The Congressional Baseball Shooting Must Unite Us, Not Further Divide Us

Democrats won Thursday night’s Congressional Baseball Game decisively, beating the Republicans by a final score of 11-2. But the score didn’t matter in the least.

What mattered was gather to honor Republicans’ missing second baseman, Rep. Steve Scalise, who was still in critical condition after being wounded by a gunman at practice in Alexandria, Va.

What mattered was that the game—a century old bipartisan ritual—was being played.

“By playing tonight we are showing the world that we will not be intimidated by threats, acts of violence or assaults on our democracy,” President Trump said in a videotaped statement. “The game will go on.”

What mattered was Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, the Democrat team’s manager, accepting the trophy for winning the game and then immediately giving it to his GOP counterpart to put in Rep. Scalise’s office.

At least, these were the things that mattered to the men and women who gathered on the field of play. Unfortunately, the spirit of comity and respect didn’t seem to radiate far beyond the baseball diamond. Instead, finger pointing and blame gaming reigned.

Some blamed President Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Others blamed liberals’ vitriolic response to Trump’s election and recent gruesome facsimiles of his assassination. Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe took the opportunity to say this was another example of there being “too many guns on the streets.” Others fought back against that argument, saying the situation pointed to the need for less gun control. Rep. Nancy Pelosi blamed it on Republicans decision to pursue a “politics of personal destruction.”Rush Limbaugh said it was the actions of a “Democrat base voter…not a Looney Tune kook burger.”

And somehow the New York Times believed it was the appropriate time to remind their readers that the shoe was on the other foot during the shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords.

“In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear,” the Editorial Board wrote. “Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted political districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”

Ultimately, Loughner was proven to be mentally ill with wild delusions, such as believing that the government was using grammar to control Americans’ minds.

Is this the best we can do? Americans increasingly don’t just disagree, we hate those who disagree with us. The shooting of a member of Congress while practicing America’s pastime in order to raise money for charity is a time to unite around our common interests, our love of our country. Instead, like everything else in these times, it devolved—seemingly within minutes—into a heated debate over who was to blame, and worse, partisan positioning over the answer.

This isn’t, or at least it shouldn’t be, about figuring out which party fuels more hate or which party’s supporters are more dangerous. This is about coming together to figure out how to get back to a point where we could vehemently, but respectfully, disagree about ideas without disagreeing whether the holder of those ideas should exist.

Yes, the First Amendment matters. And while we’re at it the Second One does too. But that doesn’t mean that we stop working to make sure those rights are exercised in a manner that advances freedom, not erodes it; that promotes cooperation, not advances discord.

“For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family,” Speaker Paul Ryan said after the shooting. “These were our brothers and sisters in the line of fire. These were our brothers and sisters who ran into danger and saved countless lives. So before this House returns to its business, let’s just slow down and reflect, to think about how we’re all being tested right now, because we are being tested right now. I ask each of you to join me to resolve to come together to lift each other up, and to show the country, to show the world that we are one House, the People’s House, united in our humanity.”

We are brothers and sisters, each and every one of us blessed to live in this great country. Let’s work together to advance our future, not fight to tear it apart.