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A huge thank you to all of you for your kind comments and for keeping Tucson in your thoughts these past few days.  When I posted, we didn't know what was going on; we were waiting for the hospital press conference.  The local news just kept repeating that their sources were telling them that Giffords had died and I was so scared.  It wasn't until our Sheriff -- our honest, forthright sheriff; love that guy -- said in his first telephone interview that she hadn't died at all but that five people, later six, had died at the scene.

I know her a bit.  I've met her several times and have volunteered for Giffords (and donated what little I could) since she first ran in 2006.  I first met her in 2007 at a similar event -- Congress on your corner -- at a mall not ten minutes away from this Safeway.  My mom and I went; I wanted to thank her for her vote on FISA and other issues.  She remembered me and my mom, somehow, when she saw my mom at a local fair some weeks later.  Amazing, really; she meets so many people daily and she remembered her conversation with me.  At that first meeting, a man came up with his young son and she immediately took the time to meet with him, to talk with him, because she thinks it's so important to encourage the interest of young people in the government.  When I heard that a young girl had been killed, I thought immediately that that's exactly what Giffords would want to do: talk to her, encourage her, and give her a positive experience with government.

I met (Chief) Judge Roll only once and spoke with him very briefly, but he was very kind, very generous, very supportive.

This is so surreal.  I know that Safeway, I shop there.  I bought champagne there for New Year's.  I used to work at the hospital the most critically injured were sent; it's the only Trauma 1 center in southern Arizona and they are very, very good.  I drove by there the other day -- I've never seen it so crowded and the outside drive is just absolutely packed with satellite trucks.  It's surreal watching Brian Williams report from the hill above the vet's office where I take my dog (and it's a little amusing that the NBC crew took so much time just to set up that shot; it's not easy to get to that hill).  I received her office's email about the event on Saturday on Friday afternoon; I was having trouble with my internet all week and thought, it's Friday afternoon, emails can wait.  If I had seen it, I would have grabbed my mom and we would have been there.  That's unsettling, too.

I'm not going to lie and say the vitriol that seemed to concentrate down here in the past, what, year and a half? wasn't worrisome.  It was.  I went to one of her healthcare town halls back in either late 2009 or early 2010.  It was at a local high school with a huge auditorium.  The long, long line outside and some of the vitriol we overheard was but a preview of what we saw inside.  It was unbelievably horrifying inside.  Hundreds of people, mostly older, shouting and screaming and bullying.  They drowned out young people asking earnest questions, they shouted down a veteran (a veteran!) who was voicing his support.  It was horrifying, and more than a little terrifying.  Dr. Carmona (former Surgeon General) was one of several on stage with her and he looked nervous (from my view, towards the back of the auditorium :))  Throughout it all, however, Giffords was very, very calm.  She consistently voiced her support for healthcare, why we needed it, and was imploring everyone to use their words.

Because that's what she does.  She wants words and facts to matter over threats of violence and intimidation.  Senator Mark Udall came down to campaign with her this last election (Udalls are very big in Arizona, particularly southern Arizona).  They stopped by one of the campaign offices (where I was working :)) thanking everyone.  They were talking about her opponent, who Salon dubbed the #1 scariest potential member of Congress.  He's a big guy, she said, a former Marine, and he doesn't mind using his size (and his loud voice) to intimidate opponents (and to galvanize his supporters into shouting down other voices).  It wouldn't work on Giffords; she's tiny, but strong.  She's very tough.  
During the healthcare debate, she received death threats.  Her office was vandalized.  People were bringing guns to her town halls (and dropping them) and then brought them to the debates last October (and dropping them, too, apparently).  I don't agree with her on everything (that would be impossible for anyone) but I was so incredibly proud of not only her vote but her strong support of the healthcare bill that she has my support and my vote in perpetuity.  Palin's bullseye list-- yeah, that worried us.  Gallows humor: at least whoever made the map had no idea where Tucson was, as the targets seemed focused on Phoenix and the Grand Canyon.  I thought at the time that if she's sending nuts with guns, at least she's sending them to roam around the Grand Canyon, hours away from us.  My mom and I went into Giffords's campaign office these last few months to volunteer and the thought went through our minds -- if someone attacks this office . . . well, there's nowhere to go.  Did any of you (in the US, really :) have that, after Columbine?  I was in high school at the time; in one class we sat around talking about it with the teacher and we realized, okay, well, there's nowhere to go, we'd be stuck...so we're going to keep going, and perhaps not be so incredibly obnoxious to each other.  

Going to volunteer on a political campaign should not be fraught with danger.  If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, and the point of all the death threats and vandalism and "if we don't resolve this with the ballot box, we'll resolve it with bullets" and "let's take aim at Giffords by firing off machine guns at a political event" is to keep us from our ordinary lives and participating in democracy -- then fuck 'em, and I'll keep doing what I believe in as I think that is the best revenge.

This whole thing is surreal and distressing and just very, very sad.  The last time I saw the Congresswoman, it was at a little get together thanking volunteers.  The close election had been finally resolved in her favor and we congratulated her, thanking her again for her vote on healthcare (and of course wishing her luck with the new Congress).  She thanked me for volunteering and gave me a hug.  

If I can be so greedy, I'd like to ask for everyone's continued good thoughts (and good energy! that's the phrase I couldn't think of last time, thanks tuckp3! :))   We certainly need them.

(sorry! forgot to cut)


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say that whatever good energy I have is with Giffords, and Tucson. We start classes here next week and I'm hoping to start a conversation about language and government - what do words do and how do we use them well? Thank you for sharing your experiences here - my thoughts are with all of you.

Edited at 2011-01-11 08:57 pm (UTC)
Jan. 11th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. The outpouring from all quarters has really been incredible and very much appreciated, by everyone. I think it's wonderful you're going to try to have that conversation at your school. Perspective is important on things like this; I don't have any, obviously. It's funny, but just last week Giffords recited the 1st Amendment at the Congressional reading of the Constitution. You disagree with something someone said? "Combat" it with more speech. The marketplace of ideas is so important, and it is to Giffords as well (in our first conversation, we even started talking about Madison and probably could have rehashed the Federalist Papers if there had been the time :)) Thank you again.
Jan. 11th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
energy and positive thoughts of course going her way.
this was a wonderful post.
what else can i say, my thoughts are with the people who need it most right now.
Jan. 18th, 2011 05:34 am (UTC)
thank you so much. really. thank you.
Jan. 11th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Jon Steward gave a great, albeit clearly shaken, monologue on the shooting on last night's Daily Show. I also heard Colbert gave a rare not-in-character monologue that I've yet to watch as Stewart's made me tear up at work (these things need to happen during one of the three weeks a month I can hold myself together...or, well, not at all, but if they do, I mean).

I don't really remember much about Columbine - I don't think I was entirely able to grasp what had happened at the time - but I do remember the feeling you described when my school went on lockdown on 9/11 and a few months after when we had a bomb threat. It was surreal and almost laughable, at the time - like, how do you even pretend there's a plan to follow in a situation like that? Listening to the stories of witnesses, all I kept thinking was "if I am ever in a situation like that, I'm going to drop on the ground and try to cover the crown of my head with my hands to minimize potential brain damage and try to face my spine away from the threat." Which is as devoid of logic as any other thought, but all that could come to mind.

Final thought: Jon said that rhetoric is, at the core, only rhetoric and crazies will find direction in anything from Catcher in the Rye to the voices in their heads to certain half-governors' websites, and that we shouldn't cast blame for things that aren't based in reality (or something like that). At the same time, the pure venom in US politics, particularly in AZ recently, is really appalling. People really need to snap out of it and back to reality: even the most loathesome politicians and pundits are human beings. It's ridiculous to be acting like those people on the corner with their "the end is near" signs.

I'm sending psychic karma waves out to AZ both for the victims and their families and to hopefully chill the state out a touch.
Jan. 18th, 2011 06:15 am (UTC)
I was actually able to catch both Jon Stewart and Colbert and I was so glad I did. They were both comforting, albeit surreal (*everyone* knows where Tucson is now). I really appreciated Colbert's breaking character and I missed when the Congresswoman's husband, an astronaut, was on Colbert's show, so I like that he referenced that.

It's scary to even think about sometimes, isn't it? And we have absolutely no control over something like that, so we try to think about the things we *could* control...and we usually come up short :) it could be paralyzing to think what little control we actually would have in those situations...and so we just have to keep going. And I really don't know what I'm saying :))

I get what Jon was saying, intellectually. I know there's no easy, straight line; if there were, we could actually take steps to make sure that this didn't happen again. I agree with how he said what comes out of the mouths of those who are mentally ill shouldn't so closely follow what comes out of the mouths of those on the far-right (exactly what you're saying--they are acting like those people with 'the end is near' signs!). On the other hand...what happened wasn't so completely outside the realm of possibility, down here. There was a build-up. And I really don't know what people are playing with when they say "if ballots don't resolve this, bullets will" and that their supporters shouldn't "retreat" but "reload" and that their supporters have "Second Amendment remedies"--and I know they're not talking about a well-regulated militia. They're not saying this stuff in a vacuum. Violent rhetoric has led to a sharp increase in threats before this happened, and it could not have helped that the shooter had his delusions somewhat supported by the venom down here. But I don't have perspective, so there's that.

ANYWAY, thank you so much for the karma waves. So many people need them out here (and, yeah, the state really does need to chill out. the "dry heat" is warping people's sense of what's reasonable and proportional :) Thank you.
Jan. 18th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
oh, and I forgot to add: lol for your icon, really. (laughing is a good response, for me, since I swear that woman pushes so many buttons for me. and someone said she might be buying a house in Scottsdale, and it's like, come on, don't we have enough problems?)
Jan. 18th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, just what Arizona needs, the one-woman example of how intelligent design can't possibly be real. Although, that at least means she's in a more reasonable location for when I launch my national "fuck the ballot box and fuck bullets, let's solve this shit with toilet paper" campaign.
Jan. 18th, 2011 06:49 am (UTC)
heh, win.

I like this. I support this. And I want the t-shirt.
Jan. 12th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
Absolutely sending vibes, as we call them in my circle.

I've been so angry about it, from the minute I heard, I've hardly been able to talk coherently about it. Because it's so completely obvious what the 'cause' really is. Mental illness, certainly - but that doesn't negate the fact that it's somehow become 'okay' to talk about our hardworking public servants in violent terms. And there have been warnings all along - this kind of talk has made people nervous from the start. And yet those doing the talking refused to tone it down, they only ramped it up, and this is the inevitable conclusion. Which they will now be denying responsibility for like their hair's on fire.

I've seen too many comments whining 'we don't even know if he's a tea party supporter, we don't even know if he saw the map'---it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if he was a card-carrying Democrat. What matters is that when you allow that kind of vitriol to permeate the public scene, it soaks into every corner. It says that it's okay to solve problems, any problems, with violence. And everyone picks up on it.

I saw posted on Twitter - 'if this was a school shooting, the student who posted the crosshair map would be in custody right now.' That's absolutely right. Why should we treat this situation any differently?

Anyway. I'm glad you weren't there - I'm sure it's terrifying enough to be close to it. I'm glad Gabby's a fighter, in so many ways. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here...I can only hope that we, as a nation and as individuals, do.
Jan. 18th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for the vibes. They are so greatly appreciated.

*hugs* for this comment. and this: What matters is that when you allow that kind of vitriol to permeate the public scene, it soaks into every corner. It says that it's okay to solve problems, any problems, with violence. And everyone picks up on it. Exactly. I just posted in a comment above -- all this talk about 2nd Amendment remedies, and "if ballots don't resolve this, bullets will" -- what the hell did they think was going to happen? Even just bringing guns to political events (which is absurd on its face), I can only see the sole purpose is just to "persuade" people by intimidating them with the threat of violence? This wasn't done in a vacuum, we have such a long history of political violence in this country. They created the monster but are backpedaling so hard to avoid any responsibility. "No one could have anticipated" that our constant drumming up of fear of "government" and advocating the use of guns metaphorically...could lead to a (thankfully attempted) political assassination. Charmingly, the local tea party "head" is just blaming Giffords for not having security...not that anyone should be fearful of the violent rhetoric. More guns for everyone! That's the ticket.

That is absolutely true. But of course, she's the real victim in this. Blech. And didn't she have the Secret Service come and tell her/McCain to cool it with the rhetoric in the campaign? Perfect example of knowing your words have a tangible and dangerous effect on others.

Thanks for letting me rant. And thanks--I'm glad I wasn't there, either. I can't even imagine. The thought of it is scary enough; the fact that I pass by there (and will go back to that store...eventually). Everyone's still shocked, but we're all being demonstrably friendlier to one another, so I hope we can hold onto that. If we can do that locally, I have hope for us. I'm just so amazed and thankful that Gabby's, well, alive, and making such a promising recovery. Patience and hope, patience and hope.
Jan. 12th, 2011 02:30 am (UTC)
I will continue to send good thoughts her way and the way of all the victims. I'm glad she's doing so (guardedly) well.

I saw you're sheriffs report not long after I saw your post (which was the first I'd heard of the shooting) and I can't remember being more impressed with someone from law enforcement dealing with a situation that was politically hot. He acted sane, Which is really, really rare.

I'm really glad you weren't there. (((Hugs))

Jan. 18th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
Thank you so, so much. I'm also thrilled that she seems to be making such a good recovery for someone in her condition. Incredible.

Yay, for the Sheriff. He has been here a very long time. Thank you so much for saying this; I'm so glad that came across. He was the voice of reason from the beginning. It's even more incredible when you realize that he's good friends with Giffords and with Judge Roll. He was driving back from California when he heard and he's been very honest about his feelings from the beginning. We're so lucky to have him.

Thank you so much. Me, too. (((((hugs!)))))
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )