Random Thoughts on the Tucson Tragedy
[Note: Cleaning generates lots of forgotten stuff. I shared these thoughts, six years ago to the day, at a different blog site. Since she was shot on January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has made a truly remarkable recovery. She’s a vital member of our community, and a public citizen who works hard to reduce the adverse impact of guns in our lives.*]
I’ve been quiet until now. “Mostly quiet,” to be totally truthful. We had a dinner party on January 8. The food was ready and the friends close, so we saw little reason to cancel. At about 9:30 and with a snoot full of wine in me, I answered the phone.
A JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a news service like Associated Press) reporter in Washington was calling, wanting a referral for an article he was writing about the shooting. (Long story about why he was calling me.) I told him I’d get him Jonathan Rothschild’s number in the morning. Jonathan and I practice law together. He’s a dedicated Democrat and an active member of the Jewish community. (He’s also, most likely, the next Mayor of Tucson.)
I must have said more than “I’ll get the number,” though, for the story identified me as a Tucson-area lawyer (right) and a Democratic Party activist (huh). It quoted me thusly: “You have a vice-presidential candidate for a major party [Sarah Palin] who runs ads with targets saying ‘remove Gabby Giffords’ and a young man with issues. You’re going to spend a long time convincing me it doesn’t have something to do with it.” (The future mayor was more temperate, but he spoke with the reporter in the morning!)
So here are my random thoughts:
Random Thought No. 1. If you’ve met Congresswoman Giffords, she’s your friend. I’ve met a fair number of politicians over the years, but never one like Gabby. No pretense, and lots of fun and funny. (And she must have a photographic memory for faces and names.) Plenty smart and strong, but I’ve never seen her proving her smarts by putting someone down or building herself up. Just a really nice person. (BTW, to be a young woman in what is still a man’s world, slight in stature, and call yourself and let others call you Gabby requires lots of confidence!)
Big deal? Yes, as I believe Gabby’s personality plays a significant role in our reaction to the horrid events. Of course, I can’t be proved right or wrong, but if Tucson was represented by someone who more closely fits “central casting” for a Member of Congress, our community’s reaction might be different. (Nothing about Judge John Roll, the other prominent victim, changes this theory. Another exceptional person, totally approachable and friendly, albeit in a way very different from Gabby’s.)
Random Thought No. 2. About the criticism of the memorial service: Get over it, critics. Everyone mourns differently. The Right Wing owns this tragedy no more than it owned 9/11 (despite its claims to the contrary), and if the service at McKale Center on Wednesday didn’t suit someone’s taste, all he or she had to do was leave or, more likely, turn off the television set. Yes, if weird is a synonym for unfamiliar, the opening by Dr. Carlos Gonzales was weird. Of course, weird is not a synonym for unfamiliar! Dr. Gonzales is an American with a non-Anglo Christian heritage, like so many people in Tucson. And, like Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others, he follows a tradition that he knows. That he shared it with tens of millions is very cool. That a few people found this weird—yes, you, Brit Hume, among others—is very sad.
Random Thought No. 3. About the tone, and all that. I heard no public official blame the shooter any less because of the intemperance we’ve all experienced over the past two years. (Yes, the Sheriff of Pima County is a public official—and not a very liberal one at that—and no, he did no such thing. Read what he said!) One group in this country excels at taking what other say, amping up the words and, then, screaming about the unfairness of it all. In my workaday world we call this a “straw man argument.” Throw something out there, blow it down and call it a day! It’s crap in a courtroom, and it’s crap on cable, too.
On the same issue, I am reminded of Hamlet and “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Yes, campaign is a political term with origins in the language of war. Yes, Democrats have run ads with bullseyes. Yes, sometimes people associated with Daily Kos and other liberal blogs forget every mother’s adage: “If you don’t have something nice to say, be quiet.”
Agreed, politics is a tough game. But there’s a difference between a bullseye and what’s seen through a rifle scope. (And no, Sarah Palin, the surveyor’s scope bit won’t sell!) And when a candidate in Florida shoots at a target with with the initials DWS (for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz), that’s not OK. Nor is candidate Jesse Kelly holding an event that gets promoted in this way:
Get on Target for Victory in November
Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office
Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly
It wasn’t OK when it happened, and it can’t be OK after January 8, 2011. We’re all better than this! Really, we are! And as for Daily Kos, does the Far Right really want to compare some blogger with many of its elected leaders and its propagandists. I mean really, some guy posts something and you all want to liken him to Glenn or Rush or Newt or Sarah? (In passing, on the Jesse Kelly event, who gets off on shooting an M16? I’m sure I’d feel like a fool, hanging out with a bunch of guys and being all macho with guns!)
Random Thought No. 4. The Tea Party crowd swears by the Constitution, but I cannot recall another election cycle in which we heard more chatter about amending the Constitution, all of it offered by Tea Party candidates. They suggest doing away with the 16th and 17th Amendments (taxing authority and direct election of Senators, respectively), the 21st Amendment (which repealed the 18th Amendment, which instituted Prohibition), and those portions of the 14th Amendment that make people citizens if they’re born here and subject to our jurisdiction when they’re born. For a crowd that thinks the Constitution is Biblical in its import, they seem to have issues!
I have an issue, too. Mine is the 2nd Amendment. Why is it so sacrosanct? In fact, courts have routinely allowed for reasonable restrictions on the right to bear arms. But, with the National Rifle Association in control of state legislatures, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, the notion that any legislative body would adopt even minimal restrictions seems unimaginable. Yet, we have a problem that seems obvious: More guns than any other developed nation and more gun deaths. We can’t fix the problem because of the 2nd Amendment, so we need to repeal the 2nd Amendment. Fat chance, of course, but why is the 2nd Amendment not worthy of thought, when those who swear most loudly their adherence to the Constitution want so badly to rewrite it?
I could say much more, but I think I’ve said all I need to say, save one thing. Be kind to your children, your spouse, your friends and others. If we all learned anything from what happened last week, we now know a quick trip to the grocery store, a visit with a friend or any other daily activity can turn everyone’s world upside down.
*I am counsel for Tucson’s January 8th Memorial Foundation.