Joint statement by the Virginia Law Democrats and the Virginia Law Republicans
After the events of August 11 and 12, leaders of both the Law Democrats and the Law Republicans were unsure about whether we could meaningfully add to the cadre of voices sharing their experiences on the horrors that shook our community. The labels “Democrat” and “Republican” were not the targets of those bearing torches, perpetuating violence, and carrying messages of hate and bigotry. We cannot, therefore, speak to what it must feel like to be threatened in the manner so many were on those awful days.
We can, however, speak to the shared pain the events of those days have caused our community. We can say with confidence that we all felt it then and we all feel it now. After discussions between leaders from both organizations, we decided to offer our community this: In a time of division and uncertainty, we want to offer an example of unity and direction, a statement of commonality connecting two sides that too often today seem diametrically opposed.
The following is therefore a statement made on behalf of both the Law Democrats and the Law Republicans, sharing our unified perspective on the events that occurred in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12 and our shared hope for one part of the path forward for our community.
First, we wish to state, unequivocally: We renounce neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and any other group who would seek to use violence, hatred, bigotry, or fear as a tool of suppression of the rights of any member of our community. Such groups have no place in our party membership nor, we believe, in our political discourse.
Second, we express our support for those who may feel ostracized or fearful as a result of the events of August 11 and 12 or any other expression of violence against them because of their identity or belief, including race, religion, nationality, gender, or creed. We stand with you today and always. We renew our commitment to your protection and full inclusion in our community.
Third, we make two requests: First, a request for democratic engagement. The second is a call for civility.
That so many felt comfortable publically advocating such a reprehensible message on August 11 and 12 undeniably shows how far our society still has to go to eliminate hate and injustice. Though our parties may sometimes disagree regarding policy on how to achieve that goal, we share beliefs that reveal our unity. We can all agree, for example, that the events of August 11 and 12 reveal the need for strong public leadership. Now, more than ever, our community—in Charlottesville and across the country—is in need of leaders who will actively and unequivocally seek to expel forces of evil and injustice. To get leaders like that into power, no matter which party label they bear, we have to vote. We have to participate in state, local and national governance. We have to read the news—beyond just our friends’ Facebook statuses—and we have to actively seek out perspectives that challenge our existing beliefs. Whichever side we support, we must tenaciously engage in the peaceful exercise of democracy. It is the most powerful rebuke we can give to those who would seek to undermine it.
Further, when we exercise our right to participate in a thriving democracy, whether it be through voting, campaigning, issue advocacy, or simply discussions of the day’s issues, we request that our community join us in attempting to do so with civility. Civility means respect and tolerance for those different from ourselves. Civility means judging a person based on their humanity and character, not for whether they lean right or left. Civility means doing the hard work of putting ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes, to learn from them, and to see the world in a way we might not have considered only a moment before. Choosing civility is not an easy task, particularly when wounds are deep and the stakes are high, but it is absolutely essential to preserving the core of democracy, where humility and tolerance serve to keep the forces of demagoguery and hate at bay.
In six days, Charlottesville will enter its first test of democracy since the events of August 11 and 12. That is, in six days, it is election day in Virginia. If you don’t know who is on the ballot, we ask that you learn (ask any of us, we’d be glad to chat with you). If you weren’t planning to vote, we hope that you will change your mind. If you are planning to vote—or canvass or poll-watch or phone bank or debate or whatever—we ask that you aspire to do so with civility. Before you vote, we ask that you take the time to get to know the nuances of the civic forum, to understand the perspectives of all its members, and to ask the tough questions.
The events of August 11 and 12 were disgusting. They represent the darkest corners of our community and we must all do our part to ensure that they, or anything like them, never happen again. But the events of August 11 and 12 cannot, by any means, define our community. Rather, days like November 7, when we come together to engage as a community in the lofty tradition of collective self-governance, are what define us—and what will continue to define us, should we continue to rise to the challenges this process necessarily entails. We believe in our members and we believe in our community, we are ready to get to work defining both as a peaceful, civil, and thriving democratic community where the rights of all are respected.