Wednesday morning, shortly after I got up to go to work, I received a tweet that would change my day and should change our world.
While practicing for a charity baseball game, a GOP congressman (Steve Scalise) apparently got shot by a 66-year-old man from Belleville, Illinois.
Witnesses say there were as many as 100 shots fired, five people injured and the Capitol police along with the congressman’s security (he’s the majority whip and as a member of the leadership had security with him) “attacked” and took down the shooter.
The immediate, chilling affect soon gave way to accusations and finger pointing.
Again, we ask, “How can this happen?”
On the pastoral site of a baseball field – as emblematic of the American scene as a hotdog - shortly after sunrise a U.S. Congressman found himself crawling on his hands and knees trailing blood from his wounds as he sought shelter in a dugout against a man he didn’t know who shot him for reasons unknown to the victim. Others at the scene jumped on top of a 10-year-old child to protect him.
The quick action from police, no doubt, saved lives. But the shock of the moment also gave members of Congress a unique opportunity to speak to the humanity we all share.
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said shortly after the House opened. His sentiments were then echoed by minority leader Nancy Pelosi who said “My prayer is we resolve our differences.” Both of them said “We are all one family.”
President Donald Trump in a brief statement from the White House added to the sentiment. Speaking before a live television audience he said, “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”
Former president Barack Obama apparently spoke to Florida Congressman Jeff Flake – who was one of those trapped on the baseball field. Obama offered similar sentiments.
Those words and thoughts from the elected public officials who represent us all in office are in direct contrast to those on social media who took turns assaulting and insulting the right and the left – when they weren’t busy blaming the mainstream media who report the news.
In the days going forward we will all have to address the issues that continue to divide us – and we will have to deal with the executive and legislative branches of government which seem to be at the forefront of that division.
The divisive nature of our country has to be addressed. At no time in our history since the Civil War have Americans found themselves so much at odds with one another.
We can no longer mourn the fallen. We cannot extend our hand in friendship without first pointing a finger at a political ideology upon which we can blame the act of violence.
Imagine, if you will, going to baseball practice on some warm summer morning after sunrise. You smell the leather of your glove and feel the cold, solid white ash of the Louisville Slugger in her hands. You pick up the white cowhide of the ball and toss it back and forth with friends – laughing and practicing. You’re in the moment and enjoying it when shots ring out multiple times. You find yourself shot through the hips, crawling desperately to a dugout in hopes of finding safety and you wonder if you’re going to make it.
At that moment you are no doubt thinking of how severely you’re injured. You wonder if you’re going to die. You worry about your family and friends - those you love.
But, and now I feel like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, would you care a damn about the motives of the guy shooting at you?
Sure, maybe after you heal. You might start a congressional inquiry. You might raise a stink, pass a bill, lobby for stricter or more lax control, but at the moment what matters more than living?
What matters more than wanting to hear your friends and family one more time?
For five years I toiled on a television show “America’s Most Wanted,” and I had to interview dozens if not hundreds of people who lost their closest friends and family to violence.
The only thing anyone cared about was having their loved one back with them.
The nature of our existence demands we care for each other.
On June 14, 2017 (The President’s birthday mind you) every member of Congress got a taste of what that’s like.
United We Stand. Divided We Fall.
Shall we rise or fall? It’s all up to us.