Email #192: “nobody wants to hurt each other anymore”?

I want to thank you for your response to the shooting of Rep. Scalise. You said in a press release on Wednesday:

“This morning’s tragic incident has reverberated throughout the Capitol. My prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise, a good friend, and all of those injured in this vicious attack. I ask that you also lift them up in your prayers. I thank the law enforcement officers who stand guard over the Capitol complex and protect Members of Congress, our staff, and visitors each day.”

Former Democratic Rep. Giffords, who was near-fatally shot in the head by a Tea Party activist in 2011, agreed when she announced the same day:

“My heart is with my former colleagues, their families and staff, and the US Capitol Police — public servants and heroes today and every day.”

I am also pleased that when Speaker Ryan said, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” the House rose to applaud. Even more importantly, Senator Sanders condemned the attack from the Senate:

“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be, violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values.”

President Trump issued a statement too:

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.”

Thankfully, the President did not mar his statement of sympathy as he did in response to the ISIS attack in Iran earlier this month, when he said: “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” but then he unfortunately added: “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

While I appreciate the President’s sentiment regarding the Alexandria shooting, I am also aware that it contrasts his previous rhetoric. “Part of the problem,” he said at a rally during his campaign, “is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.” He mimed punching a protestor as he said, “I’ll beat the crap out of you.”

He repeated the point at another rally: “You know, part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?” After a fight between protestors and supporters, he said: “The audience hit back. That’s what we need a little bit more of.”

At yet another rally, he said he wanted to “knock the crap out of them” and that he regretted “we’re not allowed to punch back anymore” like in the “old days” when a protester would “be carried out on a stretcher.”

While Rep. Scalise was literally carried out in a stretcher, I’m glad that the Congressional Baseball Game was still played the following day, selling twice as many tickets as planned and raising over $1 million for charity, with one of the injured police offers receiving a standing ovation after throwing out the opening pitch despite his crutches.

I also appreciated how you described the event in your e-newsletter column yesterday:

“At the Congressional Baseball Game, Members of Congress stood together on the field of Nationals Stadium as one and as an example for our country that our differences do not divide us. Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or your beliefs fall somewhere in between, we are all on the same team. We are all Americans.”

Thank you also for reminding your constituents of Rep. Giffords:

“As word of this incident and feelings of shock reverberated throughout the Capitol, many of us were reminded of just a few years ago when another colleague, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, was attacked while meeting with her constituents in Arizona. The feelings of both of these days are a stark reminder that we, as a nation, must stand as one.”

Thank you for the even-handedness of your response. You expressed concern and grief for the injured without attacking Sanders, Sanders supporters, or any political opponents, while instead calling for bipartisan unity and strategically acknowledging a very similar attack to a Democratic Representative by a Tea Party member.

I hope this horrible event can serve as a positive turning point in American politics. While I am uncertain whether President Trump is temperamentally capable of leading us toward such positive change, I hope that you will continue to address the needs of our divided nation.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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