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A tragic event took place last weekwhen a gunman shot a member of Congress, Capitol Police and others. And as much as it pains me to say, chaos seems to be the new normal. Hate crimes are rising across the nation, town halls are filled with more questions than answers. There is confusion on the Hill and confusion in American homes. The American people are worried, angry and many are afraid. They look to their elected officials for guidance.

The sobering truth is that when we allow partisanship to be prioritized over the needs of American citizens, tragedy can be the result. We in Congress need to take a hard look in the mirror. Then, we need to hang these mirrors in the halls of Congress. We need to hang those same mirrors on the walls of the White House, in our communities and in our homes.

For too long, too many have stared into these mirrors asking “Who’s the fairest?” We should instead ask: What is fair? What is just? What is true? What is right? I hope the elected officials and government workers involved in the crisis in Flint can look into the murky, lead-laden waters and see their reflections. I wished they would have looked in the mirror before this crisis occurred. Perhaps much of the pain so many have suffered in this country could have been avoided if only our leaders made better choices for the good of the people.

We in Congress have a solemn duty to serve the American people. We need to look at ourselves with no filters and question our integrity, our morals and remember those who got us to where we are today. The day partisan interests are put above the American people, the mirror breaks; and so does our democracy.

There are consequences when we don’t learn from our mistakes. American history has shown us the disastrous effects of prejudice, hate, racism and classism. What we’re facing today is nothing new. Generations before us have faced these problems. But they took a hard look in the mirror, faced themselves and fought back. Blood was shed and lives were lost in the pursuit of equality and justice. We cannot allow our country to repeat the errors of the past.

The people’s voice must never be silenced. The truth should never be hidden behind closed doors. We as elected officials must have the political courage to speak the needs of the people and openly share our plans for advancement of the nation. We must see ourselves not only through our own eyes, but through the eyes of those we serve. A truth that is inherently American, is that though we may be different — we can still be united.

As Americans, we all must look in the mirror and see our reflection for what it really is — an image that is filtered only by our pledge of allegiance “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.” Then, when the dust has settled and the day is over, only then will we truly see ourselves and be able as a country to repair the cracks.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence represents Michigan’s 14th district in Congress.

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