The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson

The incident in Tucson that took place on Saturday was a tragic, senseless, needless event. The fact that it happened besmirches the reputation of our nation and should bring the lack of civility in political discourse into sharp relief. In watching my twitter feed on Saturday as the details were becoming clear, I heard people blaming the right, specifically Mrs. Palin and her crosshairs map. I heard other blaming the “liberal media” for putting the blame on the right. Even with the aforementioned debate, the largest chorus of voices I heard were a concern for the families of those killed and injured in the tragic event that took place in a Safeway parking lot.

Regardless of political persuasion or belief, what we should be focusing on after an event like this are the needs of the families affected by this horrendous event.

I titled this entry, “The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson” because Saturday’s tragedy took place at a the intersection of several of my worlds and is affecting me much more deeply that I expected it to. First, I am a former legislative staffer and have dealt with the hate and anger that can accompany political discourse. Second, have met the husband of one of the shooting victims. Third, I’m a parent and the loss of a 9 year old child in an event like this makes it even more of a tragedy.

As a former legislative staffer, this event affects me tremendously. I’ve worked numerous events such as this one, directly interacting with constituents. The point of these events was to make the legislator accessible to members of the public, so there was never any security present. I never felt vulnerable at any of these events, but I doubt Rep. Giffords felt vulnerable at this event. In my position as legislative staff, I dealt with my share of crazies, some threatening, some not. Thankfully, I only ever felt threatened twice in five years and I very quickly reported these threats to the authorities, who investigated them. I also spent most of my year working in a district office by myself or with one or two staffers for different legislators. There was no second exit from my office, so if someone had come in the door with bad intent, we would have been at their mercy. When I was in the Capitol, I felt much more secure, but I spent only a quarter to a third of the time there.

The Washington State Legislature, where I worked, prides itself in being close to the people. So close, in fact that legislators only work part time at their legislative jobs. Each legislator is given one, or in rare cases, two staffers. When the capitol was re-opened in 2004 after several years of revonations, there were metal detectors, but they were removed after the first year because of inconvenience they posed to the people, elected officials, and staff.

The second intersection came about because of my love of space. In May 2010, I participated in a #NASATweetup at Johnson Space Center in Houston. After the official event concluded, many of the participants went out for drinks and dinner. At the dinner we were joined by several astronauts, including Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was the target of Saturday’s shooting. I spent some time talking to Mr. Kelly and really enjoyed our conversation. I even took a picture with him and his brother (Mark Kelly is on the right). Capt. Kelly is a gracious man and I really feel for him and his family, in addition to those other families who suffered a loss as a result of this tragic event.

The third intersection has to do with the 9 year old girl who lost her life. As I understand it, she came to the event to tell the Congresswoman that she had recently been elected to her school’s student council, a fact about which she was justifiably proud. I can imagine doing the exact same thing with my child if they were in the same position. As a parent, I would justifiably proud of my child for being elected to student council and would let my child know of it. If they wanted to tell their Member of Congress about getting elected, I would make it happen. It’s a shame that someone so young lost their life because of an accomplishment such as this.

On a side note, I work in government and one of my aims is to make the government agency that I work in more accessible to members of the public. I especially work hard to work with children and answer their questions and help them understand government. I hope that Rep. Giffords and her staff would have done the same.

While the events in Tucson have indirectly affected me, the direct effect they’ve had on the people involved and their families is what needs to be focused upon. We need to come together, regardless of our political allegiance or persuasion, and support those who are feeling the direct effects. Capt. Kelly posted a statement on Rep. Giffords web site, summing up the family’s thanks to all supporting them. It’s worth a read, not only because it is well written, but because Capt. Kelly takes time to remember those wo were lost and those who worked to help them. If Capt. Kelly can remember others in his time of need, we should be able to as well.


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3 responses to “The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson

  1. Nicely stated John!

    It seems like this world has changed so much since I was a child and even young adult. There used to be respect for eachother and human life. That seems to be going away for some reason. I wish I could understand it all. How can our society get back to a place where we all can feel safe and concentrate on creating instead of destruction?

    I believe the increased communication with the Internet has positively changed our society. The ability of people from all over the world at most economic levels can now learn and share what is happening in thier lives. I have met many “friends” all over the world from interacting with them on facebook. Many share experiences in their lives when good or bad things occur. I feel a compassion for them and do my best to let them know I care about them even if they are on the other side of the world.

    This weekend I paticipated in a sharing event on facebook where each person offered to make five things over the next year and send them to the first five people that responded. One of the artists is going to share some tiles she is creating. There is a message on the tiles. “ONLY ART WILL UNITE US…” I like the statement but I think art can only be a starting place. It can help people to question and learn from viewing art but people need some basic guidence as they develope into responsible caring adults. I think this is missing in our society. Having parents that can spend time with their kids to guide them in understanding the difference between right and wrong and empathy for others is important. It seems latley everbody has to spend too much time just trying to survive. I have no answers to improve this situtation but I have hope that our society will learn something from these tragedies.
    Let’s all care more for eachother from now. Okay?

    My humble thoughts…

  2. Kristin Benda

    I agree 100%, John. Well said. I am somewhat involved in our city’s political happenings (voluntarily, City Council, Sub-Committees), and I’m also a board member on the PTA at Kaitlyn’s Elementary School. An innocent 9-year old girl getting killed totally hits home for me. Kaitlyn has expressed the want to come along and be involved in the events I attend, we’ve been in parades, etc … and, fortunately, nothing has ever happened, I’ve always felt safe. Just like the 9-year old, she’s also expressed the want to be on the school’s student council. She’s only 6 1/2, so it’d be a few years, but if a Member of Congress were to come locally, and she wanted to meet him or her, I’d be 100% on board … until this happened. I go to grocery stores almost every day as well, – with either Kaitlyn and/or Logan. Now I have reservations; hearing this on the news was so disheartening, especially to those like us who work or volunteer FOR the public, and love it. That makes me sad and VERY angry. Innocent lives lost. What a cowardly way to make a statement.

  3. LucieD_inthesky

    This whole thing hit me hard on so many levels. As you are likely aware, I have run into the Kelly family frequently in my job. Both of them are consummate professionals, and are very generous of their time when it comes to volunteer events. They are both strong family men – which is, indeed, fairly obvious as well. And they are part of our family – the NASA family. While I’ve never met Gabrielle Giffords, my heart is just broken for her and her family, as well as everyone else involved. I can’t even begin to tell you how upsetting it is to hear about Christina Green – any normal parent would feel the same. So senseless, so unspeakable, this act of terror. I had to explain the Oklahoma City bombing to my then six year old – and I recall the struggle I had making sense enough of it myself to explain it to him. He’s 22 now – and you know what? Still, it is difficult to express in terms that make any sense. These two events both hit people we know, people we care about – way too close to home. I won’t go into further detail about it, but this should serve as a wake up call to Americans.

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