Yes, we’re angry about Uvalde. But speaking truth to power has a stiff price in places like rural Kentucky.

My column for this Sunday’s print edition.

On March 14, the Anderson County school superintendent asked a sheriff’s deputy to remove me from a school board meeting. Why? I was politely reading letters from frustrated teachers who desperately wanted our board to understand the untenable reality of life in the classroom, and I had spoken too long.

I am not a teacher in our school system. I am just a taxpaying citizen who offered to protect teachers’ identities while reading their letters aloud into the public record. When the chairman tried to stop me, stating I had gone well-over the time limit for public comments (which I had), I reminded him of the man who often spoke at length in these meetings and was always allowed to finish, a man who was recently banned for wearing a gun in this room.

I kept reading. I could feel the tension rise. As the deputy entered the room, I stopped on my own and returned to my seat.

You have likely seen the video of Sen. Ted Cruz being berated in a restaurant about his response to the Uvalde school shooting. If so, I’m guessing you have also heard friends and seen people on social media insisting we all do the same. Time to stop being polite! We need to give elected officials a piece of our mind in airports and restaurants! Stop obeying the rules and make a scene!

I get it. We are all still enraged — at least I hope we are — about the massacre in Uvalde. We need to DO something. But is ranting on Facebook or Twitter about what you would do if you saw Sen. Cruz — or McConnell, Paul, Massie — in a restaurant, realistic?

I have never given a politician a piece of my mind during dinner, but I am known for being outspoken. I have gone to our school board multiple times to tell them things they do not want to hear. This spring, I ran ads in our local newspaper asking questions of a county attorney candidate that our newspaper editor, inexplicably, refused to ask. I openly question the actions and intent of public officials in my town. And here is what I can tell you: it comes at a personal cost.

Maybe it works differently in urban America, in big, crowded cities where it is easier to feel as anonymous in person as you do online. But I live in small-town, rural Kentucky where it is not only seen as an impolite, personal affront to confront/question someone in power, but in a place deeply rooted in gun culture where many of the people you are criticizing, and the group that agrees with them, are likely carrying guns.

Case in point: The man who often spoke too long and carried a gun into our school board meeting last fall? The majority of citizens who commented publicly sided with him.

When I watch the Ted Cruz confrontation video, I admit, I cheer inside. I think about how he deserves it. But here are the realities: Are you ready to be on video, maybe multiple videos, that will be widely circulated on social media? What happens when his supporters (with guns?) find out your name and where you live? Are you ready to be contacted by the press for a statement, to be on TV news? Could you lose your job? What will your neighbors, who may disagree with you, think? Are you ready to be confronted in public, in return?

The day after I was almost removed from the school board meeting for doing nothing more than respectfully reading too long, I extended my hand in good faith. It’s a small town. I know the superintendent and the people on our board. I like some of them a great deal. So I sent an email offering to talk to them privately about the teachers’ letters/concerns.

The superintendent responded with an email that began, “I have spoken with the board attorney.” There would be no more talking. We have not spoken since.

I recently ran into a school board member on the town green. He seemed to not recognize me. When I jokingly said as much, he replied with a flat, unsmiling stare, “I recognize you,” and turned to talk to someone else.

This is what happens when you publicly speak truth to power.

The tragedy in Uvalde is overwhelming. We remain furious. We want to scream at cowards like Sen. Cruz, but the reality is that we won’t. The cost is too high. So, what ARE we going to do? What is our plan, your plan?

How are we going to get guns out of the hands of men who not only kill our kids, but silence the rest of us with the knowledge that they are the ones with the guns?