Opinion: We must renew respect for other perspectives
This week, leaders from across our state are gathered on Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Chamber policy conference.
We, a Democrat and a Republican representing opposite sides of the states, are speaking up today with a renewed call for respect for other’s opinions and the need to listen and understand different perspectives.
A vibrant democratic republic depends on vigorous debate — but also recognizes the importance of compromise and coming together. The road we are on about what is acceptable behavior is very dangerous.
We regularly meet with people we disagree with. We have very healthy, intense discussions.
Passionate discussions are acceptable but we cannot let our hearts harden at the vitriolic rhetoric becoming too common. Even though we may disagree on how to solve problems, policies necessary to do so, or process to accomplish them, we all must agree we love this country, we want to make this a better place for our children and future generations, and we cannot make the attacks personal or question each other’s motives.
We aren’t stronger when Republicans are in control, we aren’t stronger when Democrats are in control — we are doing the best for this country when bipartisan majorities rule the day.
We have been proud to work together on many pieces of legislation — almost as many as we have disagreed on. We are working together on PFAS and ensuring our water and environment are safe. We have introduced and gotten passed legislation to address the opioid drug crisis.
We work together on auto industry issues, immigration issues and just this month introduced “red flag” legislation along with our colleagues, Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks and Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, to give law enforcement a tool, while protecting due process, to remove a gun from people temporarily if considered a threat to themselves or the community. This bill — not in any way, shape or form — is not trying to confiscate guns, but you wouldn’t know it from social media traffic.
We’ve done interviews together. We’ve participated in public forums about the importance of bipartisanship and working together. And we will continue to work together — as a Republican and Democrat — with anyone willing to work with us.
The disagreeable, rude, mean-spirited dialogue we hear daily in our communities is helping no one. Debbie — who was raised by nuns in her childhood — always speaks of the distinctions between rules and values, the responsibilities we have to each other and the importance of action. We must always stand up for what is right; not be afraid to speak the truth. We are all human beings coming from the same creator, and equally deserving of respect. Faith isn’t just acts of charity, but to make a difference through participation. But how you do it matters.
We all need to take a deep breath. Threatening people, bullying people and treating them with disrespect are contributing to division in this country. Stonewalling and stopping all work for the next 18 months until the next election will only hurt hard-working Americans. We both recognize we have been elected by the people of our districts to deliver results for hard-working men and women.
Government at every level — from the precinct to the president — is being battered. People are scared and angry, desperate for answers, leadership and solutions. It’s time to stop the name-calling and yelling, and talk to each other again. Let’s focus on the real issues, not camouflage them with empty and hurtful rhetoric.
We are rapidly reaching a crisis point in our society. Community and citizenship are challenged where name-calling becomes a norm and bullying acceptable. People are losing their sense of connection to one another. We are losing the sense of “we” — the notion that our actions affect other people and their actions ours. As a country we finding more and more people facing social isolation and alienation from one another. Is that who we are?
Our hope is a government that knows its fundamental calling is to encourage what is the best in each of us, not the worst. Martin Luther King taught us that “Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Let’s stop the insults, abuse and disdainfulness. We are a representative government. That means representatives need to be able to listen, understand, and discuss. Fear of speaking up helps no cause, issue or community. We won’t stop getting out, mingling and standing up for what we believe to be right — even if our party leadership disagrees.
It’s time for a timeout. It is our hope our nation takes a deep breath, remember those who served their country and remember what it means to be an American – valuing our freedoms and rights afforded in the Constitution.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell represents Michigan’s 12th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton represents its 6th Congressional District.