We’ve witnessed a lot of frightening and discouraging scenes over the last few weeks. Already in the midst of a pandemic, our nation has been further gripped by turmoil and grief in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others whose lives were cut short under tragic circumstances.

The result has not just been private lamenting or muted pleas for change. Instead, we’ve seen protests, vigils and other actions in public settings that have caused many Americans to reflect on these lost lives and what that means for our society.

Right now, it would be easy to make this another moment of political polarization that sadly seems to mark much of our public discourse these days.

Retreating into our ideological corners and further entrenching ourselves in the persuasiveness of our own arguments won’t help honor these men and women. Neither will it help bridge the divide between us. Nor will violence, anarchy and lawlessness, which we’ve seen play out in cities across the country.

America faces a choice at this moment in our history, just as it has many times before. We can choose the path of unity and empathy, or go down a road that leads to further discord and division. It is here, at this crossroads, that we will learn to what extent we really believe in our founding principles.

I believe we are able to meet this moment with the compassion and respect that, deep down, each of us knows is the only meaningful way forward.

My faith teaches me that we are all children of God, created in His image, and that we are capable of coming together despite whatever differences might exist between us. This is what we need more of in our communities, our nation and the world.

I have been encouraged to see that in Arkansas, we have already provided striking examples of how to listen to one another and acknowledge our shared desire for understanding, dialogue and progress.

From an iconic photo of a Conway Police Officer bumping the fist of a passing peaceful protestor, to the Fayetteville Police Department showing solidarity with a crowd of citizens practicing their First Amendment rights on the square, or the Fort Smith Police Chief’s encouraging message about community policing and the responsibility of law enforcement officers to make peace – we can take great pride in the fact that our communities are rejecting divisiveness and embracing a better way forward.

Peaceful protests, which have always been part of our nation’s history, are the lawful and constitutionally-protected way to make your voice heard.

At the same time, our society entrusts law enforcement officers with the duty to uphold and enforce the rule of law, which includes keeping the peace and restoring order when necessary.

The death of George Floyd is shocking, disturbing, and has resulted in a massive failure of the sacred trust placed by the public in those sworn to protect and serve. The anger and frustration this tragedy, and others like it, have brought to light is justifiable and needs to lead to reforms.

Violence, however, is never the answer. It has been heartening to see that destructive, violent behavior has not been widespread in Arkansas, but rather, appropriate displays of unity and empathy have prevailed.

I pray the nation follows this example, and that it will lead us to become the best versions of ourselves. There is much work to do as we constantly strive to form a more perfect union.