James Hodgkinson was a man of hate — especially when it came to Republicans. The 66-year old former home inspector from Illinois belonged to Facebook groups like “Terminate the Republican Party,” “Expose Republican Fraud,” “Liberal Democratic Socialist Party,” “Boycott The Republican Party,” “Healthcare & Education Berners United to Resist Trump,” and “I Hate Donald Trump.”
Hodgkinson also posted things like, "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” "Trump is a Traitor," "Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co,” and "This Country Could Do With One Less Republican.”
Two years ago, Hodgkinson opened fire on congressional Republicans as they practiced on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, wounding four, including then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Jefferson Parish.
The FBI found a list of the names of six members of Congress on the body of Hodgkinson after he had been shot by police.
The 2017 shooting almost took everything Scalise had. He was shot in the hip, and the bullet traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding. For a while, it seemed as though Scalise wasn’t going to make it. Hodgkinson caused considerable pain and suffering for Scalise and his family. Scalise told me last week that he doubts he’ll ever fully recover physically from the shooting.
“I still have permanent nerve damage in my left foot and probably won’t be able to run again. I loved playing sports. I ran the Crescent City Classic every year, I loved playing baseball, basketball, tennis and I may never be able to do those things at the level I used to, “ Scalise said.
How could Scalise possibly forgive Hodgkinson? He was a man bent on destroying him simply because he was a Republican. But Scalise is a man of faith and knows as a devout Catholic, he’s required to forgive. Scalise drew national attention when he admitted he was struggling with forgiving Hodgkinson.
"I've never internally, formally forgiven the shooter from the baseball shooting, and it's something I've struggled with as a Catholic. I mean, part of my faith is forgiveness, and I'm working to get there," Scalise told reporters on Capitol Hill earlier this month.
I asked Scalise on Friday, considering all the national attention he received from admitting his struggle with forgiveness, whether he’s made progress.
“I’m probably about there. Since that article came out, I’ve had a lot of conversations with different faith leaders who reached out to me, and you know, I’ve had some really good, heartwarming conversations about where I am in general about forgiveness. I think I’m very close to being at that point,” Scalise said.
How refreshing, transparent and authentic. Scalise could easily just say he’d forgiven Hodgkinson, even if he hadn’t. But he knows dealing with his struggle honestly and openly will help others having trouble forgiving.
“I never talked publicly about my faith before this. I always had a deep faith; it’s just something I kept personal. After the shooting, as I started sharing how I was touched by the prayers and outreach people gave to me and how it helped me, I found out it actually helped other people hearing that,” said Scalise.
Scalise says he knows he’ll eventually have to forgive Hodgkinson. He understands the importance of forgiveness.
“I think it releases the negative feelings that come with harboring anger toward somebody. And I’ve never been somebody that holds grudges. This is one final piece that I have to deal with,” said Scalise.
No one could possibly fault Scalise for his struggle to forgive a man as evil as Hodgkinson. Scalise says until just recently. he’s been focused on recovery more than forgiveness. But then he met Gerald Toussaint. Toussaint pastors Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas. Scalise was inspired that Toussaint was able to forgive the arsonist who burned his church to the ground.
"His faith is surely helping me in my faith," said Scalise.
Forgiveness is a lot like courage. It’s contagious. When we see others do it, it makes the impossible seem possible. Scalise has good reason not to forgive Hodgkinson, but he knows he must. And he will. He’s just not fully there yet.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DanFaganShow.