Even in the midst of discourse, we must not lose sight of being Americans first

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My name is Bonnie Lee 

I am a wife, I am a mother, and I am your neighbor. 

I have lived in this city for many, many years, and I have lived in many other places throughout my life. 

I love this nation. I love this state. I love this city. 

But I am worried about the vitriolic division I see within miles of my home. 

As an American, I am no stranger to political division, as I am sure none of you are, especially the older we get. Polarization wears us down. Constant divisive rhetoric becomes baseline, almost  background noise. 

Then, in this tense, angry moment, something tragic, explosive happens. 

What happens next determines our future. Will we be ripped apart or will we find a way to move forward, together, committed to discourse and healing actions?

President Lincoln once said “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

How is that possible?

Wiser people than I say the first step is to find what we can all agree on:

  1. No one wants brutality to befall another person, no matter who carries it out.
  2. Each and every one of us wants a safe place to live and to enjoy life.
  3. Each and every one of us wants to be heard, to have a voice. 

A voice. One of our greatest rights in this nation is the freedom of speech. We take it for granted. Many countries do not allow their people to speak their opinions freely. Voltaire expressed it well, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  

This is how we move forward. We will disagree with each other, sometimes passionately, but we must not let ourselves become enemies. I must stand up for your right to disagree with me, and you the same for me. In this way we preserve our precious freedom to speak out. 

Much has been said and I am unqualified to speak into much of the pain that has been expressed throughout our city. So permit me to say this: E Pluribus Unum. “Out of many, one,” not “Out of many, tribes.” And quoting President Lincoln again, “a house divided cannot stand.” Do we stand for each others’ right to express ideas freely? Or will we let ourselves be relentlessly divided, chopped into groups so small that we cannot possibly hope to survive, much less thrive? 

From a very concerned neighbor