Editor’s note: The following column was submitted by former city recorder, Colin Reger, who served in that capacity for the City of Buckhannon from May 2018 to May 2019.
A few years ago, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I voted against the non-discrimination ordinance that was proposed by Mayor McCauley for the City of Buckhannon, leading to its failure. That night I drove home, sat in my driveway, and cried – my wife as my witness. The faces of several individuals who had assembled in the council chambers, hopeful for equality, appeared in my mind; several of whom I knew and loved personally.
I had betrayed my own conscience, which told me that kindness and compassion are always the right choice. I had betrayed humanity itself, choosing instead to enable those who would practice unkindness against those who had done nothing to merit retaliatory behavior.
I spent a few weeks trying to justify my actions in my mind. I had found some things in the ordinance that I didn’t agree with, including cart blanche authority for the mayor (whoever that may be at any particular time) to investigate and press charges on behalf of the city for any perceived discriminatory actions. I don’t like the government to have more power than it already does, so that became my explanation when people asked why I voted the way I did. But after much consideration, I’m not sure that’s the entire truth – frankly, I know that’s not the entire truth.
The more I reasoned with myself, searching for an answer to explain my decision to vote against my conscience, the more the answer became clear: fear. Fear made my decision for me. And instead of thinking of the fear that historically marginalized people feel on a day-to-day basis, I allowed my own fear and temporal safety to take precedence over millennia of suffering.
I was afraid of what my family would think (they would have supported me no matter what), and I was afraid of local business owners and power-players who had made their opinions of the ordinance quite clear to me (I don’t even associate with them regularly). I feared judgment: that I myself would become marginalized in this community because of a failure to obey the edicts of a far-right ideology. The truth is, I’ve judged myself since that day for voting the way I did. I’m ashamed of myself for giving into smallness and weakness.
Yes, the ordinance had problems, but they weren’t bigger than the problem of excluding an entire segment of society – human beings – flesh and blood with hopes and dreams and hands and hearts. We were dealing with people, made in the image of God and with inherent value, and we failed them.
This is my public confession of wrongdoing. I’m confessing to those who were in support of the ordinance that they were right. I’m confessing to those who were opposed to the ordinance that we were wrong.
Maybe you’re familiar with the situation I’m speaking of, and maybe you aren’t. But either way, please learn this lesson from my error: Regardless of your beliefs, political, religious or otherwise, it is never right to fail to acknowledge the value of human beings in any capacity.
My sincerest apologies to those I have harmed with my lack of courage,
Former City Recorder