As we celebrate our birth as a democratic nation this July Fourth, I find myself troubled by the erosion of civility in our nation’s politics. Civil discourse and thoughtful consideration of views and perspectives is vital to a functioning democracy, and every American should be deeply troubled by the efforts of a vocal, angry and sometimes violent minority to tear our nation apart.
We all watched in horror as violent insurrectionists breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, breaking windows, assaulting Capitol police officers and searching with vile intent for the vice president and lawmakers in the building to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. That day marked the first time in American history that this transition was interrupted, though thankfully only temporarily.
The problem is right here at home, too. Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin spews hateful and dangerous rhetoric, saying there would be “blood running out of that building” on Inauguration Day and that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” At a recent local event, I was accosted and berated by an angry mob spewing hate and trying to intimidate into silence others with whom they disagreed, all simply for holding different political views.
These cowardly attacks are designed to intimidate, scare and erode the trust necessary to the continuation of our democracy, which began on this day in 1776.
This despicable behavior, often seen throughout history used by fascist, totalitarian and authoritarian leaders and wannabes, does not represent who we are as Americans. Such incivility does nothing to further our understanding of fellow citizens or address the all-too-real issues we’re facing, including economic recovery, climate change, public safety, quality public education and health care affordability.
Attacks on our democracy are attacks on us all, so I urge you: Don’t stay silent in the face of the anti-democratic rhetoric and extreme tactics we’re seeing. Now more than ever, we must commit ourselves to defending and supporting a true, civil democracy, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. It is the patriotic duty of every American to confront extremism and hate wherever it is found and to stand united for the rights of all to engage in civil, peaceful debate.
We can each begin by practicing and promoting civility in our dialogue and actions. Have honest, civil conversations with your neighbors. Look for common ground and how you can work together. At the end of the day, we have far more in common than we do differences.
With New Mexico fully reopened, I’d also encourage you to get offline and into your community. Social media often creates more division in our society by reinforcing existing beliefs and keeping us in information bubbles. And while use of these networks is at an all-time high, civic engagement is facing historic lows.
Though most people focus on the national stage of politics, what’s happening locally has a far greater impact on our day-to-day lives, and there are countless opportunities for you to get involved. Reach out to your representatives about issues important to you, attend County Commission and school board meetings, or join me for constituent office hours this summer in Santa Fe. You may visit www.BrianEgolf.com for more information and ways to get involved.
The history of our nation teaches us that we will not live up to the ideals of our country if we don’t have open, honest conversations aimed at working together and reaching collaborative solutions. As President Joe Biden says, “We are Americans, and there is nothing we can’t do if we do it together.”
This Independence Day, please join me in making a commitment to being a true patriot and defending our Constitution by standing up against the un-American tactics we’ve been seeing. Instead, let’s all engage in local government, truly listen to one another and work together to build an ever greater America for the next generation.