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America Needs Heroes Right Now

Congressman Chris Stewart (UT-02) penned an op-ed in the Deseret News on unity and working towards a “more perfect union”.  

“I believe we can safeguard our nation and institutions by taking responsibility for what is broken and working to listen in good faith.”  Rep. Chris Stewart 

The full op-ed is available here and below: 

A hero of mine, Abraham Lincoln, led this country through a time when our nation was so deeply divided that Americans were literally at war with each other over the concept of what is means to be an American and the future of our nation. During this crisis, President Lincoln had a strong belief that if he could complete construction on the U.S. Capitol Dome, the Union would survive. To him, the Capitol Dome was a symbol of a united country. 

While our current struggles are not analogous to the Civil War, surely we would benefit from remembering the lessons we learned from President Lincoln. 

Two weeks ago, under that same dome that President Lincoln hoped would save the Union, a mob of angry Americans, some ironically carrying Confederate battle flags, broke down police barriers and stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. Being sheltered in a small office with a window that looked out on the riots, I had a first-hand look at the violence. Watching as mob mentality caused injury and death, I saw nothing patriotic or heroic in what they did. 

I heard them chanting that they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence. I heard their foul language. I heard their anger and their hate. I watched as they assaulted police officers, some of who were my friends. I unequivocally condemn anyone who destroyed property, assaulted police officers or intended to commit violence against any of their fellow Americans — on the right, or the left. 

It seems there is a sense of severe disquiet in America. Something is broken in our society. The past year has been riddled with violent, angry protests. We’re not listening to each other. We demonize, suppress or misrepresent opposing views. We have gotten away from our Federalist traditions that allowed local communities to govern themselves, instead seeking to impose one set of values on an entire nation, only to reverse course in the next election. The result is an irritated and contentious public, feeling marginalized and ignored all across the political spectrum. 

President Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, called on a war torn and weary nation to proceed “[w]ith malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.” 

So can we break this cycle of anger? Nothing will change as long as different groups of Americans feel left out of the government without redress for their grievances. Nothing will change as long as those of us who have a bully pulpit use it primarily to lecture or talk down to anyone who disagrees with us. We are going to have to step away from our usual allies and try to understand why Americans who disagree with us are angry — without listening just so we can argue. We need people who can reach out to marginalized groups without demonizing others. 

When Big Tech companies use their clout to cut people out of the conversation, it only adds to the feeling of helplessness. Even if such censorship is not strictly illegal, it’s a very bad idea, adding to the frustration, fear and anger that is driving the violence. 

Ignoring each other’s sources of frustration is what has gotten us to where we are. Let’s boldly investigate questions of election integrity, racial discrimination, economic inequality and any other issue that drives people to the streets in mobs. 

If what we want is “a more perfect union,” we need to foster mutual respect. If we want to end the year of angry protests, we need to listen to each other to lessen the desperation and pull each other back from the fringes. When people feel like they have ways to work within the system to fix problems, they don’t burn businesses or storm government buildings. 

We should fix this by listening, acknowledging our failures, addressing grievances through the proper channels and respecting the right of local communities to govern according to their own values. We can’t afford to gloat, mic drop, finger point or further marginalize each other. 

After all of the blood and sacrifice during the Lincoln Administration to preserve and perfect this Union, I don’t want to see the institutions of my country undermined by contempt and misinformation. I believe we can safeguard our nation and institutions by taking responsibility for what is broken and working to listen in good faith. The type of hero we need right now is a caring neighbor. 

I will close with the plea from the closing line of President Lincoln’s second inaugural address: “to bind up the nation’s wounds … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and all nations.” 

To which I say, amen. 

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