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Threatening letter confirms: Hate is learned
September 8, 2017

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To the editor:

I wish that I needed to share details to introduce myself rather than be the media kickball of the past week, the easiest candidate to send hate-filled mail and calls, but rather be just another candidate for a council district position. But, for Glenn and me, these has been some of the more harrowing weeks of our 17-plus years together. We have been through so much over the years. Family deaths, friend's deaths, pet deaths, closing our business during the recession, scaling things back, closing the charity food bank which we founded, are just examples.

Yet, our hearts are filled to the brim, from the outpouring of kindness and generous thoughts provided by so many of you People we don't even know, from other states, countries, continents - you reminded us that there is so much good. There are so many loving people who care for others. The way our parents raised us to be.

I want to clearly explain something, and perhaps some of the many who are continuing to send the vile, nasty and unrepeatable comments to us will learn. Hate is learned.

We intended to deal with this death threat quietly, thinking that we didn't want this to affect my chances for election. We knew the moment the letter was in our hands that we had to reach out to the Cape Coral Police. They are doing an amazing job of investigating, keeping us well-informed, listening to our ongoing fears, showing physical support through patrols, etc. I cannot thank Chief Newman and our detectives enough. We are very impressed. The FBI as well.

We did not seek this media stirring. Investigative reporters read through the police reports, no matter how written to prevent such attention. The media calls started coming, and we decided that we could either "sit still and let them tell the story without our input," or we could make a statement to share our concerns and to discuss what is right/wrong. Perhaps one person will decide not to display hate from this incident. Wouldn't that be nice?

We knew it was going to create havoc in my campaign. We realize that was the goal of the author of this threat. Yet you, who are accusing us of doing this to ourselves, clearly don't know us. Your comments are dismissed, but perhaps you will learn. One of us has AFib combined with congestive heart failure, the other, experienced a stroke in the past.You really think we did such a terrifying thing? Please hope that this doesn't land in your hands or on your doorstep. We now live in a secured and alert setting. You, who do know us, know how we loved to entertain, and love to have people coming and going. Our life has been forever changed. I don't think we ever thought this could have been so difficult to experience.

Hopefully people will stop and think, even decide to educate themselves. Visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been in touch with us and took an extensive interview, you will be provided with valid statistics. If you want to call it fake, research first. Extensive work has gone into informing all Americans of what is in their neighborhood. They provide state-by-state information on the local hate groups. It is terrifying! All police agencies refer to them for statistics.

Our police chief has stated publicly, just weeks ago, that he was under the impression that there was no current/active clan of the KKK in Cape Coral, and he was imploring the SPLC to remove Cape Coral from its site. Sadly now, about the time when that could have happened, this death threat occurred. As a citizen, Realtor, commissioner and candidate who cares about this city, it is now disheartening to know that SPLC will not remove Cape Coral from their national list. It will not be removed. This information does nothing to help our city.

So many have blamed the current president for each of these incidents happening since he was elected. I came to realize he is simply playing to what someone with political insight advised him. Work the hate. He did. I have thought a great deal about this since November, 2016. If anyone is to blame, let's look at Geraldo Riviera and Jerry Springer, who made hate entertainment which seemed to permeate our younger generations to make it seem normal.

I refuse to hate. Glenn refuses to hate. Even our dogs don't know how to hate. It is hypocritical to want to be accepted in society for being someone different, and then display hate for others. As a society, we tend to not like people that we can't understand. But this isn't hate. Try going one full day without saying something hateful to the other drivers, your TV, or the person in front of you at the checkout line. You may be surprised by how much you have in you without knowing it. Keep it in check, especially in front of young people, who absorb every action and statement you make, because you are the most important person to them. They want to be just like you. Don't you, as well?

Even after learning this county's history (related to Robert E. Lee), we choose not to be hateful. It is OUR history. I chose to become a volunteer to our city, as I could see a place where I could help. For the past three plus years, I have proudly served this city we live in as a Planning and Zoning Commissioner. It is hard work. We eight commissioners have to study and review major decisions that affect property owners lives, businesses, homes for every single case. Not something to take lightly. We are eight individuals from various backgrounds and education levels and business positions. We are ALWAYS respectful of the public, and try to understand their needs as presented before us. We have never raised our voices at other commissioners, nor the public, nor the city employees who work tirelessly for each case presented before us. Months or even years of work can be killed by our vote. Again, not something any of us take lightly. I admire every single commissioner I serve with, and those who have moved on from serving the city. People have compared this devotion to that of an assistant sports coach, or someone who helps out at annual events as a volunteer. The commission's work is a serious volunteer job.

I chose to move forward to help our city, by throwing my hat into the current election. Was it best for my family and our safety? We know now No. Was it the best idea to expose our gender identity in a community that seems to be so far right in their political leanings? No. We are in our 50s and 60s, having been authentic, honest men. Should we hide? No. But did we ask for the out pouring of hate? No. Did we ask for opposing groups to make those Facebook attacks which began the week I announce my candidacy, people who knew/know nothing about me? No.

I now understand that when these people, none of which see this as a truly non-partisan election where you vote for the best qualified candidate versus the party member, hope to intimidate and use seriously hateful tactics to discourage them/me from continuing on with the election in November. They clearly do not know me. An early retired very successful businessman, highly educated, and well versed in group processes, government (not necessarily politics), and how to make every decision considering what is best for my neighboring citizens, not my party.

The Democratic clubs and party have not donated one dollar to my campaign; because they expect that Democratic candidates in Cape Coral cannot win. What? Just because there were few previous candidates or elected officials of their party, that does not mean we candidates are "all the same." Members of the strong local Republican Party has engaged in nasty memes and comments about me on social media, unaware that it is illegal to cyber bully. But that is the small thinking mindset that permeates in lock step with hateful thought.

I am proud of the many enlightened friends I have who "just happen" to be Republican. It is meant to be a non-partisan election and furthermore, a non-partisan city council. This is how it was established, and needs to be respected by citizens, voters, and the council members.

I just expected a fair race. My opponent announces at every forum that he runs a clean race. I am glad he does. I have as well.

But the hate hasn't stopped to date.

Clearly there are factions at work in this city. And now it is very much to my disadvantage that I have been fully exposed, or as you may joke, "yanked out of the closet." I haven't lived inside the closet since 1990. When our former neighbors in Annapolis told us that it was a great place to live, we followed them here, and were content. Not so much now.

When the local Republican Women's Club chose to modify the City Clerk's graphic provided for the candidates, to boldly mark who was a "R" versus a "D" with bold, not to be missed colors, and they posted and widely shared on social media, publicly showing each candidate's home address; they contributed directly to the ease to share hate and possibly our death threat. So sad. Non-partisan?

Where do we go from here? I'd like to simply say, "Be kind." "Be considerate of others." "Don't hate others for coming from outside of Cape Coral." "Appreciate that others have different levels of education and business backgrounds." "Love over hate." But none of these seem to matter in our nation's current environment. People who have hated others have recently become emboldened to step out of their closets, and expect to be accepted by others who aren't hateful and are speaking out. Can they accept others?

People who care about our city are researching the candidates' web sites to learn about qualifications and platforms to help them to decide; not who is the current one the gang of "face-bookers" were rallying for or bullying and attacking that day. We are so fortunate to have some very well-qualified candidates and we have some that are not making any platform beyond the bland party line. As our elementary teachers taught us, we should learn for ourselves. Go learn. Discount hate. Think for yourself. Be kind, please.

Vote. It was once the American way. Together we can bring that back.

God Bless America.

God Bless Cape Coral.

James Schneider (Jaime)

Candidate for

City Council, District 5

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