Democracy Is Messy But ‘More Unites Us Than Divides Us’
NORTH OGDEN, Utah – Watching the chaos in our nation’s capital unfold on Wednesday brought a mix of emotions for Jennie Taylor.
Her husband, Major Brent Taylor, was killed in Afghanistan in 2018, paying the ultimate price for the rights and freedoms he so strongly believed in.
Their shared love of America and its ideals is what first attracted her to her husband in college.
It’s an ideal she still believes in, despite recent events. She also believes most of the people who gathered in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 did so peacefully.
“I actually have family members who are there who are peacefully protesting,” she said. “Exercising their American right to say, ‘I don’t like the way things are being done.’ That’s an American right. But to loot, to riot, to burn, to kill – then you’ve crossed the line.”
“Here we are now in the United States of America in the 21st century, looking at the unrest around an election, to where a woman was killed in the United States Capitol. Congressmen and senators were ushered out and doors were barricaded. That’s not a peaceful protest. That’s not someone trying to preserve democracy,” she said.
She wondered aloud what the rest of the world must be thinking.
“That beacon of hope, did it just go dark? No. We can’t let it go dark. I mean, as much as this is heartbreaking and maddening, I’m also quick to tell my kids I am optimistic for the future of this country,” she said.
Politics and current events are common discussion topics in the Taylor household, where she is raising her and Brent’s seven children.
“I have a couple teenagers now,” she said. “This morning, we had a pretty frank conversation about the relevance between things happening in our country right now and the conditions in Afghanistan that literally cost their father his life.”
“Looking back to October of 2018, the chaos in Afghanistan surrounded elections. The chaos surrounded trying to intimidate people from voting or not liking the results of the voting,” she explained. “Several Afghans lost their lives defending those elections.”
Brent wrote about that election in his final Facebook post before he died.
Freedom: Millions Defy Taliban and Vote in Afghan Elections
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“The strong turnout, despite the attacks and challenges, was a success for the long-suffering people of Afghanistan and for the cause of human freedom,” he wrote. “Many American, NATO allies, and Afghan troops have died to make moments like this possible; for example, my dear friend Lieutenant Kefayatullah who was killed fighting the Taliban the day before voting began.”
Two weeks later, an Afghan solder Taylor was training shot him during a training march.
When she traveled to Dover Air Base to meet her husband’s body on Election Day in 2018, Jennie took a photo of what she describes as a simple but profound display: a short quote, “On behalf of a grateful nation,” accompanied by the seals of the branches of the United States Armed Services.
“I certainly couldn’t have imagined then what violence would accompany our country’s own democratic elections a mere two years later,” she wrote Wednesday night on Facebook. “Tonight it certainly doesn’t seem like our nation is exhibiting behaviors in line with the gratitude we profess to feel for those who have given their lives in the global fight for the principles of freedom that have kept us united as one nation under God for nearly 250 years now.”
She hopes recent events may serve as a reset button, allowing Americans to remember debate is healthy and necessary for a robust democracy – but so is mutual respect.
“As things spiral out of control, most of us – most of mainstream America – is looking around saying, ‘OK, guys, really, we got to find a better way,’” she said. “Most of us want to preserve the great cause of freedom that men and women continue to die for around the world and across time.”
Democracy, she said, is messy. It takes work.
“The mess is not intended to be destructive,” she said. “The mess of democracy is saying, ‘I’m going to have to let you have your opinion, you’re going to have to listen to my opinion.’ And then we’re going to have to kind of wrestle it out, hopefully with words and ideologies, and not guns and fistfights.”
“I don’t think for a second democracy means people need to be quiet with their beliefs,” she said. “We should be passionate, we should be engaged, we should have our opinions and our values.”
She said it does come with responsibilities.
“The freedom to speak, which comes with the responsibility to listen, the freedom to disagree, which comes with the responsibility to not be disagreeable. The freedom to vote, which comes with the responsibility to accept the outcome of those elections.”
“I know all my soldier would want would be for us to respect the very things he died for,” she said.
Taylor hopes at the end of the day, we can all remember that not only are we all Americans, we are all humans and we have more in common than inflamed rhetoric would have us believe.
“I really look to the example of my husband and so many like him who could take these differing points of view, have a heated passionate conversation, and then shake hands at the end of the day.”
“My husband’s famous last Facebook post was, ‘There’s more that unites us as Americans than divides us.’ But if we don’t remember that, and if we don’t emphasize that commonality, man, it’s easy to tear each other apart,” she said.
“Some things really are worth dying for. But those who have died for those principles, and for those opportunities, and for those values, would certainly not want us killing each other over them. And they certainly wouldn’t want us tearing each other apart over them.”
“Brent didn’t die so that we can loot the capital,” she said. “Now, he did die so we can speak freely, he did die so we can disagree politically, he did die so we can be really unhappy or really happy about election results. The American way is to either celebrate or cry on election night, and then move on and say, ‘Man, I can’t believe that guy won,’ or ‘Yay, my guy won!’ And in four more years, guess what, we’re doing it all again.”
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