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Sally Yates: We’re at Risk of Losing Our Basic Freedoms

Sally Yates, the former acting U.S. attorney general who was fired by President Donald Trump after ordering federal attorneys not to defend a controversial immigration order, has called on Americans to answer an existential question: Will we remain faithful to our country’s core values?

On its face, the question, which she poses in USA Today opinion piece is a simple one. Plenty of Americans will likely nod along, utter an annoyed “of course!,” and continue on with their day.

Yates’ question might be easy to answer. The action required to support that ‘yes’ is where it gets harder, and the in Yates’ view, the stakes get much higher.

Here are 3 key points:

The U.S. Is At a Crossroads

“Over the course of our nation’s history, we have faced inflection points — times when we had to decide who we are as a country and what we stand for. Now is such a time.”

We Have Differences, But These Values Unite Us

Yates writes that these shared values can be found in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Yates explains:

“We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well).

Yates also points to the Bill of Rights as “similarly succinct in guaranteeing individual liberties — rights that we have come to take for granted but without vigilance can erode and slip away.”

What Separates Us From the Autocracy

Truth and the rule of law. This is Yates’s punchline—and what her career has been most aligned to.

The rule of law is “the promise that the law applies equally to everyone, that no person is above it, and that all are entitled to its protection,” Yates wrote.

Yates alludes to the more recent phenomena of ignoring objective truth—those common facts that cannot be twisted—in lieu of arguments based on emotion and fear. And it’s here when Yates calls on Americans to act and hold public servants responsible for the lies they tell us.

“We can’t control whether our public servants lie to us. But we can control whether we hold them accountable for those lies or whether, in either a state of exhaustion or to protect our own political objectives, we look the other way and normalize an indifference to truth.”

In a final call to action Yates urges Americans to stand up and speak out. “Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions,” she writes.