Congressional baseball players: We must unite

Jul 18, 2017
 
Since 1909, the Congressional Baseball Game has been a bipartisan tradition, which has come to define summer in Washington for members of Congress, their families and staff. As a member of the Democratic baseball team since 2004, I always look forward to the season when baseball practice begins and members enjoy good-natured jokes on who will win the game.

It's one of those rare instances when divisive rhetoric is set aside, and we can come together -- not just as teams, but as a community.

And so, early Wednesday morning, I jumped in my car and drove to baseball practice in northeast D.C.. On the other side of town, in Alexandria, Virginia, my Republican colleagues were doing the same, getting ready for Thursday's big charity game.
Tragically, Wednesday's morning routine ended with a vicious act of hate and violence designed to divide us.
Shortly after 7 a.m., a man consumed by hate opened fire on Republican members of Congress as they practiced. Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Roger Williams' staffer Zachary Barth, Matt Mika and Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner were all wounded in the torrent of gunfire, but not before Bailey and Griner, along with the Alexandria Police Department, fought back.

Meanwhile, other members who were not injured rushed to the sides of those hit to offer medical assistance until help arrived. This bravery is commendable.

Together, they prevented what likely would have been a massacre. And my thoughts and prayers are with all those injured and their families.

There is no doubt that this morning shook many of my colleagues and me to the core. Several of my closest friends in Congress are Republicans, and we share stories of our families, children and sports teams after votes and throughout the day. When my wife saw the news, the first thing she did was text her friend whose husband plays on the Republican team. When I saw my friend Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, in the Capitol building this morning, the first thing I did was give him a hug.

While members of Congress may disagree on policy and politics, we still respect each other as human beings. But that doesn't mean we and the public don't sometimes fall short in how we treat those we disagree with politically. As a nation, we must recommit ourselves to having and showing empathy toward each other.

I am proud to live in a country where expressing a strong opinion is a right, and one that I exercise regularly. And while we may disagree on the direction of the country, we all agree that violence is never the answer. It is an honor and a privilege to be a member of Congress, one that I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle do not take for granted.

My hope is that in response to this horrific event, we begin to tone down the partisan language that has come to occupy our political dialogue and get back to the issues at hand. While Wednesday gave us all a pause, on Thursday we get back to work both on the House Floor -- and on the baseball field.

Tim Ryan is the US representative for Ohio's 13th District. He plays shortstop for the Democratic congressional baseball team.