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Shannon Davis: Coming together as Americans to Combat Hate

October 14th, 2017

On June 14 at 6:10 a.m., I was on my way to work in Springfield when I answered the worst phone call I’ve ever received. The call was from my husband Rodney, telling me that there had been a shooting at the baseball practice he was attending just outside of Washington, D.C.

I would later learn that a politically-motivated gunman had opened fire on Republican members of Congress practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, where Republicans and Democrats play each other for charity. Four people were shot that day, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Thank goodness they all are alive today because of the heroic actions Capitol Police Officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner, first responders and the medical teams at several nearby hospitals. They are my heroes because without them, my family would be very different today.

Tragically, two weeks ago, our country experienced another mass shooting. Thousands of families with loved ones attending a concert in Las Vegas received the same terrifying phone call and even much worse. As a mother, my heart breaks for these families. I pray God is watching over them.

Since the shooting, we’ve seen politicians and TV pundits say prayers are not enough. They’re right, it’s not enough.

While we don’t yet know the motive of this shooter, I can’t help but think about the hate within this individual, and the others before him, that led to him opening fire on a crowd of innocent people. In the coming weeks, the FBI and lawmakers will gather and assess the evidence. They will look at our laws and determine if something can be done to make us safer. But how do our lawmakers regulate hate? Hate for a political belief or party, hate for a religion, hate for a lifestyle, or a hatred of freedom.

Five years ago my husband decided to run for Congress. Our family was not new to politics so we knew Rodney would face criticisms that we would have to explain to our three teenagers. However, I never imagined the level of vitriol and divisiveness that exists today. Former presidential candidates going on late-night TV telling viewers that Republican policies are killing people or that they’re complicit in recent shootings or a CBS executive saying victims deserved it because they’re likely Republicans.

Words matter. They matter to the families of victims but more importantly, they perpetuate hate. We’ve had more threats reported and investigated against our family and Rodney’s staff this year than ever before. More prevalent than serious threats though, are hateful social media posts. Facebook comments and tweets from people writing that members on the baseball field that day deserved it because of their politics, or that flags were at half-staff to honor the attacker. These are just a few of the hurtful comments.

Hate can’t be regulated. It’s on our elected officials to lead by example and for all Americans to show respect for one another, even when we disagree.

I am proud of Rodney for publicly calling on his colleagues to tone down the rhetoric, for practicing what he preaches, and for preventing people across the political spectrum from using his social media as a platform to spread hate. We know these are just a vocal few, but like I said, words matter.

I want to thank everyone, many here in the Springfield area, for the outpouring of love and support after the shooting. We received hundreds of concerned text messages and calls.

This is the greatest country in the world and that’s in part because of the love and generosity we show our fellow Americans in times of tragedy. But let’s do our part as Americans every day. Let’s be tolerant of one another, appreciate our differences, and have civil debates while understanding that being an American means we have more in common than not.

— Shannon Davis is a registered nurse (RN) and wife of U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.