job, and suggesting that she commit suicide.
Bray closed his letter, on GOP letterhead, with a string of vulgarities unworthy of a thinking adult.
To their credit, both the Speaker of the Wyoming House and the President of the Senate have asked this knucklehead to resign his position because of the venomous nature of his letter. Apparently the Park County GOP Men’s Glee Club has cut their ties with him as well.
But Bray says on his Facebook page that he won’t resign. And more than a few people are supporting and defending him, including several elected officials. They like his “firebrand” style apparently, and agree with his street-fight rhetoric.
Bray is among a number of GOP officials, both past and present, who are trying to hijack Wyoming’s political heritage and replace it with their brand of scorched earth politics. They are trying to change the very vocabulary of how we do politics in Wyoming by injecting their vulgarity and hate into our common discourse.
They like to characterize themselves and each other as “patriots” and defenders against some sort of ill-defined Deep State. Yet their rhetoric and behavior is that of rabid contestants for “Sphincter of the Month”.
The Brays, the Correntis, the Clems and the rest of that narrow wedge of the Republican Party in Wyoming are betting the farm that you, the Wyoming voter, will respond to their message of fear and division.
They’re going all-in wagering that they can replace the way Wyoming has conducted its political business for more than a century with their crude style of swagger and bluster.
They want to change how we talk about politics, from the measured, respectful language we grew up with to the sputtering, bug-eyed filth that Bray spewed in his letter to Nethercott.
Is Bray’s political speech protected by the First Amendment? Of course it is. But the Constitution offers no indemnity from the consequences of speaking freely.
If we, for any reason, permit this small but noisy bunch of demagogues to succeed in taking over our political life, then we have only ourselves to blame. Unless we want our future civic discourse to be conducted in “expletive deleted”, we need to act soon to put a stop to this nonsense.
Since Wyoming has no statutory mechanism to remove elected officials, and since Bray and a lot of his defenders have election certificates, we as voters will have to go old-school on them.
Educate yourselves about Bray and his supporters. Find out who they are, where they live, what precinct or district they represent. Then, on election day, use your vote to reject this festering pustule on Wyoming’s body politic.
When you have that ballot in your hand, look at it for a moment. Imagine that its a big ol’ bar of Lava soap. Then get to work teaching a lesson about consequences.