In the wake of Steve Scalise’s shooting while practicing for today’s congressional baseball game, America seems to have been pushed to a breaking point. This seems to be a very clear example of an attempted political assassination, recalling memories of the tumult of the late 1960s. 2017 feels as if it is in danger of mirroring 1968, where America lost leaders like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to ideological violence.
Which is why today’s game amongst congressmen should not be split amongst partisan lines. The gunman expressed widespread anger at Donald Trump’s agenda, and aimed to literally fight against it. Sports are a metaphor for warfare, and pitting Democrats against Republicans only serves to enforce the narrative that our political battles are about to spill over into the physical world.
There are a multitude of options to demonstrate solidarity with one another. One is to split teams amongst representatives from states that joined the union prior to and after the Civil War—proving the unity that emerged from our nation’s darkest moments. Or we could simply split teams in the odd/even order in which states joined the union. So, representatives from Delaware (our first state) play on the same team as those from Arkansas (our 25th state) against congressmen from Tennessee (our 16th state) and Colorado (our 38th state). Both options demonstrate that we are more alike than we are lead to think.
Symbolism is a powerful antidote in tumultuous moments like this. I think back to the 2001 MLB season, when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch in the first World Series game in New York City. As the tragedy of 9/11 still shook us to our very core a month after the twin towers collapsed, watching the President of the United States calmly walk out to the mound AND throw a strike was a cathartic moment.
Despite the failures that would later befall his administration, George W. Bush provided a much needed, powerful spark of national unity that I will forever cherish. Today’s congressional baseball game can serve a similar purpose. This game has historically been used as a way for Democrats and Republicans to symbolically settle their disputes in a congenial and respectful manner, and now our representatives have the opportunity to demonstrate that our disagreements are not between two political factions vying for power, but between Americans striving to create a more perfect union.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.