The tenor of our community discourse was anchored in mutual respect, integrity and patriotism when I enlisted for the Army in 2004. It’s one of the reasons my wife and I choose to return to the area to raise our family. But upon our return in 2016 I realized our community is not immune to the poison of division and social media wormholes convincing us that the “other side” might be a threat. It pains me to report that I currently have neighbors who won’t return a friendly wave since I’ve staked my political yard signs.
This community tension was high prior to the recent plot to kidnap our governor, but now there is a sinister threat in our backyard to our social and political frameworks. Domestic terrorists — not the militias — are weaponizing against our society and it’s alarming that not all of our elected leaders have denounced those arrested. The time of naiveté is over.
We witnessed armed protesters taunting elected officials in the Michigan State Capitol in June — and we now know some were planning criminal acts against our governor. What is currently happening is reminiscent of intimidation tactics I have encountered at war overseas. While deployed in Afghanistan, we witnessed Taliban fighters promoting anti-government warnings to villagers who were suspected of interacting with American Forces. Eventually, these threats escalated to kidnappings and then to bombings. It’s hard not to reflect on those times in Afghanistan as we battle our own domestic terrorists at home.
I am not equating all protesters in Lansing with the fanatics I fought abroad, but there are parallels that can’t be ignored.
Domestic terrorists see an opportunity to mobilize during this difficult time. The COVID-19 pandemic has created enduring financial pain and pressure on Michigan families. These domestic terrorists will capitalize on the situation and may feel emboldened by our commander-in-chief’s dangerous call to “liberate Michigan,” but this divisive rhetoric does not justify the action. Domestic terrorists may feel legitimized by local county sheriffs speaking on stages alongside them. We should all take caution to whom we lend our voices.
We must unite and combat this virus and domestic extremism together or risk collapse. There are lessons to be had from our military’s counterinsurgency efforts. My team of Green Berets demonstrated a commitment to the Afghani local communities by remaining present and engaged. We protected the new and fragile government from terrorists, and thereby empowered Afghans to build a brighter future, together.
We must now do the same at home.
We need to protect our elected officials and stop demoralizing and intimidating our neighbors with differing political beliefs. Domestic terrorists won’t magically disappear. Elected officials need to stand up and protect our political system where all citizens can express their views without fear from domestic terrorists.
Our elected officials would be wise to explore ways to listen to — and involve — those whose frustrations are boiling over in a civil fashion. The one thing we have working in our favor is our common identity and collective resolve as Michiganders. It is a resource we must tap.
Howell resident Adam Smiddy, a Brighton High School grad, earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Motivated by the Sept. 11 attacks, he joined the U.S. Army in 2004, earned his Green Beret, and was deployed around the world, including more than 27 months in Iraq and Afghanistan leading Special Forces hunting for insurgents.
He is currently running as a Democrat for the 47th state House District seat; the district includes the city of Howell and the townships of Cohoctah, Conway, Deerfield, Handy, Hartland, Howell, Iosco, Marion, Oceola, Tyrone, and Unadilla.