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Maryville Forum: A letter to voters from Jessica Piper

Nov 3, 2022, Jessica Piper

In politics, it’s so easy to lose sight of what matters. Our farms, our schools, and our communities here in Northwest Missouri show that we have lost sight of what matters. They show that our politicians have also lost sight of what matters.

From national news headlines to bumper stickers on cars — we discuss buzzwords instead of people. Opponents instead of neighbors. And…it makes sense. We humans, after all, are tribal. We seek out those that are the same to align ourselves with. And we see those that are different as a threat to our way of life. Sometimes this trait is harmless and fun like a Saturday game at Bearcat Stadium. But sometimes, this ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality can divide a community long after the whistle blows. When we as a community lose sight of ourselves while playing the game of politics, it opens wounds in our friendships and families that may never heal. Wounds that we’re all feeling the pain of today.

In Northwestern Missouri, life’s been tough on many and getting tougher. Our paychecks have stayed the same while everything else has gotten more expensive. Family vacations increasingly are becoming a fantasy. Money that would’ve been saved is instead going to repair our cars from decades of driving over some of the worst roads in the state. Our kids aren’t getting the education they deserve and are only going four days a week in some cases. Which means trying to find childcare — which is no small task. And all of this while the war for our attention spans (and rage) continues in the media.

Our anger is seen as currency by those in power; our suffering as leverage to be used. All to be re-elected so they can be wined & dined by corporations and special interest groups that couldn’t care less about us.

But this only works when we don’t pay attention. And as I’ve campaigned across the district, talking and listening, I see that my neighbors are listening. The corruption and selfishness in our state has gotten their attention — and they’re finally realizing that they have the power to change it.

For 20 years, one party has controlled both the House & Senate here in Missouri. They have held the keys to the kingdom and if they wanted something passed — it did. And if they wanted something to fail — it did. They call themselves Republicans, but I’ve known Republicans who would never do what they did. So let’s call them what they are — opportunists. They say the things that people want to hear, and then once elected — promptly fatten their wallets and neglect their citizens. They brag about ‘budget surpluses’, while our communities wither. That’s our money that we paid so that we could all benefit from it. 

I’ve looked into the eyes of my neighbors and seen pain too many times. Most of us will never say it — because in rural Missouri, we are proud. We don’t like to burden others with our struggles because we know they probably have some of their own. So we endure silently, help out when we can, and hope that the next election cycle brings us someone who actually does something to help. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why I made the tough decision to run for office. Tough, not because I doubted my desire to help, but because I knew the lion’s den I was stepping into. I knew that my family and motives would all be attacked by the same ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality that has destroyed our state. But I did it anyway.

I’m sure you’ve seen some of these attacks. Recently, it has been suggested that I can’t win this district because Missourians are creatures of habit, and will only elect Republicans. I don’t believe that’s true. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; we get doubted a lot in the national media.

But we’re a lot smarter than they think we are, and we’re tired of not being heard. The evidence is posted in yard signs across this district — my name posted right next to those from the other party. This isn’t a fluke — people are seeing past ‘Us vs. Them’. We can come together.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or somewhere in between — I’m here to fight for you.  I’ll tell you what DOES matter, though: you matter. We matter. I have not lost sight of that. I worked to make sure every student I ever taught knew that they mattered. That they knew they were seen and heard, and I worked to help every single one of them succeed. This is no different.

I am here to tell you that I see you and hear you, and this is our moment to make sure the politicians in Jefferson City see you and hear you. Our children matter. Our schools. Our small towns…all of us out here, working in our community matter. So we aren’t going to be walked on or swindled by opportunists anymore. It’s time to be heard. It’s time to vote.

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