I will explain my title only at the end. Please bear with me.
I do not normally read Dana Milbank. Shortly after his column today went up online, my wife read it, and told me I would want to read Arizona shooting inspires the best of politics. She was right. And I think you will want to read it as well.
It begins simply enough:
On Saturday, one member of Congress took a bullet to the head – and 434 of her colleagues stared into the abyss.
On Wednesday, chastened lawmakers returned to the Capitol vowing to change their hostile ways.
Regardless of the causes of the shooting, there was recognition by the Members of the House of the same spirit addressed last night by the President, of a need to dial back some of the rhetoric. Milbank touches on that. He reminds us that yesterday was supposed to be dedicated to the Republican attack on healthcare, yet instead
Breaking only for a prayer service, the members spent eight hours exchanging vows to do better by each other.
Milbank offers the words of several of the members, Republican and Democratic.
Since the words spoken were offered on the floor of the People’s House, as it is known, and are part of our national public record, I do not think I will violate fair use when I simply take some of these, eliminate how Milbank may have characterized them, and merely give you the name and the quote he offers.
Dana Rohrbacker: “”we need to be respectful of the fact that people on the other side of major issues are as intelligent as we are and as moral as we are…. Let’s be kinder to each other, and let’s send that as a present, a get-well message, to Gabby.”
Steny Hoyer, who vowed “to temper our words and respect those with whom we disagree, lest the failure to do so give incitement to the angriest and most unstable among us.”
Mary Bono Mack: “So the next time that a debate heats up and threatens to get ugly, let’s remember our responsibilities as leaders…. Let’s take a deep breath and agree to disagree agreeably. Let’s do that for Gabby.”
John Carter: “Violence has entered our House and injured one of our own.”
Jeb Hensarling: “If there is a sweeter, kinder, more gentle member of the House, I know not their name. . . . This House is not whole without her smile.”
Milbank focuses on the same words offered last night by Daniel Hernandez (to which I referred in this diary last night), e pluribus unum. Dennis Kucinich reminded the members that those words were above the chamber, and Milbank offers us Jeff Flake looking at the stained glass eagle that bears those words.
Milbank’s penultimate paragraph ties it together:
For a day, at least, they pledged to live by that motto. They said they would “search our souls” (Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio), turn “down the partisan rhetoric” (Michael McCaul, R-Texas), “differ without demonizing one another” (Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.), “remember what really matters and that is civility should rule the day” (Patrick Tiberi, R-Ohio), and realize that “we are all in this together” (Bruce Braley, D-Iowa).
But it is his final paragraph that was the reason my wife said I would want to read it.
I have become close friends with one member of Congress. She is a few years older than me. We have a common passion for education – she sits on the relevant committee. I have found her to be warm, caring of others. she has been kind enough to come and talk with my students. We regular exchange emails, not merely on the politics and policies that concern us both. When I have accompanied someone else to her office to lobby on educational policy she refused to shake my hand and instead gave me a bear hug. I listen carefully to the advice she has offered, including taking better care of myself.
She is a nurse. She has cared for members of her family, most recently a sibling who almost died. She applied her skills to another member of her family, a son who almost died in the gun shooting that took the life of her husband.
My title comes from the words Milbank quotes from her. I think they are appropriate, not merely as a title, but as the way I close. So I will offer my usual ending now – peace – and then close as does Milbank, only repeating his final sentence.
Among the most moving tributes came from Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), whose husband was killed by a gunman in 1993. “Gabby would be so proud of this chamber today,” she said. “It’s just a shame that a tragedy has to bring us all together…. But this is what we as a nation have to learn, we can disagree, but we need to work together. That is what Gabby wants.”
That is what Gabby wants.