I’d like to wish everyone the very best in their Independence Day celebration today! But, I also urge everyone in the days ahead to take a deep, unflinching look at the quality of our democracy and think hard about how each of us can help to improve its health.
We are a deeply divided nation, with passionate people facing off against each other over a host of important issues. But we’ve never been a nation where we all march in lockstep behind the same vision of America. And passion isn’t the problem; it is instead a powerful motivator to get people off their couches to engage with the critical issues of the day. In fact, voicing one’s view is an integral part of the political process, but it’s how we voice our views that is key to making our point—without breaking our democracy. And there is no genuine patriot among us who wants to see our democracy broken.
So, let’s keep our civic discourse civil. Let’s make the best arguments that we possibly can for our position, but refrain from demonizing our opponents. Attack ideas, not the people who propose or support them. We usually feel very confident in the rightness of our position, so we should use that confidence to listen attentively to those who disagree with us. Point out the weaknesses in their arguments if you can find them, but don’t assail the character of the arguer. We’ve all walked a different path to get to exactly where we are in life, and things we’ve seen and done along the way have influenced our worldview. Let’s assume the paths taken by others were just as influential on them—and almost certainly different from our own.
Moreover, let’s take heart from the knowledge that this country has been through many periods more challenging than the one we are currently facing. But let’s not allow that knowledge to leave us complacent. If we truly love this nation, it is our duty to do what we can to make it better, now and always! So, please, remain engaged in the critical issues of the day, hold your elected leaders to account, write to your representatives, email the media sources that you rely on to stay informed, and mobilize like-minded voters for the upcoming elections—but while doing so, remember to rely on the strength of your arguments, not the savageness of your insults.