What's the matter with Kansas?

Ever since Kansas editor William Allen White asked as much in his famous 1896 editorial for The Emporia Gazette, the question has been answered in different ways.

Sadly, remarks related to immigration point to plenty of problems these days with some attitudes in the Sunflower State and in the Kansas Legislature, in particular.

Consider the recent blunder from Rep. Virgil Peck, a Tyro Republican.

As part of a recent House Appropriations Committee discussion on ways to control the wild hog population, Peck said one strategy shooting pigs from helicopters might be an answer "to our illegal immigration problem."

Later, in a half-baked apology, Peck said he was joking.

Was it funny? Not at all. The comment was irresponsible and embarrassing to every Kansan with a sense of decency.

Peck also told the Lawrence Journal-World that most of his constituents are upset with illegal immigration and the federal government's failure to respond to the problem.

"I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person," he said.

Perhaps, at least when it came to frustration over immigration. Surely no right-minded constituent of his would joke about gunning down immigrants, or liken them to wild animals.

That such thoughts would even exist in anyone's mind is troubling. To hear them expressed publicly and in the state's seat of government, no less was sickening.

Yet it wasn't a complete surprise.

Just last month, another Kansas lawmaker suggested a college student probably wasn't a United States citizen because of her "olive complexion." That gem came from Republican Rep. Connie O'Brien of Tonganoxie, who obviously needs a refresher course on racial profiling.

Both comments were more sad testimony on the mind-set of some of our elected representatives in Topeka the folks we expect to make reasonable decisions on immigration and other difficult issues.

Most everyone is frustrated by the lack of progress in the nation's capital on immigration. But if we let people like Peck and O'Brien try to craft solutions at the state level, we're in serious trouble especially with such misguided moves as the attempt to repeal in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants who qualify.

Besides, state lawmakers should know Congress is responsible for fixing a broken immigration system, not individual states and for good reason. The careless, insensitive comments out of the Kansas Statehouse show a gross lack of understanding and compassion in a nation that has encouraged immigrants to cross the border in search of jobs.

Lawmakers must show calm and reason in dealing with issues, especially those as polarizing as immigration. Thankfully, this state does have legislators who understand as much, particularly in the Kansas Senate.

Unfortunately, Republican Reynaldo Mesa the new representative for Garden City, which has a significant immigrant population reportedly stood by Peck for what he considered a sincere apology. Mesa would have better served his district by taking a stand on how hurtful and counterproductive such remarks can be, and demanding that they not be tolerated.

If Peck accomplished anything, it was in casting still more unfavorable light on a state that already has its fair share thanks to the likes of Westboro Baptist Church preacher Fred Phelps and his gang, who claim God is killing the nation's military personnel because of the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Of course, we've come to expect the worst from Phelps and his wacky clan. We deserve far better from our legislators.

Peck should resign. If he doesn't, he should be removed for his astounding lack of judgment.

This state doesn't need more reasons for people to ask what's the matter with Kansas. Hateful sentiments already have done more than enough to hurt and embarrass Kansas and its people.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.