Violence against America? Understand it and your role as a citizen.

The U.S. National Archives has a 23-minute short film produced by the Army Signal Corps called “Don’t be a Sucker.” It’s a worthwhile watch on the role of active citizenship and persuasion.

“We must not allow the freedom or dignity of any (person) to be threatened by any act or word,” the film advises.

Among other noteworthy comments: “You have the right to be what you are, say what you think, because here we have personal freedom. We have liberty, and these are not just fancy words. This is a practical and priceless way of living. But we must work at it. We must guard everyone’s liberties, or we can lose our own.”

Ballots are two weeks away from being sent to every registered voter in Colorado for the November 8 midterm elections, and our liberties are at risk.

Congress continues to investigate the events surrounding January 6, 2021, in an expanded investigation finding that former President Donald Trump was executing a comprehensive plan to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

The rioters in the U.S. Capitol attack/insurrection/attempted coup continue to be tried and sentenced.

Polls continue to show how divided our country is, with a small but significant percentage responding that they are willing to use violence against their fellow American citizens for political purposes.

With all the divisiveness and anger, what should a responsible citizen do? How can we adequately think of current issues and America’s success in the future while we are still arguing about the past?

Let’s be clear: One person is responsible for Jan. 6, the rise of contemporary political hate groups, and our ability to remain a constitutional republic for centuries to come: Donald J. Trump.  The former president must be thoroughly removed from the Republican Party and all respectable discussions in public policy.

As to criminal intent or civil liability, that is not our concern; it is for investigators, prosecutors, judges, and juries to decide his culpability if any. But as to public policy influence in America, he should have none. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

When a person is willing to sacrifice our system of governance (yes, our constitutional republic is founded on representative and direct democracy) to ensure that he remains in power, nothing else matters.

You may like or oppose his views on immigration, race relations, foreign policy, abortion, gay rights, taxes, his style, communication techniques, willingness to take it to the “enemy,” and on and on, but none of that matters.

You may despise President Joe Biden and the war that has started on his watch, his lax approach to securing the southern border, his tax and spend policies, his bumbling gaffes and his strong criticism of MAGA Republicans, but none of that matters.

Former President Donald Trump is ineligible to ever participate in our republic again.

He was willing to use whatever means necessary to retain power against our current laws, and that is reprehensible. We must ensure that he never has access to any credible power again in the United States. Do this out of love of country, not hate for the man.

Now some recommendations:

Resist the urge to label everyone in a group. It may be tempting to damn Trump’s family and close advisors as persona nongrata. But how about others? Keep your animosity, if you must harbor such anger, to as small a group as possible. We likely do not know yet what role they played and will play to keep America strong for years or decades to come.

If you believe, like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, that Trump is the greatest internal threat to our republic, then insist that every candidate for office be very direct with voters about their intent. Know the answer to this question: Will you vote for Trump if he is the Republican nominee? If the answer is yes, then you’ll know much about that candidate’s lack of knowledge about America and the importance of respect for our Rule of Law. However, resist the temptation to label all Republicans or Democrats a certain way. Judge every person as an individual not as a member of a group.

Choose to be effective. Most voters, even unaffiliated ones, vote straight party line. Most voters also want their vote to count and mean something. Many will consider selectively crossing party lines to vote for the better candidate. Although relatively few, 5-10% of citizens will make their mind up individually on each candidate. Work to persuade those people, don’t pander to your own team or attack your opponents. Decide to win authentically.

It is possible to win elections by turning out the vote on one side and discouraging the other team from voting, but most elections are decided by those who were initially undecided. These citizens struggle to know the best way to vote in most elections, and they can be persuaded by your thoughtful insights and passions.

Insulting voters or stereotyping their character or motives because of an affiliation with a group is the worst way to be persuasive.

Tone down angry rhetoric, vitriol, and even snark in personal conversations and online communications.

Most citizens would not be willing to sacrifice their honor, property, freedom and liberty to be forever branded as a felon and criminal.  Let’s not assume the worst of our fellow citizens. Let’s plead and pull more of our fellow Americans toward thoughtful dialogue, debate and yes even verbal arguments.

Our country will remain strong, and we must insist that we strive toward our higher calling. We’ve been fighting the odds against tyranny and authoritarian regimes with more personal freedom and autonomy for several hundred years. Let’s give freedom a chance for several hundred more. It is what defines America … the ability to have a peaceful disagreement while governing ourselves.

John Brackney is a former elected official, Army Officer, lifelong Coloradan, and business leader. He hosts a weekly discussion on contemporary public policy with U.S. History Professor Stephen Tootle on Facebook live and posted on Youtube and Spotify. Contact him at [email protected]

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