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To help bring our community together in a time of extreme polarization, LebTown has invited a variety of community leaders to share columns this week on the topic of unitedness and healing.
We feel this topic is important to discuss given the unprecedented protest activity we witnessed across the nation last week, as well as the increased stress felt right now by many due to the ongoing public health and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you would like to submit your own column to LebTown, please start by reading our guidelines here.
The death of George Floyd should unite all Americans, regardless of our political affiliation, occupation, gender, or skin color. In order to ensure that unity, we need to begin with how we each view Mr. Floyd’s demise.
When you saw the very disturbing video or photo of this incident, did you see a white man killing a black man? Did you see a police officer killing a handcuffed man? Did you combine those two into a white police officer killing a handcuffed and subdued black man? Did you view them as two men, rather than women? Or did you simply see one individual killing another individual?
Unity demands that we default to the latter observation first. By doing so we can begin to assess the situation objectively, without affixing labels to either of the two individuals involved. While the other views which apply labels to those individuals are certainly worth discussing, exploring, and addressing, if those are our first impressions, we are launching such discussions from a divisive perspective.
The bottom line is that one individual’s most precious and constitutionally-guaranteed right to life has been violated by the actions of another individual.
For these reasons, regardless of whether I’m assessing the circumstances of Mr. Floyd’s demise or the public policy issues surrounding COVID-19, I have always focused on our constitutions and the liberties memorialized within. The greatest feature of our constitutions is that they apply equally to every individual in our society. As such, that equality must also apply to every subordinate law and regulation, with the ultimate objective of further securing the inherent rights guaranteed within those documents.
I fully support the peaceful assembly of those who gather to petition their government for redress of grievances which exude from the George Floyd incident, just as I fully support the peaceful assembly of those who gather to petition their government for redress of grievances regarding the public policy response to COVID-19.
I fully condemn the deprivation of George Floyd’s individual liberty at the hands of a government agent acting in the name of safety during a police incident, just as I condemn the deprivation of every Pennsylvanian’s individual liberty at the hands of a government agent acting in the name of safety during the response to COVID-19.
I feel the same way about those who turned peaceful protests into a violent riot which violates property rights as I do about those who turned a public policy launched for public safety into an instrument of destruction upon our well-being and economic rights.
Because safety is a very subjective term, it is subject to all manner of interpretation and judgment calls. Liberty is less subjective, as it is only limited under our constitutions when expressions of liberty definitively cause demonstrable harm to others. In striking a balance between these two concepts, I view liberty as the best guarantor of safety and will always choose to err on its side.
Our founding documents are beautiful in that we can all rally and unite around them, regardless of color, creed, gender, or the uniform we wear. When we hold high the inherent and constitutionally-guaranteed liberties within those documents, and agree that they must be equal for all, we cannot be divided. When those liberties occupy the center of our political universe, every other issue we address will revolve around them by default due to their sheer gravity.
My hope has always been that more people would fully understand what our constitutions actually say, and how they should be applied to practical situations. Such knowledge needs to be instilled in our citizens at a young age, and become ingrained in them as they mature, so they too can understand and apply it to their own practical situations.
We are already united in that we are all individuals, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We must find ways to bring America’s core principles back to the forefront of society and conversation. Otherwise, we shall suffer the fate of being divided.
Russ Diamond is the state Representative for the 102nd Legislative District, which includes northern and eastern portions of Lebanon County.