America must end the civic discord
I am a veteran. This does not mean I speak for all those who have served this great nation, only that I speak as one who has volunteered my life for the values that we hold dear. The values of liberty, respect, and tolerance form the foundation of our republic. I raised my right hand and, like many others, swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I abstain from including “against all enemies foreign and domestic” as our tribal environment has sadly turned that idea into a political statement.
Viewing other Americans as domestic enemies for hot takes and partisan points has caused people to choose conflict with our fellow citizens over unity as one nation. This is the domestic climate our adversaries abroad wish for and one that they could not have even contrived on their own.
This is not the land I swore to defend. The Capitol riots manifested the dark potential which the founders feared when crafting the Constitution. They had worried that a tyrant who was elected and entrusted to govern would refuse to respect the will of the people. That the Constitution was rendered so trivial a consideration by a president is a slap in the face to those who serve. That one group of Americans was so easily cajoled into sedition at the urging of a defeated executive further salts the wound.
Those who stormed the Capitol insult the “America First” rhetoric touted by the same base that claims to support the police and military members who sacrifice for the safety of all Americans. The executive who showed disrespect for the supreme law enabled these extremists and facilitated the inverse that sprang up in opposition, fueling these violent protests as the norm. The legacy of this era will be that the broader swath of citizens who cherish peace and liberty was bent to the wills of two unruly mobs. The Capitol hosted more forces this week during the inauguration than are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa combined.
The danger of blind political belief is what makes these events so difficult to stomach for a service member. It shows that citizens have given up on civic duty. Being swept up in political cults was preferable to supporting the most basic tenets of our democracy. This is painful as someone who has been graveside as the caskets of service members were lowered into their final resting places, knowing those who benefit from their sacrifices included these all assorted mobs who chose ignorance over civic duty.
The world watches as our nation is fractured into disunited states. Much more perilous threats rise over the horizon in new domains of conflict and competition as our place at the head of the liberal world order has turned vulnerable. Events and adversaries continue to maneuver unabated as we abase our democracy. In the words of Will Durant, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.” Our own destruction will come from our division as we now face this tragic reality.
The land that I love and swore to defend is not simply about geography, a political party, or a select group of similar minded individuals. This land is a more perfect union where the supreme law of the Constitution exists in stark defiance of violent mobs and oppression. The tone of this nation is fractured, but only because we have allowed it to become this way. We, the people of the United States, bear the responsibility for this crisis.
Resolving our problems starts with discourse and unity. We can achieve this not at the behest of another president, a new administration, or any political party, but as a nation of citizens devoted to freedom and love for this republic. We must renew our faith in the Constitution. We must come together as Americans and proudly hold up the banner of liberty to show the world our nation stands as one. That is the land I swore to defend.
Ethan Brown is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington and a veteran of the United States Air Force Special Operations. He is online @LibertyStoic.