By Congressman Dave Brat (R, VA-7)
This past weekend I attended the funeral for Lt. H. Jay Cullen, one of two Virginia troopers killed in a helicopter crash in Albermarle County while assisting with public safety at the Charlottesville protest. More than 1,000 people gathered at the Southside Church of the Nazarene in Chesterfield to honor their friend and devoted family man to his wife, Karen, and two sons, Ryan and Max. Earlier in the week, a funeral was held in Henrico for fellow Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who leaves behind his wife, Amanda, and twin 12 year olds Deacon and Kylee. After a decade of stellar service to Virginia, Bates joined the Aviation Unit just this past July. He would have turned 41 years old last Sunday. Troopers Cullen and Bates were two of the best of the best. Their helicopter crashed into a wooded area just outside the University of VA, where hours earlier, a man had driven his car into a crowd of counterprotestors, killing 32 year old Heather Heyer, a paralegal with a life-long passion for helping people. At Heather’s memorial service on Wednesday in Charlottesville, attendees wore purple, her favorite color, and asked that her tragic death be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.
Excerpt from “Friends of Dave Brat, Inc.” message dated August 22, 2017
Each one of these deaths is a heartbreaking loss to our community. Laura and I join with you in prayer for their families and friends, and our nation at this truly pivotal moment in time.
On Saturday morning before the memorial service, over 100 pastors from around the region, representing many denominations, came together in prayer at a Faith Leaders Breakfast hosted by Ed Gillespie. I was honored to have Pastor Calvin Duncan of Faith and Family Church in Chesterfield with me there as my guest. Thank you to the wonderful members of Trinity Family Life Center for providing their facilities for the event, and especially for their warm welcome.
Coming together in times like this reminds us that the shocking scenes of violence, and its ugly aftermath, are not a portrait of who we are as Virginians or Americans. When the stories and images are plastered across the headlines, it can give people the disturbing impression that America is a dark place in decline. Don’t fall prey to that narrative. All over America today people are going about their lives, whether hard at work, or in school, volunteering to make their communities a better place, and supporting their neighbors, regardless of skin color, religion, or political affiliation.
It is easy to fall prey to those who foment hatred and division as a way to move an agenda forward, and especially so in an age of moral relativism, which holds that there are no absolutes to which we can all be held accountable. But even today, more unites us than divides us—no matter what the headlines say.
The events in Charlottesville catapulted the ugly hate of a few outlying groups into the spotlight. It is imperative to name these groups at the center of the debate and renounce them, and I have done so repeatedly. The KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists are fascist groups whose goals and agenda require the heavy boot of a large controlling federal state to impose their bigoted views on society.The media buzzwords of the day are “moral equivalency.” It is an attempt by the media and the left to categorize who is to blame more for the lack of civil discourse in America today. But a more relevant discussion for us moving forward is the difference between those who believe in our founding principles and those who seek their destruction.
As Reagan eloquently noted in his “A Time for Choosing” speech, our choice today is not between Left and Right, but Up and Down; up to liberty and freedom and God-given, natural rights; or down, to an all-controlling state where rights are determined and dispensed by government. This battle is one that we will never cease fighting because it has manifested itself in various forms since the beginning of time. In fact, the best teaching on good and evil and human nature can be found in the Old Testament of the Bible, scripture that is shared by many traditions. In Federalist No. 51, James Madison wrote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” It is this kind of reflection on human nature that was enshrined in many ways in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
America is the product of over 2,500 years of a tradition that flows from the ancient Greek philosophers to the morals of Jerusalem to the parchments sheets of the Magna Carta and beyond. This tradition has gradually figured out how to protect and celebrate the individual, and unleash the creative powers of capitalism. This belief that each person matters is the best, simplest justification for letting each person live freely.
Today, the idea that government should do for people what they can and should do for themselves threatens the very thing that has made it possible for all of us to have good lives. We need to be constantly on guard against the temptation of centralized power—the idea that the planners know best. If humanity is far from angelic, and governments are made of men, whenever someone offers a government solution as the whole truth or the perfect fix, something has gone wrong.
Our founding documents were brilliantly constructed to limit power in such a way that limited fallen human nature can work together to form a more perfect union. Not perfect, but more perfect.
Instead of having the current debate focused on finding more perfect solutions to the issues we face today based on our long held values, what we are now seeing is a biased media attempt to pin abhorrent beliefs held by a very few on every conservative. It is a ridiculous set of standards when conservatives—and only conservatives—have to jump through the media’s flaming circus hoops over and over and over to denounce the views and actions of bigoted groups. Yet, Democrats are never called on to denounce violent actions carried out by fringe groups on the left like Antifa.
The fact is, Americans overwhelmingly reject both racial hatred as well as groups that advocate the use of violence in the name of politics. The result of the hateful rhetoric over the past seven months is there is now a political environment that is so toxic that even on issues of bi-partisan agreement, Democrats in Congress are afraid to step out and work together.
For twenty years, I taught many of your college students throughout the seventh district about ethics and why having standards of right and wrong in our society is so critically important to our path forward. We must never forget that having a moral compass, knowing what is good and bad and why, is an indispensable key to a positive future that gives everyone a chance to succeed.
This ethics background and the key principles that I ran on three years ago are behind most every action I take in Congress. These key principles are found in the Virginia Republican Creed. It is the benchmark standard I hold myself accountable to for everything I do as your Congressman, and I thought it was appropriate to share it again, today:
1- that the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice,
2- that all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society,
3- that fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government,
4- that the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations,
5- that peace is best preserved through a strong national defense,
6- and that faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.
We should proudly stand with every great, freedom-loving thinker in the Western tradition from James Madison to Martin Luther King and proclaim an Ethics of Freedom that will guide us through the current uncertainty as it has in past challenges. Freedom is the source of our success, and we should be brave enough to stick to it and ensure that every single person in this country is ensured this freedom and equality under the law.
The principles of freedom are not partisan; they are our shared DNA. Our liberties were gifted to us by our founding fathers and were protected by men and women in uniform who bled and died for our great nation. While our founding fathers were imperfect, just like the rest of us, our founders put in place a road map for our nation to follow to ensure the rights of every man, woman, and child in America to be free and to pursue happiness. That path is still the right choice.