Rep. Young Kim: Americans must turn down the divisive rhetoric
Originally published in the Orange County Register.
While I knew January 6 would be a contentious day, none of my colleagues expected that our lives would be on the line.
That afternoon, I was in my office for an interview with the National Journal for a story about our diverse GOP freshman class and how we perceived the American dream.
I talked about how my family traveled from South Korea to Guam when I was a young girl. How my mother and I would pick up cans and bottles on the beach, bring back funds raised from recycling to our church, as our way of giving back to our community that had welcomed us. How I moved to Hawaii and then to California, where I put myself through college. How I first felt I achieved the American dream when my parents, who had received an elementary education, were able to see me walk across the stage to receive my bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California.
My initial perception of the American dream was graduating from college and getting a stable, lucrative job, like an accountant or doctor. However, over time, I kept thinking of my memories at the beach in Guam, where my mom and I gave back to our new home as much as we could, with very little. I wanted to give back to my neighbors in California’s 39th district, where I ran a small business, raised a family, and have called home for decades. I have done that over the years in different ways and am now able to continue that as a member of the House of Representatives.
I had these thoughts of appreciation, when I announced that I would follow the oath I had taken to support and defend the Constitution by ratifying the electoral college votes. This was on top of my mind as I finished that interview. Then I turned on the TV and saw people forcing their way into the Capitol building, beating police officers, carrying baseball bats and confederate flags, and the mayhem was less than a mile away.
My staff and I watched some of the events transpire from our office while the brave men and women of our Capitol police worked to control the situation.
The violence we saw on January 6 was abhorrent. My team and I were on lockdown in our office. Lives were lost, including a Capitol Police officer, and more were put in danger. I fear that this violence will only continue. People have threatened to send a mob to my house. Some colleagues have had their offices vandalized. Others have discussed buying body armor. These sentiments have been shared regardless of how they voted on impeachment.
On Wednesday, I introduced a bipartisan resolution with fellow California Reps. Jimmy Gomez, Michelle Steel and others to celebrate Korean American Day, when the first Korean immigrants arrived in the U.S. in 1903. I would never had anticipated that same day I’d be voting on impeaching a president with one week left in his term. I opposed this because I believe there was a better way forward to unite the country, allow us to move forward and not create deeper divisions among neighbors and friends.
We must be able to disagree without being disagreeable. The rioters must be held accountable, but we also know that these individuals are not reflective of the majority of the nearly 75 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump. Likewise, the rioting we saw over the summer was not reflective of the nearly 82 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden. Both of our parties bear responsibility for this divisive rhetoric, must condemn violence and set better examples for our constituents and our country.
I know we are the America that welcomed me and my family into its fabric and allowed me to realize my American dream. This is the America we all know and love. I look forward to helping our nation move forward and working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for the betterment of America and the people of California’s 39th congressional district.