American Tragedy in Tucson
What a different idea I had for 2011’s first entry in my blog! The writing was almost ready — poetic and happy as the first day of this year was for me — among loving friends celebrating the new year’s arrival in our house. A time of fun, best wishes, and new dreams. Being involved in an important and very hopeful event in my personal life, I delayed a bit finishing that entry. Suddenly I found myself in a moment when I could only sing the familiar “what a difference a day makes”… and wrote a totally different entry for my blog. In this space I had planned to have my photo “Dancing Lights.” Instead you see today “Lights of Sorrow.”
I am frustrated, sad, and devastated by the tragic shooting in Tucson this past Saturday. Living here it is hard to focus on anything but that. My gentle and kind Tucson is the center of attention for the national media and I wish that it would be for a very different reason. Almost nonstop, newspapers, TV stations, and a wide range of Internet media pour out information about the tragedy of our Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the violent shooting. Today President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrived in Tucson to participate in a memorial ceremony. So I wonder, should I add my drop of water to the ocean of words of sympathy, information, commentary, and condolences? The answer is, “Yes!” I feel a desire and obligation to do so. WHY? “Because in a strong democracy, the arts are inextricably linked to civic dialogue and hard-won freedoms, with arts providing leadership as observers and reflectors,” stated the Arizona Commission on the Arts in response to the Tucson tragedy. I couldn’t agree more and I do believe that writers have a special responsibility to voice themselves.
So here are my observations and reflections of the tragic event in Tucson.
Ironically on that now infamous Saturday we (my husband, my son visiting from California, and I) had plans for that evening in the very same area (at the corner of Ina and Oracle) where the tragedy happened. The plan was to go to the Bluefin restaurant located there, have dinner and listen to the music of Reno del Mar – two guitarists whom we know and like, and whom I wanted my son (also a musician) to meet. Instead, we spent that evening at a very different place — at the corner of Swan and Pima where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ offices are located.
We went there with flowers and candles to join others in our grief. The vigil was small and not coordinated by anyone — totally spontaneous. People were there because they felt that it was the place to be at that moment. There were a few reporters talking to some of us. I happened to be interviewed by the Washington Post.
The place is familiar to me. It is very near our home and I pass it every day. We live in the Congresswoman’s district and are strong supporters of her. In fact, we were there several months ago for a totally different and joyful occasion — to participate in a Thank You party for Giffords after she voted for the health care bill. I even had a picture taken with her.
Gabrielle Giffords needed special support from her constituents at that time. A few hours after she voted in favor of health care reform, the window of her Tucson office was smashed.
By focusing on our Congresswoman I do not want to diminish the tragedy of the other victims of this violent shooting.
Judge John Roll will not be able to serve us and fight for more fairness. The charming nine-year-old Christina Green will never experience the mystery of her adulthood. The lovely older couples will not celebrate their birthdays or wedding anniversaries. Many will suffer their physical and psychological wounds for a long time. Even though the prognosis for Gabrielle Giffords’ survival is optimistic, we do not know what her future will be. What we do know is that she was the main target of this violence — others just happened to be there at her “Congress on Your Corner” event.
We can call Jared Loughner insane, lunatic, irresponsible, etc., but it is clear that his target was Gabrielle Giffords. Congresswoman Giffords was chosen by us. She is part of our government. The act of violence against her is an act of violence against us, against democracy, stability, and peace.
Perhaps we will find that Loughner had no political motive, but we cannot deny that lately our country has experienced a terribly intolerant political atmosphere. It has been greatly amplified by the angry rhetoric of the Tea Party and especially of its queen Sarah Palin.
“Oh, words are just words,” people often say. Really? How about these words: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly” — a notice for a campaign event for Jesse Kelly, Giffords’ Republican opponent in the 2010 election.
Words have meaning. Words can hurt or can heal and should be used with respect. Words, their suggestive meanings, and their imagery are powerful tools. They can encourage violence. And if words are used as a weapon, they can indeed turn into real weapons!
So what to do?
I am signing a petition that I received from MoveOn.org. The petition will be sent to every member of Congress and major TV and cable news networks, and it reads:
“I call for an end to all overt or implied appeals to violence in American politics. We must debate, not hate.”
I urge you to do the same. Here is the link to sign the petition.
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