Cat Urbigkit: On Character — Is This Who We Want To Be?

Columnist Cat Urbigkit writes: "As I drove down the street, just a few blocks from the elementary school was a 'Fuck Joe Biden' sign hanging on the side of a building (not the less obscene 'Lets Go Brandon' that carries the same meaning)."

Cat Urbigkit

July 27, 20225 min read

Cat urbigkit cropped scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

{Warning: This column includes obscene language.}

A few months ago, I was invited to give a presentation to children at a rural school in northern Colorado. As I drove down the street, just a few blocks from the elementary school was a “Fuck Joe Biden” sign hanging on the side of a building (not the less obscene “Let’s Go Brandon” that carries the same meaning). This sign was located on the main street to the elementary school, where all the kids riding the bus, or walking or biking to school, would see it every morning.

On a recent drive to Farson, I watched as a car cruised back and forth, a large flag with the same slogan hanging off the back, a one-car parade with its obscene message. I saw a pickup truck carrying the same message in Pinedale, on the street between the grocery store and a bank. People fly these flags with an in-your-face pride. The crowd chanted the message at a University of Wyoming football game. A recent conservative conference featured students running a booth selling merchandise with the same slogan.

Is this what we’ve become as a nation? Is this who we want to be?

I see a group of like-minded Republicans dog whistling their wish to “restore conservative values” during this election season. Try as I might, I’m not really getting what values those are when I look at the words and actions of those candidates and their supporters. Let’s review.

Anonymous websites ranking elected officials by a slanted scorecard. Vandalizing opponents’ political signs in the dead of night. Casually suggesting any Republican that doesn’t share a certain view is a RINOs. Calling people “evil.” Calling elected officials “tyrants.” Claiming that those who disagree with you “hate you.”

Brushing off the seriousness of the physical attack on our nation’s capitol while Congress was in session or engaging in whataboutism to avoid facing the issue. Claiming to “back the blue,” while calling those arrested for joining an illegal mob that beat and stomped cops into unconsciousness “political prisoners.”

Calling an elected official who dares to disagree on an issue a “traitor” while those who agree are called “patriots.” Pretending and falsely promoting the idea that successful political opponents or statesmen are corrupt or are “swamp creatures.”

Calling an elected official a “cunt” and suggesting she kill herself – which not long ago would have been a shameful disqualifier, but has emboldened the man to run for the Republican nomination to the Wyoming Legislature.

Proposing to “fix bayonets” to “the third rib” over a political issue, but calling it merely figurative speech – all the while knowing that such inflammatory statements have resulted in death threats to both elected officials, and to election officials.

While touting the importance of “religious freedom,” attempting to impose certain religious doctrines on all of us. Condemning those who support keeping abortion as legalized reproductive healthcare as “baby killers,” but supporting male political candidates who have had reportedly engaged in extramarital affairs, sexual misconduct, or have paid for abortions.

Engaging in whisper campaigns, spreading rumors, telling blatant lies, or touting straw man fallacies. Publicly taunting members of the public and opponents for how they look, or who they love, or for physical disabilities.

Campaigning on populist national issues rather than generating solutions to address issues Wyoming actually faces. Continuing to support a party leader who is an astounding and proven liar, and who surrounds himself with other liars, grifters, and criminals.

If these are examples of conservative values … oops, my mistake. I must have been confusing values with virtues – you know, those qualities that comprise a person’s moral constitution, that define their essential character.

Touting values without virtues seems to be what has led to the current crisis in the character of our country. Because without virtue, the ends do justify the means. And because Republicans are all conservative Biden haters, it’s socially acceptable to put up Fuck Joe Biden signs for our children to gaze upon.

What kind of moral lesson are we teaching? When you put the marks on your election ballot this year, think about not just the “values” your candidate is promoting, but what virtues he or she is demonstrating in trying to get into elected office. It matters. Honor, integrity, truth – they matter.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

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Cat Urbigkit

Public Lands and Wildlife Columnist