I got home from school on Friday and sat down to read my email and Facebook, the daily practice in this computer age. I had an email from Gabrielle Giffords inviting me to an even called Congress on Your Corner. During this past election season I had helped walk the streets for our Democratic candidates, especially a new School Superintendent, passing out literature for Gabby, as she’s known to supporters here. I looked at this email, and the political science person in me said, cool. This is the way we are supposed to meet and talk to our congress-persons.
I contemplated getting hubby to go over, as I would like to meet Gabrielle Giffords some day. I wanted to tell her to hold strong against the rhetoric that is coming from the new Congress and for her to continue to represent us as best as she could, while maintaining her values. I also wanted to tell her I was disappointed that some of her ads in the last campaign were objectionable. I wanted her to be above the mud-slinging, but I recognize the inevitability of having to counter her opponent. Still, the idealistic part of me that worships this flag and Constitution want our public servants to be that and not politicians.
The time frame of the event just wasn’t going to work for us. Doctor appointment in the morning, weekend errands to run, and the event was on the other side of the city. We got home for lunch and checked Facebook to find Tucson was now right up there with Columbine, Ft. Hood, Oklahoma City and Dallas. We were glued to the television set for the rest of the day. Friends from Vermont who know me and know I do tend to be politically active called to make sure I hadn’t gone grocery shopping. Ironically when we moved to Tucson, that had been our grocery, we had banked there, and now one of our favorite restaurants, Beyond Bread, had opened up on that corner. We wondered how they would handle the increase in traffic.
The social media aspect was very evident to me. I was watching the news channels, and two hours after the shooting there didn’t seem to be enough information. I was hungry for more. What was her condition? Who was the shooter? Who else was hurt? I even turned to Fox News to see what I could hear. And then I remembered I was on Twitter, although not regularly.
Twitter was certainly active. To my amazement I saw how quickly news could travel. I read that Gabrielle Giffords had died, and I felt a punch to the stomach. Why did this keep happening in this country? Then I read about Sarah Palin’s “gun sights” on her webpage that had suddenly disappeared from cyberspace. I posted on Facebook that there had been tweets she had died. I was frustrated with the local stations for not confirming, for not giving us more information.After all, it had been on Twitter…how could we not know? Then I stopped reading Twitter, concentrated on Facebook, and channel-surfed for information.
The difference between now and 1963 with the media is dramatic. Then we waited patiently for news. We were glued to our TV sets as long as possible. It was the first assassination to be televised. We as a nation were stunned, regardless of our political leanings. Then when Jack Ruby was murdered live before our eyes, we wondered what else could possibly happen to us as a nation. Now we watch scenes over and over, becoming immune to the shock visually, but still heart-stunned.
All this time I’m thinking, this was only a matter of time before some nutcase pulled a gun and started firing. I hoped whomever it was wasn’t Hispanic. That would have been the match to the fuse here in Tucson. I must congratulate the news outlets here in Tucson. As much as I was frustrated, they held the course, let us know only when things were confirmed, kept their cool, no rhetoric beyond their own sadness. They cautioned us to listen closely for confirmed reports. NRP had to retract that Giffords was dead. The news conference at the hospital gave us hope, and at the same time sucker-punched us again when we heard a nine-year-old girl had died.
All of this is inexcusable, but that was a very cruel joke. Then later in the evening we learn Christine-Taylor Green was a 9/11 baby, interested in politics, and had just been elected to her student council. She was there with a neighbor to meet the Congresswoman. At times like this you wonder about God.
One of our most respected judges in this crazy state died. Judge Roll went to mass as he usually did and then decided to stop by to say hi to his friend the Congresswoman. At times like this you wonder about God.
An up-and-coming congressional aide trying to bring democracy to the streets and people of Tucson was doing his job and was gunned down. He was 30. At times like this you wonder about God.
Three others are dead, names and no background. Six are still injured. Who are they, what about their lives? And what about the “second gunman,” another person of interest? Is he a second gunman? Was he the mastermind? So many questions and no answers….
Tomorrow will be an interesting day at my high school, the flash-point for an Arizona state bill on ethnic studies, targeting a program at my specific high school. How will the students react to all this? I know many will say “let’s just shoot the bastard.” And it will be up to me and the other educators to convince them that violence doesn’t solve anything – to students who already live with violence in their lives as they cope with an inner city environment. It will be up to me to get them to listen to facts before they make judgments, to try and listen to all sides before they jump to conclusions. It will be up to me to convince them that they really do need algebra in their lives, in the midst of all this tragedy.
And it will be up to me to show them sadness and coping. That I can cry, not because I knew them, but because this hurts us all. Not because I dislike what is happening to the United States, but because I know the amazing potential that we can be if we work at it together, unified in heart and soul.