Abuse directed at rural Democrats isn’t the whole story; there’s been kindness, too

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 07: A President Donald Trump and a former Vice President Joe Biden supporter converse before the Joe Biden Campaign Rally at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on March 7, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images.

Last week the Reformer published a guest commentary about the harassment the Lyon County Democrats suffered when they went out to campaign this year. The essay was one of our most read last week. But there’s more to the story, says Lyon County DFL Chair Anita Gaul.  

The harassment we experienced was appalling and, at times, hard to bear. But we also experienced random acts of kindness, demonstrations of support and other friendly gestures that buoyed our spirits and provided encouragement during our evenings spent under our humble Democratic-Farmer-Labor tent. These “friendlies” — as we came to call them — usually outnumbered the haters by a significant margin.

Even as we worked with the understanding that our candidates face a bit of an uphill battle on Election Day in Lyon County, we are heartened to know that kindness and civility are still important to most people in Lyon County, no matter our political persuasion. 

There were numerous friendly honks and thumbs-up signs — sometimes a double thumbs-up! — from passing motorists.

One man quietly said, “Good luck in the fall,” as he strolled past with his dog.

A teenager quickly muttered, “I like your signs,” as he walked by, declining to make eye contact.

One night in Cottonwood we received 46 friendly waves and only two insults in two hours. Since we waved at every passing vehicle, we didn’t know if the waves were spontaneous or perfunctory, delivered more out of a sense of Minnesota Nice than any true feelings of friendliness. But we’ll take it – it certainly beats an insult.

Another night a posse of Harley Davidson motorcyclists roared past our tent. The rider on the last motorcycle turned back to look at us as he passed by. I expected to be flashed the middle finger. Instead, he gave us a quick thumbs-up sign.

A woman ran up to our tent exclaiming, “I’m so glad you’re here! Thank you for being here!”

One cold October evening, a man brought us a hot pizza.

A woman surprised us with ice cream sundaes from Dairy Queen one evening, then came with smoothies from McDonald’s a few weeks later.

A man said to us, “I’m an independent. I’ve never donated to a political party in my life, but this is the election of a lifetime,” and handed us a $50 donation.

Another man told us the last time he voted was for former Gov. Jesse Ventura, but wanted to know where to vote now. 

A woman said she had never voted before but was going to vote this year.

A Latino-Americanfamily pulled up in their vehicle wanting to know how they could get registered to vote.

It takes so little to be kind: a friendly honk, a wave, a compliment, the simple act of saying thanks. In this current political environment of toxicity and hate, these simple acts of charity nourished us. 

Perhaps there is hope, after all — even in Trump Country.