Joining Together in the Face of Evil
Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)
On June 14th, a Congressional Baseball Game practice of the Republican team turned into a near massacre at the hands of an individual from Illinois taking political disagreement to an unthinkable level. Opening fire on a nearly defenseless group participating in our nation’s pastime on a baseball diamond, unwavering heroism from Capitol Police saved everyone’s life except for the shooter. Five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, were badly and unnecessarily injured in this shameful act of violence. It is ok to disagree in our country. That freedom is one of the reasons we are able to live in the greatest nation in the world, but there is a way to disagree, and this cowardly act certainly should never be tolerated or acceptable. I believe strongly that everyone in our nation, spanning the ideological spectrum, can recommit ourselves today to being more unified as Americans first above all else.
Congress, like our nation at large, is composed of individuals of many very diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the many challenges facing our country. From the bluest, most liberal leaning districts in America, to the reddest, most conservative leaning districts, our diversity of thought and passion is absolutely something to be embraced. As citizens of the United States, we are also all blessed with the ability to openly discuss and debate conflicting viewpoints with the intention of better understanding each other and the many ideas on potential solutions. Differences are acceptable and debate is healthy, but the norm must include a vigorous pursuit of common ground wherever possible. The founding bedrock of our democracy is the guarantee that not only are diverse voices heard, but are productively, substantively debated amongst our nation’s citizens and leaders alike with the goal of bettering our shared nation. The events that culminated on the morning of June 14 stand in stark contrast to these principles.
In the wake of this senseless act of violence, we must stand together as Americans united in our intolerance of intolerance itself. We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by those who use violence to spread their hateful message. June 14, 2017 should serve as a reminder of what happens when we allow hatred to divide us to the extreme. Throughout our nation’s long and storied history, Americans from all walks of life have consistently joined together to reject injustice wherever it may exist. It is this strength which unifies us as citizens of the greatest country on Earth. We must always hold bipartisanship, unity, and our bond as Americans in the highest regard.
I would like to pass along our prayers and best wishes to all of the victims of the Alexandria shooting: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Zack Barth, Matt Mika, and a very special thank you to Capitol Police Officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey. I’ve spent time with Steve’s security detail through the years and I can personally vouch for their extraordinary talent and professionalism. All Americans have a perennial obligation to provide our police officers with every ounce of support we have to offer. We are all universally reliant on the ceaseless protection offered by law enforcement, and our support for these brave men and women should never be a partisan issue.
Being present at the Congressional Baseball Game and Softball Game for charity was a truly breathtaking experience. The sheer amount of American pride reverberating throughout the crowds could be felt by everyone there, Republican, Democrat, or Independent. This outpouring of support from all corners proves that bipartisanship is not and can not be dead. However, it should never take a horrible tragedy to remind us just how important these virtues are. There are so many challenges that exist, but we must start by reaching across the aisle to find common ground and move our country forward. Like many of my colleagues in Congress, I am willing to work with absolutely anyone to better our community, state and nation.
At the end of the day, we are all Americans, and during this time of polarization and political strife, coming together as one nation, one people, is more important than ever before. Not one of the obstacles we face as Americans is insurmountable; however, one party alone cannot overcome every last challenge that exists. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues from across the political spectrum as we strive for a better America.
Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Financial Services Committee, represents the First Congressional District of New York.