The weekend’s shootings of Congressional representative, Gabrielle Giffords, and the killing of six other people in that attack in Tucson, have left me and many others totally dumbstruck. So many parts of life have to be reassessed, not just for politicians, but also for ordinary citizens with regard to the ease with which they can get access to their political representatives. The debate about whether to make it harder to have such access will be a very interesting one.
For me, the most heart-wrenching aspect of the developments over the weekend was that a nine-year old girl, Christina Taylor Green, was amongst those killed, and no shortage of irony comes from the fact that she was born on September 11, 2001. Reports indicate that she was an aspiring student-politician. But, to me, she was an innocent child and no more.
When the moment of silence was requested for 11am today, it was easy to comply. I really found it hard to make noise anyway. I reflected, however, on my own small daughter, who was listening to the comments and reactions we had at home on Saturday. I wanted to ask her what she thought and understood about the events. I wondered if the topic had come up at school, either in her classroom or elsewhere. She told me that some children had been talking about the events in the dining room. I told her, honestly, that the events really frightened me because of the ease and brazenness of the attack, on a regular visit to Safeway, or any local supermarket–as she and her mother had done earlier the same Saturday.
She rationalized the events as children often do by saying that it would have been easy for her to escape because she has fast legs, or would have found some tins in the supermarket behind which to hide. I tried to explain that she would probably have had no chance to react. She could not understand. “You always have time to run,” she argued. I am not going to challenge her innocent response.
It was fitting that while listening to NPR’s Michel Martin on Tell Me More, as I waited at school to pick up my first grader, Ms. Martin raised the issue of why people do not intervene to help others being attacked, citing a recent beating in the DC area. Of course, in moments of spontaneous bravery, several people did intervene in Tucson, even one person who had been shot in the head. The answer to that question is as much at the heart of how people can be inhumane as are acts of wanton violence. It goes to the point of challenging some of the aggressive and violence-tinged rhetoric that some say may have been a spur for Saturday’s carnage.