4th of July celebrates us all

As we approach the 4th of July, I’m reminded that it is the only holiday that celebrates all of us in union. We often define ourselves based on divisions over politics, race, religion, and a host of other issues, which is unfortunate. Our country was founded on the belief that all are “created equal” and enjoy “certain unalienable rights,” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That purpose has always been aspirational, and we have some scars where we have struggled to get it right. Yet, we are and remain exceptional because of our pursuit of that ideal. We continue to be a light to the world.

"An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry." - Thomas Jefferson.

The vigorous debate that characterizes our government, institutions, and traditions, as established by the Constitution, are rarely pretty, but they give rise to the best ideas, prevent tyranny, and promote prosperity. Accomplishing this requires enough respect for all participants' rights to listen to their perspectives. It also requires compromise to accomplish anything lasting. We often joke about the inefficiency of government, but there is nothing efficient, by design, in a representative democracy that seeks to strike a balance between authoritarianism and mob rule.

"The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize." - George Washington.

The approach necessary for constructive dialogue is most simply expressed as “Love your neighbor.” Recently, I read the book, "Love Your Enemies," based on the same Biblical principle. I truly believe we are to love others, but it is extremely difficult to accomplish in practice. I don’t hold myself out as a role model. Like many, I often stumble on pride, fear, anger, and resentment. Over the past legislative session, I worked to maintain civility and respect in debate, but the author argues that it is not enough to simply tolerate another person because that can quickly spill over into contempt.

I’ve seen what happens when contempt spills over into violence. While serving as the Operations Officer for a US Army Combat Aviation Brigade, I was responsible for supporting all operations south of Baghdad. In this role, I worked with Iraqi forces to plan security for the 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Iraq. I also flew those missions in an AH-64D Apache Longbow, looking for threats against those voting. After voting, they dipped their fingers in ink to ensure they didn’t vote twice. Some of those fingers and hands would later be cut off by militia groups working to intimidate voters.

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." – Thomas Jefferson

Fortunately, we are not near the level of discord that I witnessed in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but it helps me appreciate our blessings. As Americans, we have inherited an incredible birthright. I am thankful and feel extremely blessed. I wish you all the best and blessings to you and your families as you celebrate our freedoms.

Brad Barker

Representative

House District 58 (Carbon County)

Brad.Barker@legmt.gov

406-426-1034

 
 
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