None of the banalities of my day job or my screenwriting hobby have warranted a blog entry in some time. Not even the Republican takeover of the House in the midterms merited much commentary. Unfortunately, the events this last weekend have prompted my breaking this silence.
On Saturday morning, Jared Lee Loughner attempted to assassinate Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) while she conducted a meet-and-greet outside a Safeway, shooting her and 19 others. Six were killed. Details continue to pour in about Loughner, the victims (including a federal judge and a congressional outreach director), and the heroes who took him down and tended to the wounded.
Of the heroes worth mentioning, Daniel Hernandez is a must. This 20-year-old intern (a gay Hispanic college student) ran toward the gunfire – toward! – and began checking the injured. When he saw his boss was among the victims, he ran to her side, lifted her into his lap to save her from chocking on blood, and began applying pressure to the entry wound to slow the bleeding. The Giffords district director, Ron Barber, who was also shot, repeatedly told Hernandez to stay by her side and tend to her. He did. And many are now saying his quick thinking may have saved her life.
And each day since, we keep hearing of what can only be described as miracles. Despite a gunshot to the head, Gabrielle Giffords is alive and responding well enough and fast enough to be surprising the doctors.
I have to admit, this whole episode has been more emotional for me than I expected.
I don’t know the congresswoman or her staff. She is, however, my father’s congresswoman. I have also, apparently, visited the same Safeway where this massacre took place. From everything I’ve heard, she is a smart, kind, consensus-builder. She is absolutely one of the last politicians you could expect to engender any rational hatred.
This tragedy has been pretty hard to watch. Unlike old senators dying of an illness or a faceless terrorist attack, this incident seems far more personal and gut-wrenching, especially given the context and people involved.
But I have hope. For the first time in two years, even as depressing as the events have been, I have hope.
It’s hard to not be cynical about politics, given the breathless 24/7 reporting of cable news and crass political calculations that are made (and then made public). Living in DC, reading and hearing and witnessing this insular community from within the Beltway, it’s hard to not be disillusioned about the democratic process.
And few people are endearing themselves as the slugfest of the blame game and partisan brinkmanship barely pauses to recognize the anarchy of Laughner’s evil. Rather than toning down their rhetoric and abandoning the recklessly violent allusions to weaponizing politics, they are whining about false equivalencies and scoring points.
But I have hope. If America is still capable of electing congresswomen like Gabrielle Giffords, who can elicit the hopes and prayers of a nation from a hospital bed while video replays of her prescient warnings about violence, we aren’t lost yet. If America is still capable of producing young heroes like Mr. Hernandez, we aren’t lost yet. If American can still find selfless public servants like Rob Barber and Gabe Zimmerman and Judge John Roll, we aren’t lost yet.
Saturday’s tragedy, while it reminds of the terrible evil that humanity can inflict on itself, it also reminds us of what a former President called “a thousand points of light” – the examples of what humanity is capable of when at its best.
It’s hard to remain cynical, disillusioned, and partisan, it’s even hard to remain an unbeliever, in the presence of heroes and miracles. God may not exist, and certainly won’t stop our worst impulses from playing out in tragedy, but if He does exist (please don’t argue with me on this point), He certainly knows how to show us the light amongst the dark, to return us to the better angels of our nature.