Scalise shooting: In baseball we trust

Scalise shooting: In baseball we trust



In America, we don't get much closer to a common non-religious religion than baseball.

So on Wednesday morning when my niece told me to turn on the television, that some congressmen had been shot on the baseball field, there was a dream-like quality to the day's unfolding. It seems not only were our political leaders under physical attack, so was our favorite pastime.

By now, nearly everyone one has heard that 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, of Belleville, Ill., opened fire with a rifle at a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., early Wednesday morning on Republican members of Congress who were practicing for the game the next day.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the majority whip, was hit as well as four others. They are all being treated, with Scalise sustaining severe injuries. Scalise, incidentally, was a major player in the House passage of the American Health Care Act.

The players had gathered to practice for the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, a tradition since 1909 designed to "solidify friendships on and off the field," according to organizers, which is still scheduled to take place.

Hodgkinson was shot and killed by officers who responded. If it hadn't been for Steve Scalise's security detail on account of his high position in the Republican House leadership, many might have died.

By now everyone has also heard that Hodgkinson was a vocal supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and that he had posted a lot of severe anti-Trump rhetoric on his Facebook page.

Many pundits, self-styled and real, moved instantly to put their spin on the event. The arguments went: The left is violent, and they have crossed the line. First the beheading images, now this. Some even seized on the opportunity to take a dig at Republicans who support the right to bear arms within the Second Amendment, citing instances when Republicans have said arms are necessary to fight a tyrannical government.

Notwithstanding the obvious fact that killing defenseless, democratically elected officials is much different than resisting a tyrannical government that is by definition jailing dissidents and quashing dissent, the attempt to spin this event for partisan reasons is the last thing we as a nation should be doing right now.

I am reminded of the stabbing deaths of the two men in Oregon who came to the defense of Muslim girls who were being verbally abused by an imbalanced man. Many on the left were blaming Donald Trump for this occurrence. Overseas at the time, he did issue a statement condemning the killings. Or when a man in a bar in the Midwest killed two technical professionals from India. At that time, people also blamed Trump.

Some will say, well Trump has increased anti-Muslim rhetoric, in spite of the fact that he called for Muslims to be able to live in freedom and prosperity during his overseas trip, and he has made a distinction between Islam and radical Islamic terrorism, and even though during the campaign he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, he qualified that statement "until we can figure out what the hell is going on." But in this atmosphere of hyper partisanship and, frankly, a constant fight-or-flight response that I partially blame on each side completely misinterpreting the other, if anyone who actually is anti Muslim then does something violent, the President is blamed.

This makes no sense. We are better than this. We did not blame Jodie Foster when John Hinckley Jr, who was obsessed with the actress, made an attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life.

Nor should we blame Sanders for Wednesday's events.

Then we have the predictable arguments over whether white people commit just as many acts of violence as radicalized Muslims.

I even saw a social media post by a friend saying she had never heard of a "domestic white shooter" characterized as a terrorist until now. In the original column here, I took her words out of context. She was actually pointing out that his history of questionable behavior and violence against women was more important than his political affiliation. Characterizing Hodgkinson as a terrorist does seem to stand out more -- is it because he attacked members of Congress?

Since 2011, when we thought the Arab Spring would usher in a new era of peace and freedom in the Middle East, many countries have been plunged once again into such horrible turmoil, that millions of refugees have been flooding into Europe, and some into the United States. Despite the fact that almost all of these refugees would much rather live in their countries in peace, we are a clash of cultures, and there is much lack of understanding and fear. There are native-born citizens of Western countries of Islamic descent who now feel an affinity with the disenfranchised soldiers marching to establish an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It's a fearful, confusing time.

On top of that, we have disgruntled Americans of all colors who have become so disconnected from society that they turn to violence.

Instead of focusing on the racial identities or birthplace of these perpetrators, we must unite as Americans, under our common values of equality and justice for all, of a can-do spirit, of rolling up our sleeves and solving this problem together, creatively, so that those who are disenfranchised can get the help they need, those who are desperate have a shoulder to cry on, and those who are showing signs of isolation and potential violent or criminal acts can be observed and reported to the authorities.

Let us unite under the one thing that brings us all together: baseball. The Congressional game was designed as a way for members of both parties to form friendships. If you feel afraid or sickened by the policies of either party, maybe it's time to reach out and tell a friend your concerns. Why do they support these policies? Can they share their research with you? Can you share your research with them? Each side tends to get their news from completely different sources, so this suggestion might help us compare notes. Maybe after a baseball game?

Maybe in addition to the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, we should be holding a Community Baseball Game for Political Understanding.

Just a thought.

This column was updated at 12:45 p.m. PDT. In my original statement about a Facebook friend posting that this was the first time that a white shooter had been characterized as a terrorist, I took her words out of context. She was clearly stating that his political affiliation was not important and that we should look at someone's past behavior and criminal record more than their political affiliation. As for him being a domestic terrorist, there does seem to be more of an emphasis on that word from the House floor this time around. 

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