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In our opinion: The most important questions about Trump’s Wisconsin visit

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a news conference Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. The city has suffered from unrest in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is at rear.
Morry Gash, Associated Press

President Donald Trump is set to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. The latest from the White House is that he will meet with law enforcement officers and take time to survey damage and destruction from the recent days of riots and protests. In such moments a president or elected official can serve a useful purpose if the visit to the affected area is purposeful.

The Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, wrote a letter requesting the president not come. Gov. Evers expressed considerable concern that the president’s presence in Kenosha would not be helpful and would actually, “hinder our healing.”

The governor went on to voice a worry that a presidential appearance and entourage would be a distraction to law enforcement and drain precious resources away from the vital tasks of safety and security for citizens and the community.

Sadly, even tragedies in America have become high-stakes political theater. If the president stays home some will say it proves that he doesn’t care about the people or the issues of unrest. If he arrives in Kenosha, others will accuse him of politicizing a tragedy.

The president should go to Wisconsin. He should meet privately with families, law enforcement and those most impacted by the violence. The president should emerge from those conversations, not for a photo-op, but to deliver simple, uniting messages for the community and for the country.

The president should avoid angry, divisive rhetoric. Political opponents and pundits should do the same. Hope, healing, understanding and unity should drive every discussion.

Actually, focusing on whether the president should go to Kenosha and what he should or should not say or do leads to the wrong questions and the wrong answers.

The most important question is not what the president will or won’t do on Tuesday, or what he will or won’t say. The most important questions aren’t about Joe Biden or the Democrats, either.

The question isn’t about him or “them.” The question is about we and me.

What will “we the people” do on Tuesday?

The me questions we should each ask ourselves include:

  • What will we post on social media?
  • How will we react to negativity and divisive rhetoric?
  • What will we do to engage in elevated conversation?
  • How will we listen to those with opposing points of view?
  • What will we do to diffuse volatile situations?
  • Who will we reach out to build relationships of trust?
  • What will we do to lift others today?

Elected officials can, and should, always strive to unite and build — especially in trying times and moments of tragedy. Political rhetoric is rarely the answer to any problem or situation.

It is most important for citizens to not be distracted by what politicians and pundits say and instead focus on what “we the people” can actually do.