StoryCorps In Kansas City — U.S. Politics Need To Become 'Us, Instead Of Us Versus Them'
KCUR is part of StoryCorps' One Small Step initiative to bring together people of differing political opinions for real conversations. This is one we've chosen to highlight.
Teacher Brittney Fiedler says being from Kansas carries some baggage when you talk to people in other states.
"They assume you're from a farm, they assume you see tornadoes all the time and they assume you're a pretty conservative person," Fiedler says. "For me, none of those things are true, really."
Reverend Franklin Ruff knows the kinds of assumptions that Fiedler is talking about.
"People see me and they see African American male, they see pastor and there are certain assumptions made about where my theology is going to be, where my politics are going to be," Ruff says. "I have to admit, at times it gets a little bit annoying."
Both of them feel that America's politics have turned divisive and tribal. And while Fiedler likes Democratic candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, she feels some unease with his zeal.
"He's a very divisive figure," Fiedler says. "But I think we need more people down the middle of the road, or at least willing to compromise, in order to put our country back together. Just become 'us,' instead of 'us vs. them,' we need to be a 'we' again."
Reverend Ruff believes the real issue is finding a national identity that people of differing political stances can all agree on. He gives the example of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. At the time, Ruff was a pastor in Greensburg, Kansas, and a deacon at his congregation had trouble understanding the unrest in St. Louis.
"I explained to him that our sheriff knows me, his kids and my kids play together. We know each other and there's a relationship there," Ruff says. "But if I'm in Wichita and I get pulled over, I have to understand ... that there's a greater perceived threat from me as a young black man than from his son as a young white man.
"There are issues I have to deal with and the black community has to deal with, and there are issues of police relations and threat perception that police departments have to deal with. But both have something to deal with."
Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter@MLMIndustries.
Ron Jones is KCUR's director of community engagement.
Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter@CodyNewill.