As I sat in my Capitol Hill office two weeks ago, watching a violent mob storm the symbol and seat of our democracy, I was reminded of my distant past. As a child, I saw my birth country of Somalia descend from relative stability into civil war, overnight. The spaces where people felt most secure—their homes and workplaces—suddenly became battlegrounds, torn by gunfights and bombings. Violent targeting of political leaders—once unheard-of—became commonplace.
I never expected to experience a direct assault on democracy in the United States, one of the oldest, most prosperous democracies in the world.
But if there is any lesson we can draw from the past four years, it is that it can happen here. If we are to address the root causes of this insurrection, we have to understand, deep within ourselves, that we are human beings like other human beings on this planet, with the same flaws and the same ambitions and the same fragilities. There is nothing magical about our democracy that will rise up and save us. Building the democratic processes we cherish today took hard and dedicated work, and protecting them will take the hard and dedicated work of people who love this country.
Our shared story of America often begins and ends with the founding—the truths we hold self-evident in our Declaration of Independence, the carefully crafted system of checks and balances enshrined in our Constitution. But in truth, our republic did not arrive overnight.