Lily Wool, 19, and Vera Rapcsak, 20, both of Tucson, Arizona hold signs outside the Tucson office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
The many big and small facts surrounding yesterday's shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) and 18 others are tinged in shades of irony and coincidence.
First there's the unfortunate name of the supermarket in front of which the shooting occurred: Safeway.
Second is the event that brought Rep. Giffords there -- "Congress on Your Corner." Giffords wasn't one to hide in her Washington, D.C. office; she was always in her constituents' corner, whether fighting against harsh immigration laws in her state or for environmental issues and health care reform at the national level. (Her vote for the latter prompted unknown assailants to smash the window of her Tucson office the night of the vote -- destruction that may have involved a gun.)
Third, at a previous "Congress on Your Corner" Giffords held in 2009, a protestor holding a "Don't Tread on Me" sign accidentally dropped a gun he'd been carrying. Gail Collins, who wrote a disturbingly prescient column, "Gunning for Health Care" for the New York Times on August 12, 2010, questioned whether it was wise to bring a gun to a gathering that included overwrought individuals and -- citing that incident -- described how Giffords smartly turned a threat of violence into a clever pitch:
"When you represent a district -- the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, the town too tough to die, nothing's a surprise," she told a reporter later, showing a commendable ability to respond to any crisis by throwing in a plug for local tourist attractions.
Sticking with that same event, consider ironic coincidence #3A -- again courtesy of Collins:
Rudy Ruiz, the father of one of Giffords's college interns, saw the gun hit the floor...."That concerned me. I just thought what would happen if it had gone off? Could my daughter have gotten hurt?"
His daughter, a college senior, is hoping to pursue a political career after graduation.
"Are you sure you want to get involved in this stuff?" Ruiz asked her on the way home.
Ruiz's daughter's answer may have changed in light of what happened yesterday.
Fourth, there's the story of the youngest of the six victims, 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, whose brief life was bookended by two tragedies the nation will never forget. Green was born on 9/11/01, and -- according to CNN -- had recently been elected to student government at her school, Mesa Verde Elementary. A neighbor, knowing of Green's budding interest in politics, had brought the little girl thinking she'd enjoy meeting the congresswoman.
Fifth is the fact that Giffords -- a women's college graduate -- returned to her alma mater Scripps College to give a deeply moving commencement address to the class of 2009 that outlined her own motivations and foreshadowed events to come:
You cannot authentically live anyone's life but your own. That is the deal life offers us.
We as women have fought too hard and for too long against the narrowing confines of social expectation to have anything less....
[E]mbrace what was denied those who came before...follow the passion inside your heart and listen to its voice above all others....
[W]hen you tune out the critical voices in your head and embrace what your heart is saying, you don't just make your own life better. You make the world better....
There will be many, many times in the course of your professional and personal lives where you will be encouraged -- in shockingly plain ways -- to take the easy way, to go along with the group in contradiction to your own principles....
But the safety of the world, in some sense, depends on your saying "no" to inhumane ideas.
Standing up for one's own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet defiance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest expressions of courage I know....
It is my hope for this graduating class that you will be among those self-assured enough to make personal sacrifices for what is right.
Gabrielle Giffords may have made those personal sacrifices solely with her constituents in mind. But today, as she lies in a hospital bed in Arizona fighting for her life, her struggle is our struggle.
We need to do "what is right" by ending the bitter partisanship that has taken over politics; focus on healing in place of hatred; put our energies into building together instead of tearing apart; and defy the mob mentality that places crosshairs on maps targeting political opponents and promotes "Second Amendment remedies."
Six people died yesterday because a deranged individual took "inhumane ideas" too far. We owe it to Giffords and to the victims of the Tucson shooting to restore the safety of the world. It's time to say no with the courage of our convictions. Those nineteen people deserve nothing less.
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