Hatred kills what makes our nation great

The man accused of shooting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and several others during baseball practice last week just outside Washington, D.C., belonged to an anti-Republican group called, “Terminate the Republican Party.”

James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., was killed during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers during practice for what typically is a good-natured congressional baseball game pitting Democrats against Republicans.

Scalise, grievously wounded, and the others who also were injured, Matt Mika, a former congressional staff member; Zack Barth, a staff aide to Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas; and two U.S. Capitol Police officers who were part of Scalise’s security detail, will survive.

One Republican Congressman who witnessed the shooting said it felt as if they were being “hunted.”

The Associated Press and other media has reported that Hodgkinson’s Facebook page featured a myriad of anti-Donald Trump posts, as well as support for former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. One post is reported to read, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump.”

Hodgkinson was a prolific letter writer to his hometown newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, where he frequently railed against Republican policies and praised liberal attitudes.

It can be described in no other terms than appalling and horrifying that so much hatred exists among Americans, no matter what side of the aisle you might agree with. What’s worse is this hatred seems to grow exponentially each day. The fact that such hatred was held by a frequent newspaper letter writer is even more disheartening to me.

Newspapers like the Tribune Chronicle, and I presume the Belleville News-Democrat, offer space in our pages to provide readers with an important forum for sharing varied opinions. Both conservative and liberal thoughts on current events regularly land here. On these letter pages, writers share very strong and typically well-written opinions, some of which you will agree with, some you will not. I, too, agree with some and disagree with others, but that page is not my page. It is your page, and we feel strongly about the value of a hearty exchange of ideas. It is the right to have such a lively exchange that makes America great, after all.

Today, one regular writer who routinely opposes Donald Trump’s views offers this point: “Christ taught us to put each other ‘first’ to better all of us. That works in economics and all aspects of life. We must balance that in our lives. … Much like the golden rule.”

Another conservative writer today describes liberals as having “launched a power struggle and responded to losing an election by constructing sanctuary cities, thereby turning a cultural, ideological secession into legal secession. Judges have cloaked this rejection in law.”

Each shares thought-provoking arguments. Many others do, as well, on several other topics today.

But no matter what your political beliefs, these comments — and all views published every day on our opinion page — are intended to serve as a starting point for debate, not a starting point to breed hatred.

Not long ago, I received a letter from a Warren reader that summed up well the sad situation encompassing our world today.

The writer, Harlene Huffstetler, shared a verse from Martin Luther King Jr., which she said she has carried in her purse for decades.

“Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence only increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

I was so moved by the letter and the verse that I made a photocopy and taped it to the top of the computer screen in my office where I read it often.

Certainly, open debate is vital to keeping America free. But when we, as Americans, cross the line to hate, then we’ve sacrificed what for centuries has made our nation great.