In wake of George Floyd death, the U.S. ‘must do better’

Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, released on June 4 the following response to retired Gen. James Mattis’ condemnation of President Donald Trump for divisive policies and using active duty soldiers to disperse protestors motivated by the death of George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis. Newhouse refers to his recent column calling for the U.S to “do better” on racial equality. The full column is reprinted below his response to Mattis.

I recently wrote in a column that “If we are truly to live together as ‘one nation under God,’ we must do better.” In his call for unity, Gen. James Mattis – a hometown hero and native son of our district in Central Washington – rightly notes that in order to surmount our current crisis, we must draw upon the strengths of our civil society and live up to the values enshrined in our Constitution.

As I stated in that column, our nation was founded upon the bedrock principles of free speech and the right to peacefully protest.

President Donald Trump is absolutely right that those in our poorest communities are the primary victims of the unacceptable rioting, looting, and outbreaks of violence we have witnessed in recent days. We must ensure our citizens, small businesses and communities are kept safe.

I do not believe we should utilize active-duty military to address these eruptions, but rather let local and state law enforcement officers – in some cases with the support of the National Guard – do their job: protecting our communities and enforcing just law and order.

While I continue to advocate for the notion of policing with our community, I am also taking it upon myself – and I invite all central Washingtonians and all Americans to join me – to listen and to reflect on the fact that not everyone shares the same life experiences. We can all do more to empower our neighbors and build a more peaceful and just society.

In the Bible, Jesus preached to his followers and disciples, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This wisdom, while seemingly simple and straightforward, is the only way we will emerge as a country, stronger and more unified than before. We must strive to create a more perfect union and, as my friend Gen. Mattis stated, “In union there is strength.”

The full text of the “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is below:

The First Amendment and the right to peacefully protest is a bedrock of our nation’s founding. Empowering our neighbors to speak up for what is right, take action when injustice rears its ugly head in our communities, and create a society where we can live equally and peacefully is a goal we must all strive for.

The death of George Floyd is a tragedy.

Any unjust or inhumane action deserves a full investigation and a response. It deserves a response by communities who recognize the inequalities facing their friends and neighbors.

It deserves a response by law enforcement agencies, whose officers have sworn an oath to serve and protect communities – the vast majority of which fulfill this oath each day. It deserves a response by our judicial system, to deliver justice to the family and loved ones of George Floyd and the many that have gone before him.

Unfortunately, these injustices that have resurfaced recently are part of a deep-rooted problem in the United States. If we don’t cut it at the roots, it will continue to grow.

In the aftermath of this heartbreaking occurrence, we have witnessed protests, rallies and marches across the country, including here in Central Washington.

We have seen many police officers join in these protests, urging justice for black Americans like George Floyd.

We also have seen unacceptable outbreaks of violence, attacks by radical groups on both sides of the political spectrum, and bad actors who have taken advantage of what would otherwise be a peaceful stance for equality.

Allowing rioters and looters to overrun our communities, destroy local businesses, and do harm to bystanders and law enforcement is not the answer.

Continuing to turn a blind eye to bad actors within our law enforcement is not the answer. Sitting idly by and watching the events unfold while commenting on social media posts is not the answer.

The answer begins with us.

The division within our nation is more apparent than ever, and we must come together to combat it. In the United States of America, we have equal rights and a responsibility, as citizens, to support one another despite our profession, our socioeconomic status, our gender, or our race. If we are truly to live together as “one nation under God,” we must do better.

We must look around to our families, friends and neighbors, and we must take a look in the mirror to understand that – despite the shared principles and values we honor as Americans – not everyone shares the same life experiences.

We must look to our law enforcement agencies and police officers to fulfill their oath of protecting us and upholding our nation’s laws, while promoting the practice of policing with our community as an integral part of our society.

In the Bible, Jesus preached to his followers and disciples, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This wisdom, while seemingly simple and straightforward, is the only way we will emerge as a country, stronger and more unified than before.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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