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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Cathy McMorris Rodgers: There is more that unites us than divides us

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

This year has challenged me to reflect on everything that is going on in our country. I’m reminded that division stifles progress and prevents good ideas – no matter their source – from being heard and considered. Reveling in our opponents’ missteps and losses drags us down as a country and diminishes our potential as people.

Last year, I wrote a column for Time about why bridging the political divide was more important than ever. As we all have seen over the last two years, that goal remains crucial to moving us forward as a country and building stronger families and safer communities.

Whether it’s pipe bombs being sent to Democratic public officials or Republican members of Congress being gunned down on a baseball field, the fact of the matter is that rhetoric matters. Hateful and divisive language leads to violence, and both sides, Republicans and Democrats, can and must lead in doing better.

We must remember that although we come from different backgrounds and ideologies, we’re all part of this great experiment in self-governance. We’re all united by common values of liberty, justice and equality of opportunity, even if we don’t always agree on how to achieve them. In order for us to turn the corner on this issue, it’s going to take each one of us doing our part. We can pledge to be better neighbors and to build up our communities when anger and fear threaten to divide us and tear us down.

In a time where there is so much anger and hostility – when the political discourse and rhetoric threatens to tear our communities apart – I have made it a priority to bring people together and work to bridge the gaps that divide us. My goal is to help lead the healing that needs to happen in our country and in our community.

Over the past year, I’ve been hosting Unity Dinners with people throughout Eastern Washington. The dinner table has a way of breaking down barriers between people. As we put our phones aside and eat our meal, we listen and share stories about what led us to live in this city, how we met our spouses, where we went to school, and what our dreams are for our community.

One conversation leads to another, and by the end of the evening we’ve made new friends. A shared meal is a shared life. Everyone has a story. Many people have experienced deep pain, heartache and loss whether financial, health or family. But by being kind and caring for one another, we can offer each other hope and encouragement to continue on. I’ve been encouraged by people who disagree with me politically but through these discussions have pledged to do their part to build bridges and find common ground. Our conclusion: unity does not mean uniformity.

Over the past two years, I have co-hosted the Peaceful Community Roundtable here in Spokane to bring a diverse group of leaders together and discuss priorities for Spokane to build a stronger, safer community. We don’t just talk about problems, we talk about solutions. When I began on this journey, I didn’t know what to expect, but I can attest today that it was been one of the most unexpected positives since I have been in Congress.

I’m not just leading on these priorities here at home. I’m taking this mission to Washington, D.C., as well.

Through national unity dinners and a bipartisan women’s group, I have committed to building relationships across the aisle where we can find common ground and work together to solve the issues impacting our communities and country. Anger and hostility only increases stress and anxiety, and if we can’t even talk to each other, there’s no way we are going to be able to solve the problems facing our country. America is strongest when we work together – despite our differences. I will continue working to find common ground and serve as a unifying force here in Eastern Washington.

There is more that unites us than divides us. Our shared values of liberty, justice, and equality of opportunity are stronger than any campaign or controversy. We can’t and shouldn’t go at it alone. May I, as your representative, lead the healing for Eastern Washington and for our country. That’s my commitment to you.

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