Our View: A call for unity in the aftermath of tragedy

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Children gather on Simpson Field at Tuesday evening's event that sought to reclaim the Alexandria baseball grounds (Photo Credit: Louise Krafft)
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Though located in the Del Ray neighborhood, Eugene Simpson Stadium Park is home to every child who has played baseball in Alexandria. This was clear Tuesday night, as children and coaches from across the city gathered for the “Take back our field” rededication there.

Del Ray has been in the spotlight since James Hodgkinson acted on his apparent political hatred by ambushing House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and other Republicans who were gathered for a baseball practice at Simpson Field on June 14. In the aftermath, a New York Times article criticizing Del Ray for being an intolerant liberal enclave has ruffled feathers there, and rightly so.

Here’s the thing: Del Ray is Alexandria, and Alexandria is Del Ray.

Yes, Del Ray is liberal – but so is Alexandria as a whole. In the 2016 presidential election, nine city precincts went for Hillary Clinton by a higher percentage than the two – Mt. Vernon Recreation Center and G.W. Middle School – that are purely Del Ray.

Political diversity is lacking, but it’s wanting citywide, not just in Del Ray. Our city council and mayor are all Democrats; our proclamations and priorities generally reflect a liberal bent.

For the most part, that’s OK, as like-minded people tend to gravitate together. But the thousands of Republicans and conservatives who also call Alexandria home often feel unwelcome in our self-proclaimed city of tolerance. Ask White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and other officials in President Donald Trump’s administration if they are treated with kindness when out in our community.

So, here we are, in a mostly liberal city where passions and rhetoric have been high since the surprise victory of Trump in last November’s presidential election. And last week an outsider acted out the rage many have felt, but did so in a horrific, unthinkable manner.

To a certain extent, we are all culpable. Yes, Hodgkinson acted alone. But the tenor of our national political discourse certainly helped push an already unstable mind past its breaking point.

We can’t justify our incivility and inflammatory language – in Alexandria or elsewhere – by saying “The haters on the other side are worse than on my side.”

Both liberals and conservatives view many of the hot-button issues of today, ranging from immigration to abortion, as matters of conscience. Whether one thinks abortion is an abomination or considers President Trump’s immigration policies immoral is almost irrelevant when viewed through the prism of June 14.

We all need to tone down the volume and acknowledge that people who hold opposing views are not necessarily evil. We should not be accosting people at plays, on airplanes, at Christmas parties or at the grocery store. That does not mean we should abandon our views or stop advocating for what we think is right. But if we can’t tame the vitriol, what happened on June 14 is going to happen again.

Each of us has a choice, every single day: We can either focus on what enrages and divides us or we can focus on what unifies us.

Community is a great unifier. As so many beautifully demonstrated last week in Alexandria and especially in Del Ray, our city has a strong sense of community. Houses of worship also bring us together; many held vigils and offered solace after the shootings.

And, of course, there’s baseball. Few elements of American life have for the past hundred years brought us together quite like this sport, played on fields of green grass during seasons that mirror those of life itself.

The attack took place on a baseball field, and on Tuesday night, that same field brought us together. Cries of “play ball” have echoed in the past week, from the president to our local leaders.

The game must continue, but with better behavior on both sides.

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