As the late great Paul Harvey used to say, “now you know the rest of the story.” That’s the phrase that popped into my head when I finished reading a book written by Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana. The book details the events of the day when a crazed liberal gunman decided it would be better to gun down his political opposition rather than debate them. I not only had the privilege to read this meticulously documented book, but also was honored to interview the Congressman on my radio show.
Hearing his spontaneous words buttress the events that were graphically laid out in the pages of, “BACK IN THE GAME,” I heard the passion and devotion that drove this public servant to chronicle the events of that terrible day. It was more than a cautionary tale of the ills plaguing our society. It was more than thanks to those who saved his life. It was a defeat for the hate-filled actions and division that nearly killed Congressman Steve Scalise.
Scalise described the moment he was shot recounting that, “It’s also strange that there’s a kind of numbness around my waist. A kind of pressure, like a lineman has lowered his shoulder and given me a shove.” Scalise would soon realize that “shove” was a 7.62 caliber bullet moving at high speed basically exploding inside his body like a super nova of bone and Metal. The man who fired that bullet had been living out of his van, using the local YMCA to shower and for internet access. While he was online, he was active and unhinged on social media.
Scalise profiles this deranged wanna-be killer as, “living a kind of double existence. While quiet and unassuming in person, he was angry and confrontational online.” Every key stroke was even more extreme than the previous, the same barrage of loathing toward Republicans and conservatives that sadly has become the hallmark of the modern day left since the election of President Trump. Like his masked ANTIFA brethren, his online anonymity made him bolder and seemed to compound his discontent. This dark side of social media has led many to believe it’s a primary driver of the ever-growing and violent divide among our people. This one man would unload his venom in a hail of gunfire. It would take a small army to heal the myriad wounds he would inflict.
Officer Kevin Jobe, firefighter/paramedic Richard Krimmer, Special Agents Crystal Griner, David Bailey, Dr. Jack Sava and Susan Kennedy, these were a few of the names Congressman Steve Scalise credited with saving his life. The firefight described in, “BACK IN THE GAME,” had me on the edge of my seat. A crazed assailant closing in, the only thing keeping him from slaughtering a complete ballfield of Congressional representatives was a pistol quickly running out of ammo. Skilled medical professionals, trying to heal the congressman’s multiple wounds while under the pressure of a demanding press, congressional colleagues and even the president of the United States. Scalise details how so many came together in common cause to save his life. But all these heroes were doing their duty, what was expected of them. Another man, one few would expect, would be a rock that Scalise deeply appreciated.
Cedric Richmond is a Democratic Congressman and Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He represents the 2nd congressional district in Louisiana. Congressman Scalise represents the 1st. These men are in opposite political parties. They robustly compete every year in the congressional baseball game. And they are good friends. Steve Scalise describes the rivalry and history of their relationship in the book. Scalise also reveals that after he was shot, “Cedric showed up from the Democrats’ practice, still in his baseball uniform he got to the hospital even before members of my own party.” Cedric maintained vigil, providing support for Congressman Scalise’s wife, Jennifer. And during Steve’s recovery, upon his return to the United States House of Representatives, he describes the moment when, “Cedric and I looked at each other.
He made a face like he couldn’t quite believe I’d made it, and then he grabbed my hand and yanked me in for a hug.” This moment of unity not only provided Scalise with much needed healing. It provided us all with the remedy for the ailment that brought about this near deadly tragedy.
The gunman who shot at Congressman Scalise and his GOP colleagues on Wednesday, June 14th 2017, sought to deprive these men of their lives for hate’s sake. This we knew. What we didn’t know was that under the cloak of a social media avatar he built an irrational and simmering hatred for those with whom he politically disagreed. Since, we’ve seen masked thugs, congressional representatives and former presidential candidates call for or justify incivility and mobs. Thankfully we have a detour from this road to national ruin.
The actions of dedicated officers, doctors and Democrats like Cedric Richmond have lighted the way. When hate, violence, incivility and the mobs seek to divide us, we come together in common cause. When our lives are at risk, we stand shoulder to shoulder, realizing what’s really important. When trying times test our souls, we turn our eyes to God. When dark forces threaten our nation, we unify. Why? It’s because that’s what Americans do.