On June 14, 2017, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise began the day by joining with his colleagues for a practice ahead of the annual congressional baseball game. He ended the day in the hospital, fighting for his life after a former volunteer of the Bernie Sanders campaign opened fire on the field of Republican lawmakers.
Rep. Scalise would not be seen publicly for three months as doctors fought to save his life.
This past week, nearly a dozen improvised explosives (that did not explode) found their way to the offices and mail screening centers of Democrat lawmakers, CNN and several other prominent Democrats.
Political violence, while the norm in other parts of the world, particularly in South and Central America, has a very limited history in the United States. While it has happened, namely the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981, it has never been a grim reality that America has had to face on a regular occasion.
Yet over the past two years, particularly since the election of 2016, we have seen a radical shift that has seen political leaders actively calling for harassing their opponents in public.
When the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001, no one thought about being a conservative or a liberal. No one thought about what it meant to be a Republican or a Democrat, to be left, right or moderate. We were all Americans, and while we may have disagreed on much, we remembered what the nation stood for and that more connected us than divided us.
There is now an understanding that the people that disagree with you politically are in fact morally bankrupt. Even entertaining the idea of cooperating with someone from across the aisle is tantamount to a deal with the devil.
When you watch the news, a constant image is a political pundit or talking head talking about how a Republican repeal of Obamacare will kill people. When the Republican Congress passed the comprehensive tax reform late last year, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi called it “Armageddon.”
On the other side of the aisle, a Republican congressman in Montana body-slammed a reporter and then lied about it.
Hyperbole and exaggeration have driven a rift in our society so deep that it has become nearly impossible to have a dialogue with someone who disagrees with you. And the prevailing attitude that rears its head is believing the other side is evil.
There is only one way to confront evil, and that is to fight it in every possible way. We have reached the point that each side holds a deep-seated hatred of the other because they think they are evil. It should come as no shock then that militant behavior and death threats have creeped into an expected headline on the news.
Our political leaders are supposed to be the symbol of American exceptionalism and the representatives of ALL their constituents, not just the ones that voted for them. It is on them to reclaim the idea of American unity and bridge the gap between the two ends of the political spectrum. Only then will we once again be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.