The Better Angels of Our Nature

Pundits warned that we shouldn't politicize Wednesday's shooting. But how do you depoliticize the attempted assassination of Republican lawmakers?

My first thought was an unspoken prayer: Dear God, not again!

My reaction to the terrible news that a gunman had fired on a group of Republican members of Congress, wounding six, brought me right back to March 1, 1954, at 2:30 in the afternoon, the moment when four Puerto Rican nationalists in the visitors’ gallery fired 30 rounds down into the House of Representatives chamber, hitting five members.

I was a 15-year-old House page. I saw a wounded congressman fall at my feet, and I helped my fellow pages carry the injured to ambulances by the Capitol steps. Later, as a member of the House of Representatives myself, I received death threats serious enough to involve the FBI.

The brutal assault Wednesday was a deliberate attempt to assassinate Republican House members, for whom the shooter repeatedly had expressed hatred, as he did for President Donald Trump.

Immediately, pundits warned that we should remain calm and not politicize the event. But as one observer said: How do you depoliticize the attempted assassination of a dugout full of Republican lawmakers?

A Call to Heal Wounds

On January 10, 2011, I wrote: “As a human being and an American, I join with the great majority praying for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ full and speedy recover — for all those injured in this senseless madness.” A nonpolitical but deranged mental patient had shot Giffords, who survived; six others died.

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In response, on January 13, 2011, President Barack Obama spoke in Tucson, Arizona, saying that American discourse had become sharply polarized, with too many people blaming “those who think differently.” He said that Americans must talk with each other in ways that heal and not wound. Don’t use this tragedy, he advised, “as one more occasion to turn on one another.” He might have made that speech today.

Obama’s advice in 2011 did not stop The New York Times from screaming anti-conservative invective. Its lead editorial offered this irrational indictment: “It is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge.”

So, now, should legitimate blame rest with the “impeach Trump” crowd, the talking heads of the biased media and sick comedians who imitate beheading the president? Did they create a poisoned national atmosphere in which GOP lawmakers are fair game for an enraged Democrat’s bullets?

A Divided People

Ironically, Wednesday’s shooting occurred during a practice session for the annual congressional charity baseball game, a festive bipartisan event staged annually since 1909. The annual game is one of the few surviving Capitol Hill traditions that bring partisans together for a good common cause.

Expect a torrent of biased opinions that refashion this horrific attack to suit the agendas of the political extremes. Yet, we are warned not to raise our voices, to be calm and reasonable. It does no service to the victims of such violence, nor to our country’s future peace and welfare, to remain silent and ignore the causes that fan the flames of such madness.

Reasonable Americans realize today that in Congress, the White House, the news media, on college campuses — all over America — there is rancor and bitterness that make reasonable compromise impossible and prevent solutions.

This horrible act by an angered partisan must be rejected, but the suffering he caused should not be trivialized by those seeking advantage from a bloody tragedy.

I live in the hope that a free America will survive, but I do wonder about the endurance of the republic the Founders gave us at such great cost — which more than a million souls have died defending in all our wars.

Politico Magazine summarized the violent nature of American politics:

Political violence runs through the American story like a razor slash. Gunplay has harvested four presidents — Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John Kennedy — and depending on how you count, assassins have taken target practice on another eight or nine sitting presidents and presidential candidates.

On my 31st birthday, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. My wife and small children lived through days of riots, fires, curfew and armed U.S. Army occupation of our Washington, D.C., neighborhood.

That same night in Indianapolis, U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for president, addressed King’s death, a sad occasion which, he said, suggested stark alternatives for individuals and for America.

You can be filled with bitterness, with hatred and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization […] filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort […] to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand compassion and love.

lincoln2Sixty-two days later, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy was fatally shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The choice of revenge or reunion is ours again today.

In 1861, the soon to be martyred President Abraham Lincoln gave us the course to follow.

On the eve of the Civil War, in his first inaugural address, he voiced this heartfelt plea:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Yours for liberty,

Bob Bauman, JD
Chairman, Freedom Alliance

  • jringo55

    Someone is trying to instill fear into people —– and it’s working.

  • jringo55

    If you wonder why God allows this, it’s because we want to live in a world without doing things his way. This is our world. We made it our way. He had nothing to do with it. He is allowing us to see that our way is wrong. He won’t stop any of this because this is what the world wants. —- A world without GOD in their lives. Don’t believe it? You would be surprised at how many people today reject instruction from the Bible. They don’t like GOD, nor do they like his loyal son, Jesus. They want to live their lives their way. GOD allows this but only till this world comes to an end. The earth is filled with hate. The Bible is true. The seed you sow, so shall you reap. The earth is reaping hate. / In contrast, Jesus said his followers would have great love for the Almighty GOD, love for their neighbors and love among themselves. These would be Christ’s true followers. They are out there in the world. They go door to door preaching, just like Jesus taught them to do. You need to get in with your family, while there is still time.

  • Waterlilly1997

    I have been listening to hate speech since the 1980’e when Newt Gingrich sounded out the word ‘liberal’ as something distasteful and evil. I am a flaming liberal and I haven’t had good feelings about republicans for all they have done since then. Standing on corners, I have yelled for health care for all. We have a responsibility to those lesser than ourselves and a responsibility to our earth.

  • jringo55

    There is not a politician on earth today, tomorrow or anytime that can save the world from passing away — it is written. — Men are forever convinced they can out do God’s plan for the earth — They can’t. No one can thwart the mighty hand of God.

  • Mark McPherson

    Newt Gingrich criticized liberalism for the way it measures compassion. He also pointed out many times how promises of liberalism tend to encourage all of us to rely less on ourselves and more on government. He also made many comments regarding how financially unsustainable it is to expect government to do more and more for us while we do less and less for ourselves and for each other. At no time, however, did he ever recommend, encourage the injury or assassination of any liberal. He never took part in violent street protests that destroyed either public or private property. He never, when Clinton was in the White House, ever contemplated bombing the White House. While Newt’s views may have been politically abhorrent to you, at no time did he ever wish or encourage harm on anyone on the liberal side. True “hate speech” devalues a person to the point where they no longer are worthy to have their life protected. Newt never did this.

    Currently, conservative thinking is winning the day politically across the United States and some liberal ideas are under intense intellectual criticism. When thinking people (whose presuppositions are different from yours) criticize your ideas, you should seek to understand the reason for their viewpoint (all the while remembering that they are just as patriotic as you are). When you categorize conservative intellectual criticism as “hate speech”, it makes you look as though you have no reply to a superior point made by the other side. Furthermore, our democracy can only continue to exist if we can continue to intellectually criticize other points of view. Just because I disagree with you, doesn’t make me guilty of “hate speech”.

  • Robert Wheeler

    hate speech is what the media who attack Trump every day do. Baseless accusations, repeated vile hate I have never seen anything like it. They of course hate Republicans and showed some disrespect to both Bushes but nothing compared to the vicious attacks they make against the Trumps. Russian collusion? where is your proof? Don’t have proof? get a special counselor to dig up dirt. Can’t nail trump? go after his son. SICK

  • brown7228

    I don’t know about you but to me anyone that buys a property for 40 million and sells it for 100 million to a Russian then the property is torn down leads me to believe he can’t be trusted. Sounds like a payoff to me. I don’t want to blackmail the rest of the world and that’s what the deal with Russia is all about. Two of the world’s strongest military powers. The man is a liar but you don’t think that should be out. No matter what you say his personality is such that given enough power he will turn this system into a dictatorship everything we as a nation say we are against. What we should forget about a government with checks and balance. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue it is a national issue. I worry and you should to. If the news media doesn’t speak out who will. After all for now they are the only ones that have protection under the law. Watch he is going to turn homeland security into the American version of the gestapo.