On the anniversary of the worst attack on our democratic republic since the horrors and bloodshed of the Civil War, it is time to ask whether people stand with the democratic process or with violence against our own government. The question should be straightforward, and the answer should be given without equivocation or hesitation.
Will you sign your name and make a personal pledge to support democracy in words and deeds and oppose violence and threats of violence from any and all sources?
Every person who serves or wishes to serve in elective office or as a government employee at any level should endorse this pledge. All legitimate media and all political parties should sign on, as should any person or organization that makes political contributions. At a personal level, every American should make this commitment and abide by it.
Nothing, not the approval of a demagogic leader, not fear of a primary opponent, not fiery political rhetoric, not polling numbers, not advertising revenue, not a legislative interest for which you need a party or officials’ support — nothing can excuse such conduct or support for such conduct against our democracy. If a candidate for office or political party refuses to sign on or conduct themselves consistently with this pledge, then they should lose your vote, your contributions, your advertising revenue, or any other form of support. It must be that simple, that clear.
When school board members, public health officials, election workers, members of the state Legislature, or Congress and their staff, Capitol police, journalists, judges, and others who are central to a functioning government are subject to the most vile and menacing threats and attacks, something is desperately wrong with our country and our people.
How can we possibly expect good people to seek political office or work as government employees if elected officials, political candidates, major political parties, and media organizations incite or participate in threats or acts of violence? That path can only lead to the destruction of the nation, not its preservation, and the consequences for the United States of America and the free world will be catastrophic.
Recent reports have revealed that 9,600 threats were recorded against members of Congress in 2021. No one has tallied the total numbers of threats at all the other levels of government from state legislatures to city councils and school boards, but the number would likely be shockingly high. Perhaps that explains why recent polling suggests two out of three Americans believe our democracy is threatened. On the positive side, only a very small percentage of people approve of what happened on Jan. 6, but far too many have been quick to excuse those who incited and participated in the events.
Pledging not to engage in, promote or condone violence should not and must not be a partisan issue. If someone is reluctant to sign this pledge because they fear it is contrary to their political interests or their political party, or because they believe a political figure or leader will not approve, what does that say about their priorities and what does it say about their political party or their leaders?
The week before Christmas I was in the Capitol and House office buildings. What I encountered there was deeply troubling. Having worked as a clinical psychologist for two decades before serving in Congress, including extensive work with veterans and others who had experienced significant trauma, the level of despondency, stress and depression that I saw in the faces of many Capitol police officers and congressional staff was striking. These are good, dedicated people who have committed to serve the nation and an institution they and we all love. Yet their spirits have been deeply wounded, in some cases crushed, by what happened on Jan. 6 and in its aftermath.
For their sake, and for the sake of the nation, we must turn things around. The message must be unmistakable and unequivocal that the kinds of events witnessed during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and in countless local and state examples before and after, must not ever happen again anywhere in our nation.
This madness of anger, threats and violence must not be glorified or condoned, and it has to stop now. Only the democratic process can save our democratic republic, but if we look the other way or fail to insist that violence has no place then we risk losing that which we hold most dear. To show your support, sign the pledge at democracynotviolence.us and then insist that anyone who serves in or runs for office publicly commits and adheres to the pledge.
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