This is a time of year when we reflect seriously upon our country, its beginnings and its future. We think, much like the Founding Fathers did 243 years ago, about what right looks like. We do not always get it correct and rarely on the first try. Yet, it is inherently American to strive to get it right eventually, even if we fall short or must re-evaluate our views on what right looks like.

But too often today this self-evaluation is not happening. Instead, we see politics become a team sport and the focus instead on justifying our team’s actions, whether we truly believe they are right or not. In a “gotcha” culture, this rigidity can be somewhat understandable, but it still must be countered on all fronts. We believe good leaders are able to admit their mistakes, otherwise there can be no effort to correct them. 

We should all ask ourselves if this is what right looks like to us:

• Making 9-11 first responders return to Congress again and again to ask for funding to take care of medical conditions they suffered after the terrorist attack. While many politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have dismissed concerns and assured the first responders and the public the funds will be there “like they always have,” the fact that there is even a question, that the possibility exists that the funds could be used as a political football or cudgel, should be embarrassing. 

• Trashing those who have served our country honorably. Whether that is our own intelligence agencies or departing members of the president’s cabinet, President Trump far too often gives the appearance that service to the country will not be rewarded.

And with his criticisms, the president shakes the faith in not just individual people but institutions of American government that have long been pillars of the nation. In doing so the president could make it difficult to use intelligence gathered by these very agencies — perhaps to make the case for a military strike against an enemy or economic sanctions for a rouge nation — because their credibility has been damaged. Are foreign allies to believe what our intelligence agencies say or should will they ignore it when it’s inconvenient by challenging its veracity.

• Creating the inhumane, unsanitary conditions migrant and refugee children are being kept in. Such facilities shouldn’t be possible or permitted in America. But instead of lawmakers working toward any real solutions on the border camp conditions or actual immigration reforms, these children, like the 9-11 first responders, are being used as political props as fiery rhetoric is exchanged but nothing of any substance happens.  

Right does not like what is happening in Congress today. Many times politicians say the right things, expressing concerns about the ever-increasing violation of political norms and the deteriorating civility. But then these words pass and the politicians retreat into their party’s corners, find whatever justification they can to continue on despite their “reservations” or “concerns.” Until these words are followed by action of any kind, finding what is right as a country will grow increasingly difficult — and standing up for what is right might be downright impossible.

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