I would like to offer some thoughts following the regrettable breach or our National Capitol.

As a soldier with 37 years of service, the breach of our National Capitol was exceptionally hurtful. I’m sure all of the service men and women who have defended the nation and its noble ideals are equally pained.

The first amendment of the US constitution gives our citizens the right to protest; it reads in part, “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” All of us support this right. The key word is “peaceably.” There is no place for domestic violence regardless of the cause.

The breach of our National Capitol is deeply painful, largely due to its symbology as the heart of our nation. While this is true, we must keep in mind that this breach was caused by a few thousand of our 330 million citizens.

This event will be captured in the American History books our children and grandchildren read. It simply can’t be wiped away. It has damaged our country and the impact of this event will last for years to come. Those responsible cannot be forgiven whatever their motives, whatever their emotions of the moment. Those directly involved must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and those indirectly responsible must suffer the political consequences, no matter how long it takes.

We have a lot of work to do and must resolve to heal the hurt. I offer some suggestions, albeit necessarily much abbreviated.

Recognize, that as hard as it is to say, the greatest current threat to our democracy is not China or Russia, it is internal forces. For some time now, the FBI has reported the highest threat comes from domestic terror groups.

There is a recipe for the destruction of our democracy. It includes the denigration of our organs of government, restrictions of the free press, turning our citizens against each other, creating mistrust of law enforcement, and creating doubt, confusion and suspicion. These methods are well-known techniques of subversion, and are objectives of our enemies and they seem to be working.

Democracy, particularly one as complex as ours requires an informed and involved electorate. We must vigorously pursue truth and understand the issues before us.

Build your own faith in our institutions. There are thousands of good people just like yourself who work hard every day to ensure our nation functions effectively.

The almost universal use of social media makes truth harder to determine. I would just say, work hard to know what the truth is. Read and listen to sources that check their facts. Sort facts from opinion. If you are unable to determine whether information is true, don’t pass it to others. Be watchful of those who apply derogatory “labels” to broad groups of other and brand them as unpatriotic.

Be strong enough to think for yourself. Too many simply become sycophants to someone else’s ideology. Some follow others simply to belong to a group and thereby derive a degree of power.

Change is inevitable. The lessons of history are clear to those who take time to study them. The US is the greatest country on the face of the earth. Some who have a shallow understanding of history have the view that beginning with the founding of the nation we have been perfect. A more rigorous study of our history shows that we have done things we are not proud of – but it also shows we get better all the time.

I encourage all of us to make an individual effort so that we are able to fulfill the promise of our country.

Mike Dodson is a retired lieutenant general with the U.S. Army, a former mayor of Manhattan and a Kansas House representative for the 67th District.

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