All politics is local. Be responsible for cleaning it up here.
Look at the top of this page. Read the text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In our view, it’s the most important amendment, the foundation of American freedom and the cornerstone of this democratic republic. It enshrines the right of the people to speak freely, to assemble peaceably to protest and to petition the government over their grievances.
Here’s what it doesn’t do: allow anyone to break the law, commit violence or, for heaven’s sake, attack the government or physically intimidate elected representatives. Note, too, the right to assemble is not ideological, favoring left or right.
There is much discussion across the land after what happened last week outside and inside the U.S. Capitol, when a pro-Trump rally and march turned into an all-out assault on police and Congress. There’s plenty of cause for after-action investigation to identify and charge perpetrators, to call out those who may have incited lawlessness, and to analyze why security measures failed so miserably.
But what about here? In places like the Stateline Area, folks likely watched in stunned fascination as events unfolded in faraway Washington and took solace that they live where it’s peaceful. Just like people all across America did when Klansmen and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville. And Minneapolis burned. And thugs took over parts of Portland to declare an anarchist state.
Shame on us. Shame on people across the country who sit in comfort and watch on television and think they have no part in history’s rolling pageant. A self-governing nation requires more of its people than being idle spectators.
These abhorrent events are not isolated and disconnected. They stem from an identifiable source.
Extremism. On the left. And on the right.
Make no mistake. There are extremists right here, in the Stateline Area, in Wisconsin and across the line in Illinois. Facts suggest there are extremists everywhere, and more and more they are emboldened to come out from under their rocks and behave badly.
The overwhelming majority of people here and elsewhere in our wonderful country are good, solid, hard-working individuals who live with honor and values. Rightfully so, their priority is seeing to their family’s security and well-being. They are not the problem. Sadly, though, the time has come when they must become the solution.
The extremists are those outliers at the fringe, braying about defunding police or agitating for anarchy. Or swallowing crazy QAnon conspiracy theories about satanic elites and baby sacrifices and deep state plots.
Who is stoking these susceptible people, for whom fantasy and lies repeated often enough and loudly enough eclipse the obvious truth?
Most Americans live somewhere near the ideological center, leaning somewhat left or right, sometimes even a little of both, yet it’s all too obvious the partisan political parties and their enablers have been working for years to drive wedges into the body politic and push citizens farther toward the fringes. The parties win by dividing us, one from the other. They win by encouraging anger, even hate. They win by asking you to look at others who think differently as your blood enemy, not your neighbor down the street.
That produces fractures in the country.
It produces suspicion, feeds resentments, nurtures grudges and builds tensions that easily can turn violent.
It produces burning cities. It produces the most shocking thing of all, a full-out assault on the citadel of American freedom.
If what happened last week is not sufficient to cause Americans to reassess where we are and what can be done about it, then history may place the attack on the Capitol alongside cannons firing at Fort Sumter, the act that began the bloodletting of the Civil War.
The political parties should take a hard look at their divisive tactics, as should those who write big checks to fuel the partisan fires.
The media—from local papers like this one, to reputable national outlets, to the abrasive and corrosive influencers, left and right, in 24-hour cable and talk radio—need to look at their own role and recommit to truth and civility. Division as a business plan is un-American.
Real change, and pulling back from the brink, can only happen if people here in Beloit and the Stateline Area and their counterparts around this blessed land do the hard work of driving the extremists back to the dark corners where they can howl at the moon in irrelevance.
Do not traffic in anarchy, authoritarian fantasy or ignorant conspiracy theory.
Start in your own house, your own block, your community. It’s not enough to ignore extremism. Don’t think you can watch it on television without it impacting your life. Do the hard thing. Call it out, here. Drive it from the public square, here. Out-number it. Out-work it. Out-vote it.
Get serious about making Beloit and the Stateline region an example for America because we are true to the values of pluralism, of equality, of tolerance and peaceful resolution of differences.
There’s a familiar phrase: All politics is local.