Members of Congress stood shoulder to shoulder, across party divides, after a sniper wounded several people, at least two of them seriously, during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.
The mutual support was fitting — as was the almost universal condemnation, nationwide, of the lone gunman’s cowardly acts.
Unfortunately, the urge to come together despite political differences didn’t last long enough — at least, not nationwide.
First, we must acknowledge the all-but-certainty that the attack was politically motivated. Shooter James T. Hodgkinson determined in advance that the Congress members on the field were Republicans, according to news reports. Hodgkinson, who was killed by police returning fire, had a history both of criminal activity and of launching rants and tirades against Republicans.
Terrorism and attempted murder are indefensible, whatever the reason. But the reason here clearly seems to have been tied to domestic politics, making it impossible not to acknowledge the serious schisms dividing Americans.
Second, it is distressing to see just how quickly those on either side of the divide jumped forward to drive even deeper wedges between us.
Hardly had the blood been staunched than those on the right began casting blame at those on the left, claiming that the left’s own harsh rhetoric was fueling violence. The left, in turn, began using the incident as a knee-jerk call for gun control.
Blame for using inflammatory rhetoric also has been cast by the left at the right in other situations.
And there may well be some truth to the claim, on both sides.
But the timing of the right’s recent verbal attack was atrocious.
The whole country, not just the Congress, should have been united in sympathy for, and support of, the victims and their families. Yet we couldn’t wait even for the decent space of a day before trying to score political points out of tragedy.
One of the more disturbing parts of the tragedy was that it was perpetrated against those who were, in fact, engaged in an act of bipartisan comradeship. The Republicans were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game, a nearly century-old tradition in which members take to the ballfield for some friendly — yes, friendly — competition. What’s more, the game benefits charity.
Members of Congress did not let the tragedy deter them. Scarcely 24 hours after the shooting, the women’s congressional softball team was out practicing for its charity event. The men’s baseball game was held as scheduled.
We honor these men and women for their courage and their compassion for others.
President Trump was right when he said, “We may have differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country. … [W]e are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”