The attack yesterday which targeted House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Republican members while they were attending softball practice was not an assault on conservatives nor was it an onslaught against our Democracy. The savage incident was an affront against humanity and it calls for a somber reflection of our society and a silence to pray for fathers, sons, husbands and fellow human beings who were gunned down. Today is not a day to be bipartisan for this issue transcends politics nor is it a day to use the horrific events that unfolded yesterday as a political cudgel to bash people who have divergent ideologies.
It is a sign of our times when a tragedy is co-opted as a means to further people’s political dogmas and advance their partisan philosophies. This level of rancor and antipathy being breathed into the public discourse is not good for our souls nor is it good for our nation’s spiritual and mental health. Politics has become pervasive as more and more of us see our neighbors and co-workers not as fellow travelers on this long road called life but as potential adversaries who need to be conquered with rhetorical violence. Even those of us who speak against politics become subsumed by it as we stand against it–antagonism begets retaliation and all end up being burned by acrimony.
We lose sight of the fact that five people were shot in an act of loathing and a life was lost as a man let resentment lead him down the path of a murderous rampage. I know I spend my a fair share of my time writing against our political system and condemning those who sit at the policy table. But my words of denunciation are not meant to green light acts of violence against any human being. Hate cannot drive out hate nor can anger salve the wounds of our nation and the scars of this planet. Love is the only way we can hope to undo the injustices of this world; kindness is the only way we can hope to find redemption in a time where malice seems to be gnawing at all of us.
Robert F. Kennedy once gave a speech after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr that went a long way in saving a city from being set ablaze by indignation. The day King was assassinated (link), Kennedy was intent on comforting the pains of those who were struck by grief and calming the passions of a people who were rightly outraged. On his way to Indianapolis to give a speech, RFK was advised to not venture into the heart of the city for fear that he would put his life at risk. Kennedy was undeterred; he wrote a speech on his way to the event and gave a soaring on the back of a truck bed to a crowd who needed love above all.
Kennedy could have chosen to demagogue and stir the passions of people for the sake of advancing his own political interests. He chose to do the opposite and gave one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. The words cajole tears and his inflection inspire love among those in attendance. On April 4th, 1968, RFK said the following words:
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black. So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
Kennedy’s courage and sage words stilled a city’s emotions and love saved a city from infernos. While most cities burned as riots broke out nationally upon King’s murder, Indianapolis remained peaceful. Words are powerful, leaders can incite hatred and beget fires or they can speak love into a nation and lead us to the light of coexistence. In the age of social media and pervasive taunts and ad hominem, what we need above all are those who speak love into the public square and lead with light instead of leading with flames. It falls on us too, the people; we have a choice to either let grace be the way and heal in the process or we turn to wrath and be undone by belligerence.
One thing I know is this, these false constructs of “left” versus “right”, “black” versus “white” and the endless ways we are diced and sliced as a nation does nothing more than further injustice. If we make it our cause to fight for justice, we must do so without attaching adjectives in front of the justice we all desire. There is no “us versus them”, we are all in this together for liberals and conservatives and every race on this earth wants nothing more than a decent shot at life and the means to pursue happiness. We all want better lives for our children and we all in our hearts want justice for ourselves and our neighbors. Let us cling to these commonalities and disregard the ways we are made to identify with labels that have nothing to do with our common identity of being humans. Humanity above our differences–this is the only way we can arrive at justice.
I hope we arrive at a point where we stop politicizing tragedies and instead care for each other without regard to identity. As we mourn the victims of gun violence in Alexandria, let us mourn equally for those who are felled nationally by mindless violence that is taking the lives of too many. It does not take away from the hurt that we feel if we acknowledge the pains others go through. Humanity demands that we care for all irrespective of their skin tone, their stature or accomplishments or their ideologies and beliefs. At the core, we all suffer equally even if our struggles might be different. Let us stop trying to monopolize suffering and instead walk hand in hand with others who go through anguish in silence and away from the TV screens.
I pray for Steve Scalise, Matt Mika, Zachary Barth and the two capitol police officers and their family and friends. May they heal from the gun wounds and the mental trauma induced by yesterday’s events. May they find the wherewithal to recover fully and the wisdom to find love in the midst of a most hateful occurrence. I pray also for my nation, as I keep trying to turn away from spite when faced with animosity, I hope others do the same and that we turn towards good will towards our fellow men and women. As Bobby Kennedy once said, let us dedicate “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”. #NotaDayforPolitics
“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” ~ Robert Kennedy
This speech below by RFK was a broader speech given by RFK the day after King’s assassination in Cleveland, Ohio. Please listen to Kennedy’s words, please find it in your heart to counter animosity with love.
If you appreciate the message of love within this write up, share this article on social media using #NotaDayforPolitics and while you are at it, send a Tweet to @SteveScalise and wish him well and a quick healing irrespective of your political beliefs.
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss love and how we can either turn to love to heal or turn to antipathy to kill joys in our lives.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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