On a day when many foolish people said the wrong things, so many better people said the right things.
The shooting attack on a group of Republican congressmen practicing baseball hit early on Wednesday morning, and so we found ourselves watching all day to see what people in positions of power and prominence might have to say.
The internet trolls were out in force, of course, and the rabble rousers of talk radio and cable TV did their best to use the tragedy to tear our nation apart. But others, including President Donald Trump, responded with a grace that, given the tenor of the times, we didn’t fully expect. We were glad to be wrong.
Above all, it was House Speaker Paul Ryan who set the tone. In a brief but eloquent speech to his House colleagues, he called first for prayers for the five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who had been shot. He commended the bravery of those who came to the rescue. And then, with presence of mind, he signaled to the whole country that this should be a moment when we come together as a people, regardless of our differences.
“My colleagues,” the Republican Ryan said, “there are many memories from this day we will want to forget, and many images we will not want to see again. But there is one image in particular that this House should keep. And that is a photo I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.
“You know, every day, we come here to test and challenge each other. We feel so deeply about the things we fight for and believe in. At times, our emotions can get the best of us. We are all imperfect. But we do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber.”
“For all the noise and fury, we are a family. These were our brothers and sisters in the line of fire. These were our brothers and sisters who ran into danger and saved countless lives.
“So before this House returns to its business, I want us to slow down and reflect, to think about how we are being tested right now. Because we are. I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together, to lift each other up, and to show the country — show the world — that we are one House. The people’s House — united in our humanity.
“It is that humanity which will win the day. It always will.”
Ryan was speaking about the House, but he was speaking as well about the country. Our shared humanity is our great hope.
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