Watching the Sacha Baron Cohen video was a sad moment for me because the image he created is at odds with my experiences of Kingman.
At the same time, we have to admit that the tone of hate and suspicion seen in the show, along with the willingness to express it openly, is increasingly common in the political arena and daily life. Very few of us think, feel or behave this way, but it attracts a lot of attention when it rears its ugly head. What can we do?
As a Democratic candidate for Congress in this district, I must speak out. Our current congressional representative, Paul Gosar, is one of the most toxic members of Congress. Mr. Gosar has become a reliable purveyor of intolerance, recently traveling to London to spread his divisive message of bigotry and suspicion. This is not leadership and does not represent Arizona.
The voters of Kingman and CD4 face real-world problems that affect us every day. Incomes in the district are considerably lower than the rest of the state and the country, and many of us depend on Social Security and Medicare, with 130,000 of us receiving regular disability benefits.
Even more concerning to me is that younger families, the people we need to stay here, send their children to our schools and build our communities and businesses, are not finding CD4 a hospitable place to settle. The Cohen show reinforces a stereotype that gives us no chance to tell the real story.
The mocking doesn’t help a child get a better education or a hot breakfast in the morning. It doesn’t help us live up to our commitments to our veterans. It keeps away jobs because employers know it’s harder to open a business and attract good employees in a place seen as intolerant and backward.
But don’t blame Cohen alone. Consider what Mr. Gosar is doing to Kingman and CD4. When our congressional representative proudly encourages hate and flaunts racism, he discourages good people from coming to a place that wants and welcomes them.
The Kingman I know encourages those who come to pursue the dream of an upright and decent place to live and work. It’s a dynamic community that looks to a bright and sustainable future. But if we continue to allow Rep. Gosar to define us, we become him. If we let that happen, Sacha Baron Cohen’s ideas about us will be self-fulfilling.