The senseless killing of British MP Jo Cox is "a manifestation of a coarseness in our politics and hatred toward the other that we must not tolerate." That from American politician Gabby Giffords, herself the target of an assassination attempt.
We must do better. We must hold each other to account. We must condemn threats against women in politics, because the death of Jo Cox shows what can happen when threats are actualized.
Like me, many women in politics have been told to just not engage -- and to just "let things go."
We must not let threatening, misogynistic, or hateful discourse online or elsewhere go unopposed. We must not let hate win and we must not let people try to tell us that we cannot be better. We must elevate the voices of those who challenge narratives of anger, fear, and divisiveness. Above all, we must do our best to ensure that kindness prevails.
Some will say that it's a lot easier to just step back and stand down. During my campaign in the last federal election, I experienced just what many women in politics have -- threats, profane language, and name-calling, to name just a few. Just this week, I was denigrated online, unprovoked, after posting what many would view as an innocuous story. I was called everything from a fascist to a loser (and other names that I won't share), and I'm not even an elected official.
Like me, many women in politics have been told to just not engage -- and to just "let things go." Or, we're told to just simply "ignore the trolls." We're told that you "gotta be tough" in politics, and if you can't handle it, then it's just not for you. "Grow a thick skin," they'll often say. But the thickest of skins won't combat threats that are acted upon. The thickest of skins won't stop a bullet.
Healthy, vibrant debate is needed more than ever in our democracy.
We know when we see injustice. We know when we experience attitudes that are hateful. We know when we witness harmful or violent acts. At times, however, we must ask ourselves if we've forgotten how to discuss these things, and more importantly, if we've forgotten the power in challenging them. It's time to re-ignite the dialogue that needs to occur, because failure to speak and failure to respond are just what's needed to maintain the status quo.
We won't always agree on issues, and that's OK. Healthy, vibrant debate is needed more than ever in our democracy. We can disagree fundamentally on issues, but ultimately, we must remember that we are one. As Jo Cox said, "we have far more in common than that which divides us." So let us be guided by her words as we move forward and let us unite against the very hate that took her from us.
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