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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Terror unfolds in Virginia, upon Congress

The pop of a gun is an all-too-frequent sound in America's cities, of all sizes, especially when the weather warms. But lawmakers and their staff had no expectation that such a sound would ring in their ears not too long after daybreak on a baseball diamond in a tony part of Alexandria, Va.

But such a horror did visit upon U.S. representatives, senators and staffers, largely Republicans -- some of them longtime proponents of gun ownership under almost any circumstance. Democratic colleagues, also practicing on another field for the annual charity baseball showdown, grasped each other in prayer after getting the word.

Congress shut down for the day.

Today, people in the heart of power experienced the trauma that many children and young people witness and too often experience: an unexplained madman with a powerful weapon bent on delivering destruction and shattering any sense of security.

No matter their politics or bluster, public or private, the victims today did not deserve this experience. Their families did not deserve the uncertainty, the sheer terror and teeming tears after receiving news that gunfire erupted and their loved ones may not make it home. Their zip codes, income level or acquaintances should not make them, or anyone, targets.

Yet, so many unwittingly fall into such crosshairs. Now more members of the U.S. Congress intimately understand that, ferociously.

James T. Hodgkinson, an apparently embittered 66-year-old Illinois man, chose to take up residence in Alexandria, seemingly to use his guns to make an example of lawmakers he deemed as having sold out his American Dream for the highest bidder.

Hodgkinson was not a person of color. He was not Muslim. He was not an immigrant. He was not young. He was not any of the things Americans have been whipped to fear and hate in recent years.

Instead, he was economically hurting and desperate. He was a Bernie Sanders for President supporter, thinking his radial change would be the only thing that would save the nation. And what Hodgkinson saw happening under the current administration incensed and scared him. Enough so he traveled to Virginia, lived out of a gym bag for months, plotted revenge and chose to die in the process of exacting it.

His actions are not unlike the narratives we hear about suicidal jihadists. It would be equally crazy to simply dismiss this most recent incident as a mere aberration. It's time to look more deeply.
Fellow lawmakers say a prayer for the fallen in Alexandria, Va.

We could all stand to abandon left-wing/right-wing castigation for actual conversation with others of opposing views. There is no honor among those who have jumped on social media to praise today's action as some sort of worthy comeuppance. There should be no delight in seeing this perpetrator as "evidence" against a set of beliefs. What should be unquestioned is that a searing tragedy occurred, and stands to reoccur without putting serious thought into what created the conditions for such a violent outburst.

Perhaps our lawmakers will hold onto that more closely moving forward, as they deliberate legislation and policies that impact our lives. Rather than assuming "us-vs.-them" stances, settling for win-at-all-costs gamesmanship, pray they will reflect on and remember their feelings at this moment.

U.S. Capitol Police Officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner took bullets as they battled Hodgkinson on that baseball field, likely saving countless others.

Mike Mika, a Tyson Foods lobbyist, suffered extraordinary bullet wounds to his chest and lungs.

Zach Barth, who staffs U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), was struck.

U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.

The nation is appalled by this latest public expression of violence, though we've been here too many times, as witnesses and survivors from almost every corner of the country can attest.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords knows this pain, as does her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly.

So do the members of Mothers in Charge, an organization of bereaved parents who lost children to gun violence.

And do the parents of Sandy Hook, Conn., who continue to grieve their babies, nearly five years after a murderer stormed in and slaughtered 6- and 7-year-olds and their teachers.

Across this nation, there are a scores of families of every shape, make and color who have been impacted by gun violence, who are still hurting, still working through the trauma.

Maybe today will begin a new era of compassion for them, for the circumstances that led to their pain. Maybe then, we can actually move toward real healing. As one nation, under God. .

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