I'm very saddened by the shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, leaving her critically wounded, 6 people dead including a 9 year old girl ironically born on 9/11 and called one of the "Hope Babies". 14 others were wounded. There's no need to go into the details, as the news is international.
Gabrielle's office is just 3 blocks from where I live, and last night I placed a candle and flowers at a vigil held there for her (there were others, including where she is being treated at UMC hospital.) The intersection near her office was blocked off before the vigil, because a suspicious object, presumably a bomb, was reportedly found and defused. I heard this after I arrived, and don't know the details.....but if so, this gunman was not alone in his hate campaign, or there were people who took advantage of the tragedy to provoke further threat of violence.
Tucson is fairly well known as a (sort of) liberal oasis in an otherwise conservative state with a lot of "cowboy" ethics still abounding. In Arizona, for example, you can legally carry a handgun (in a holster). I'm not going to write about that, or the mythos and insanity of the gun culture, because there's way too much to say. I do want to say that the last election was the ugliest, most irrational I have ever seen, with a kind of simplistic, violent propaganda focused against Giffords, and Democrat Raul Grijalva, that I don't remember ever seeing before. Even the most politically apathetic noticed it. Some of the "allegations" on the internet or over TV were comparable to the insanity of calling President Obama a Muslim terrorist.
One example I found particularly disturbing were thousands of cardboard placards placed at intersections all over town with blurbs like "Giffords supports the Taliban". Just a few days ago, even though the election is well over, I noticed a placard near her headquarters that said: "Giffords took away my medicare". For many this extraordinary hate campaign was very much on our minds as we lit our candles.
I try to keep my blog away from politics, but this, literally, hits home; how much did this hateful propaganda have to do with the hate that fueled this violent act? Forbes Magazine suggested this in an article posted today, in which the author notes that:
"On her Facebook page last spring, (Sarah) Palin posted a U.S. map with crosshairs of a rifle scope over the districts repped by Giffords and 19 other Democrats.” ..................."should we pretend that the violent rhetoric of Palin and her followers is “just an overheated metaphor,” asks Huffington Post writer Marty Kaplan. How many times have we heard Jon Stewart and others speak out about how the GOP-Tea Party machine, with its angry bombast, pushes people? This “lock-and-load” mentality is today’s U.S. politics–reptilian, raging, uncivil, unyielding and here, possibly murderous. UPDATE 1/9/2011: Even a senior Republican senator, speaking anonymously to Politico.com “in order to freely discuss the tragedy,” believes the Giffords shooting is a “cautionary tale.” “There is a need for some reflection here – what is too far now?” said the senator talking about inflammatory language and suggestions of violence in politics."
This is not only a political matter; it is also a spiritual matter. The "altar" created for Giffords and all the others included prayers for peace, a butterfly, a peace sign, and many, many candles with the image of the Virgin of Guadaloupe - people know that we must all hold reason, hold the peace, now, more than ever.