When I was an undercover CIA officer, I served alongside real patriots. I got out of bed each day knowing that my colleagues and I were standing tall against those trying to harm America.
For almost a decade, I was the guy in the back alleys at four o’clock in the morning chasing terrorists in groups like al-Qaeda, and collecting intelligence on threats to our homeland. Unfortunately, that’s not the only job I’ve had where the life of my friends and colleagues were threatened.
On June 14, 2017, an individual attempted to assassinate several of my colleagues, including House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), during a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game when Members of Congress play against each other to raise money for charity. Despite the horrific shooting, people from across the political spectrum rebelled against fear and the game went on.
Thousands of people set their political views aside in solidarity for the victims, doubling the previous attendance record and raising over $1.5 million for charity.
The event reminded us that life is precious and that an attack on one of us is an attack on our institutions. My concern is that we will be unable to put aside our labels of Democrat or Republican and continue this spirit of cooperation the further we get from the incident. One of the founding principles of our great nation is free speech – or put alternatively, the ability to disagree. Through civil discourse and competition of ideas, we have created policies that have allowed Americans and America to prosper.
To put this into context, the same week that my friends were shot on the baseball field, the Chinese government was attempting to restrict their citizens from using social media platforms to express dissent. We cannot take our rights for granted. We need to use this right to free speech to show each other and the rest of the world that more unites us than divides us.
I’ve heard repeatedly while crisscrossing the 23rd Congressional District of Texas that people are worried that our country is on the wrong track. I understand why you all feel this way – I often feel the same after seeing the pointless partisan bickering in Congress. If we change the way we behave in the political arena, we can change the outcomes of the political process and create innovative solutions that ensure American prosperity.
Bipartisanship is a real thing, and the only way to ensure that everyone is heard. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and more importantly, we must work together to solve our nation’s major problems. If we want our country to be better, each one of us needs to be better. For us to be better, we need to change how we talk to one another, because words matter.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.