As I write this post that I know will appear on my blog that is filled with giveaways, quick parenting tips, Twitter Party announcements and Disney travel ideas, I know that some readers will be perplexed. Why her? Why here? I also know that there’s a load of laundry in a wash basket outside my office door that I’m supposed to be folding, a game of Monopoly that I’m itching to play, and a Daisy Troops activity that I’m in charge of creating between now and Monday.
But I have to write this anyway.
I sat down this afternoon to check my email and Twitter stream and learned, like many of you, that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. The initial report that I read on NPR incorrectly reported that she had died. In the chaos and considering that she was shot through the head, that mistake is tragic yet understandable. Before today I had never heard of Gabrielle Giffords. While I am interested in public policy, I don’t much like to be involved in politics. People tend to assume that I’m this when really I’m that, and the bottom line is that I fall all over the spectrum depending on the specific issue. And yet I was drawn to this story because it was simply horrifying to me. The fact that an elected official, a civil servant who has dedicated her life to helping run our country, was attacked while meeting with her constituents left me shocked. This was not a story of a woman visiting a foreign and dangerous land on a peace keeping mission who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was an American legislator speaking with voters about their concerns in a grocery store in Tucson. A grocery store.
In the moments following the reports that flew by on Twitter, someone called my attention to what is being called the “reload” list. You can see this image at The Huffington Post. The graphic uses gun sights to target U.S. elected officials who the Sarah Palin Poltical Action Committee hoped to remove from office during the next election. Listed under one gun target? Congresswoman Giffords.
Let me be clear. This post is not about Sarah Palin. It is not about Republicans and Democrats, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, socialists, fascists…whatever else you can come up with to describe political ideology.
This is about a nation with a state of mind that a.) allows a person or group to create an image using symbols of deadly force targeted at another person and b.) doesn’t respond to this sort of rhetoric so strongly that it ceases to be acceptable.
I am certain that similar graphics can and will be found on both sides of the aisle be it publicly on websites or privately in campaign offices. Please do not fill my comments or email inbox with the examples. I’ve seen enough.
So why the visceral reaction from me to this news story when every day there is another tragic story to be reported?
Seventeen years ago as I was getting ready for school, the phone rang. Someone told my parents that there had allegedly been a shooting in the area of my hometown that could be considered “the wrong side of tracks.” From time to time outside riff-raff would move into our tight knit community, take up residence in a rental in this small neighborhood on the side of a mountain, and eventually move along. I was bothered by the news, but was also a typical high school junior and went on my way, more concerned about getting to class on time.
Once I got to school, I heard rumblings that perhaps the story was different. Perhaps it hadn’t been a domestic dispute up on the mountain. By mid-morning, we knew the truth.
It turned out that my friend Danny, a sophomore, had been shot and killed by his friend, a senior at my high school. The reported motive and details of the event are not important. What’s important to note is that in a violent rage, a seventeen year old who collected guns shot and killed his mother and his friend. The first to arrive on the scene were the volunteer EMT’s and firefighters, many of them fellow students at my small school. What they would later share with me still haunts me to this day. I do not need to play video games or watch violent movies to know the power of a gun. I’ve heard first hand what a gun can do to a person, to a child.
I take guns very seriously, the use of them in play, the portrayal of them in entertainment, and yes, the belief that metaphors of gun violence are in any way okay in this nation’s political system. I cannot believe more strongly that they are not. Not by any politician. Not by any political party.
So today while the left attacks the right and the right attacks back, I am sad that more families now know the effects of gun violence. I am sad that more sixteen year old children know the power of this violent weapon. And I pray not only for those injured, but that our country finds its way to peace.