The saddest news today came out of Tucson, Arizona where Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona the target of an assassination attempt while speaking to a crowd in front of a Safeway grocery store. The forty year-old Giffords was seriously wounded by the gunman, remaining in critical condition as of late Saturday night, while six others — including federal judge John Roll and a nine year-old girl — were killed and nineteen innocents victims were wounded senselessly.
The suspect — whose cowardice makes him unworthy of my referring to him by any other name than “the lunatic” — was subdued by two members of the crowd after his attack (both who are quiet heroes on this day), though officials are investigating the possibility of his being aided by a 2nd individual.
This is a terrible event, and everyone’s prayers should be for a speedy recovery for all of those who survived this monster’s acts. The bigger question that will be asked in the next few days by those in the media, and by normal people everywhere, will be “Why?”
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people already speculating about motives and reasons, well before all of the facts are known. Early suggestions were that the suspect was a right-wing radical, possibly upset at Gifford’s support of the Health Care Act or stem cell research. However, there have been later reports from people who knew the suspect that he was “left wing, quite liberal, and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy” — pretty much the exact opposite. Indeed, Giffords record placed her firmly in what could be described as the political middle — she’s considered a Blue dog Democrat who doesn’t vote lock-step with her party, and she voted against Nancy Pelosi in the recent House election for Minority Leader.
Assassination attempts of elected officials don’t happen with regularity in this country like they do in some others — other than a failed attempt on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon back in September of last year, I believe you have to go back to the attempt on President Reagan’s life by John Hinkley in 1981 to find the last time an elected official this highly ranking targeted. My hope is that what we saw today doesn’t represent the beginning of an ominous trend.
It’s true that we live in one of the more divisive times in our country’s history, and that a lack of civility in political debates has reached an all-time low, both by elected officials and the people who support them. I understand the anger — I’m often angry and frustrated myself by the actions of those who’ve been put in charge of our nation’s future, particularly those (and there are many) who are sacrificing our nation’s future for their own political gain.
But this a reminder to those who begin pointing fingers in the next few days as to who to blame — we all are, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, for refusing to respect the views of others that may differ from ours, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. It’s all our fault for demonizing our political opponents instead of trying to understand, and then to work with them. And if that’s a lesson that isn’t learned soon, the tragedy of today — God help us all — might sadly be repeated again in the future. It’s up to all of us to improve the discourse, stop the infighting, and start working together. We owe it to ourselves and our country. We owe it to people like Gabrielle Giffords.