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There’s more disunity in our nation today than I can remember in a very long time. Coming on the heels of 9/11, I couldn’t help but ask myself one question: “Do we really remember?”

Do we remember the piercing blow we all felt as the Twin Towers crumbled and burned as we watched other Americans scramble to save those who were in harms way? Do we really remember the devastation that swept our land as we learned about a plane headed for the Pentagon? Do we remember the skies filled with smoke? Do we remember that the names etched into monuments at Ground Zero represent real people? Do we really remember that day?

I think if we really remembered how wounded our nation was, we would have to remember how the chant that rose from there was one of being “United!” It was beautiful to see aid sent, people come together in prayer, every difference matter less, and everyone’s pain matter as we wrapped arms around each other. 

Today, every place you look is flooded with disunity. I want to say something I know will be unpopular, but it’s just truth:

It is your right to disagree with the reasons why someone protests anything, but it is also their right under the Constitution and Bill of Rights to do that. I would rather see someone exercise their right peacefully, whether or not I agree with them, instead of burning down neighborhoods, hurting others, or making everyone remember their reckless actions more than their cause. 

Here’s what I wonder. Are we willing to listen to the reason anyone chooses to protest or are we willing to listen to the reasons given by others? Would you be willing to sit down with someone doing something you don’t agree with to find out why, from them? Not from media outlets. Not from those who are also opposed. Would you be willing to sit down with them, listen to them, and still care about loving them and extending grace to them more than pounding your drum so loud you can’t hear them? 

Does that mean you have to change your mind about why you disagree? No. Does that mean they have to stop the protest? No. Does that mean that we care more about each other than who is “right?” Yes. 

That’s the place to start. Concern for our fellow men. Concern for a narrative that may not be true for our lives, but is true for theirs. 

Does name-calling help? No. Does being hateful and unwilling to listen unite us? No. 

If you were to sit down with someone protesting something in our country and they said it had nothing to do with their love and respect for service members, first responders, veterans, and those who died for our country while protecting every right they are exercising, could you hear that? Could you set aside your own preconceived notions to hear this when others have said this is what they are trying to do? 

I am the proud sister of two Veterans, proud niece of Veteran uncles, and I love my country. I am an American, but I have to remember that those that think differently from me are too.

More than that, the founding fathers of our nation started this great experiment of a country because they were unheard. Our roots are in our rights to stand up. That’s why they were pinned so passionately in our laws. Our rights to say no to the status quo are fundamentally American. 

Maybe if we review the words in our anthem or founding documents we could also hear those protesting say that they don’t feel like they are free to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Maybe we could just hear that, and whether or not we think they are right, we could do them the basic act of decency of saying that though I agree or disagree, I want to understand where you are in this because all Americans deserve their voices heard. 

Instead of digging heels in on either side, we have to be willing to listen. We have to care about Americans when their experiences are different from ours, and we have to care about preserving the experiment of democracy that’s continuing in our country. There was no roadmap to perfect democracy when our nation started, but what we have here is worth preserving, united as a nation birthed from tyranny, created by immigrants, and whose mark is pressing toward inalienable rights being both protected and exercised.