Short Blogging Hiatus
Thoughts on Tucson

Tucson and One of Our Own Elders

Perhaps you missed the note from Nance of Mature Landscaping in the comments on yesterday's post: elderblogger Ashleigh Burrows was one of the shooting victims in Tucson on Saturday.

Her daughter updated Ashleigh's blog, The Burrow, yesterday:

”My mom attended the Congress on your Corner event yesterday at her local Safeway. Just as she reached the front of the line to shake Ms. Gifford's hand a gunman appeared and began shooting with an automatic weapon. My mom was shot three times.

“She suffered a wound to her left chest, one to her abdomen, and a third to her right hip. She is incredibly lucky that none of her organs were hit, even though one of the bullet's entry wounds was in her abdomen. She has been taken care of by some fantastic and proficient doctors and nurses, and a wonderful social work team.”

If you haven't, you might want to bookmark Ashleigh's blog. I suspect her daughter will continue to update us until Ashleigh herself is able to do so.

In these days following the shootings in Tucson, there has been much commentary on the violent rhetoric of politics which has increased dramatically – in my opinion – since the election of Barack Obama and originates mainly from the far right.

“Second Amendment remedies” and “Don't retreat; reload” are only two of the most awful. Such tea party rally signs as “We Vote with Bullets” and the Republicans' name for the Congressional bill to repeal the health care, “Repeal the Job-Killing Health Law Act,” contribute to the toxic atmosphere.

Giffords' response last March - "Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action” - is painfully poignant now.

Sarah Palin did not cause the Arizona shootings. Nor did Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or any of the other violent-language-prone pundits. But they create an aura of acceptance for such language and up the ante for the next guy.

It is a good thing, all this debate on the consequences of violent rhetoric, but I reject the argument from some that it doesn't apply to the Arizona suspect Jared Loughner because, they say, he is obviously mentally disturbed.

All our home-grown assassins and attempted assassins have been disturbed people with confused motives living in the fringe: Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman, Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh, John Hinckley, Linette Fromme, Sara Jane Moore, Ted Kazinsky.

The possibility that the savage political speech of our time may have contributed to alleged shooter's act in Tucson cannot be dismissed because he is mentally fragile and anyway, it wouldn't hurt our politics in general to tone it down.

In an odd coincidence, Nancy Leitz, who is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place, found a 1964 story by our late friend, Saul Friedman, published in The Nation in February 1964.

Saul discusses the political climate of Dallas and Houston, Texas in the wake of the killing of John Kennedy two months earlier. His conclusion is as relevant now as it was then:

“If the voice of liberalism and moderation is again stifled, the dialogue will again become a monologue — in the harsh, irresponsible voice of the far Right.”

You can read Saul's entire 1964 story here.

Our very best wishes for a swift and complete recovery go out to Ashleigh Burrows and I know we all look forward to her return.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Are You a Sports Fanatic?


I tried to leave a comment on Ashleigh's blog yesterday, but I'm having trouble with blogger and it will not let me comment on some blogs. I am appalled at what is happening in the world. Thanks for your calm and reasoned post, Ronni.

Yes, Ronni, thank you, as always, for saying what needs to be said, even when you are worn out with the world.

Sorry, Ronni, but I am having trouble not blaming the Palins and Becks and Angles of the world when something like Tucson happens. When they repeat - over and over - their gun metaphors encouraging violence, there will be people who think this is normal and, as you said, "they create an aura of acceptance for such language". The comments become imbedded in our culture and we are less shocked as we hear them over-and-over.

Speaking about an odd coincidence, it seems really eerie to me that Beck on his August 6, 2009 radio show, responding to a caller who had not been able to get his congressman to attend a Tea Party rally, said:

"...Hold these people responsible. If you know they go shopping on Saturday at Safeway, get in the parking lot at Safeway. ..."

Of course, he told them to not get violent.

There will be recovery and rehab, but, if I know Ashleigh, she'll be hitting the keyboard just as soon as possible. Please do follow or bookmark her page and get ready for what our mutual literary friend, JES, predicts will be writing of "a terrible beauty."

How many more good people are the nut-cases going to kill because they were prodded and provoked by other nut-cases in the public media and on the public stage?
Does this bring anyone other than me to recall the horrors in Germany in the 1930s???
It gives me the creeps.

And if you think this is not similar, think again ... and again ... and again!

What a small world this is. My good friend, Pam Simon, was also one of those shot on Saturday. She has worked for Gabby since she entered federal office in 2007.Pam and her husband, Bruce,have been "long-time friends of mine." I have known Bruce since I was 14, for 50 years!

As many of you know I live in Tucson. I have never met Ashleigh and was surprised to learn that we shared our hometown and blogging. I hope to meet her someday.

I left a comment on her daughter's blog. Thank you for the link.

Words do have consequences; even if they just create an atmosphere of hate. It most certainly plays a part in a tragedy like we have just experienced.

I was angered by John Kyle's tasteless remark that this was being politicized by blaming the 'rabid right.' When a Representative is shot it is political.

Thank you for making time to post this and remind us that words do cause and effect well.

Father Coughlin, The John Birch Society, The White Backlash, helped to create the climate that eventually resulted in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, JFK and now the Arizona Massacre.
Perhaps words do not kill but the rhetoric of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck etc. has helped to foment a climate of hate and violence that could push a psychotic assassin's grasp for recognition.

We are at an "axial moment" in the history of our country; either we walk away from the climate of hate and violence that has haunted us throughout my lifetime or we are doomed to more of the same and perhaps even worse.

Yes, atmosphere is a part of what happened. And what is the response from a certain segment-- you know it's not to listen and learn.

I think most of your readers agree that, while there's no evidence of a direct connection between hate-inspired rhetoric and the Tucson shootings, such discourse sets a destructive tone of us-against-them. It's easier to look at those we disagree with as non-people. My husband noted that combat soldiers are trained to view the enemy as not completely human which (at least in theory) makes it easier to shoot them.

In addition to a more angry and disenchanted population in general, we seem to have more unbalanced people out there these days than there used to be, or maybe they were just less visible in the past. Mentally ill individuals are perhaps among the most likely to respond to overheated language with violent behavior.

Improvements in mental health diagnosis and treatment might reduce senseless attacks like that in Tucson, but recreating a public atmosphere that encourages rational debate and discourages acting out certainly wouldn't hurt.

Gun control, vis-a-vis semi automatic weapons like the Glock that Ms. Gifford and the others were shot with, is a major issue here. The fact that Gifford owned a Glock and boasted of her proficiency with it is sad and ironic. (If you're not part of the solution...)
We all need to start a new era by first forgiving the people who contributed to the atmosphere of hate and violence - like Lumbaugh, Beck, Palin and Kyle etc.
Next, we should pressure the politicians to pass a law outlawing the sale of automatic or semi-automatic weapons. (I will be expanding on this on my blog)

thanks for the link. Great post. I am definitely reminded of the darkest days of the 60's.

Some of the readers here might be interested in this blog about violent rhetoric. The author teaches rhetoric and explains what makes speech rhetoric and when it might be considered violent.

My thoughts are with Ashleigh Burrows as well as the other victims of the massacre. May they all - all of those still with us - recover completely and return home soon to their families.

Wonderful comments about Ms. Burrows and good insights about what drives a person like Jared Loughner to commit such a heinous crime. I have written a couple of pieces on this too on my facebook page under Larry Beck and on Yahoo's Associated Content here - Tragedy at Tucson

and here

Palin Defenders are Missing the Message

I'm a newcomer and I think I may stick around at TGB, liking what I see here.


Good points, Larry--great post at Yahoo, also. The responsible gun owners I know don't use the kind of language and imagery that runs rampant through the extreme right wing. Those of us old enough to remember when our nation was a kinder, gentler place (except perhaps towards African-Americans and other minorities) need to lead the way in redirecting the public discourse to more rational and civil levels. Since many members of Congress and high government officials are 50+, the process starts with them--and with ordinary Americans like us.

Thanks for the links all (esp Carl and Larry) and the comments and the article that got us talking, Ronnie. I wish I knew how to get clarity and increase thoughtful civil discourse and respect. My cousin tells me that when someone believes something adamantly you can not change their mind with the truth - and so I wonder if there can ever be a middle more moderate ground.

Thank you for sharing about Ashleigh and pointing us to her blog.

The tragedy in Tucson is compounded daily by all of us. The news media is giving us a constant barrage of vitriol by all politicians hoping to make political hay by these tragic events. We are--everyone of us--affected and saddened by the deaths of these fellow citizens. Let's rise up and demand decency and respect for them and not try to gain a point or two on the 'other guy'. Do I have to state my political leanings?
Regretfully I do, I am a registered Democrat and I hope however I put my country first!

The shooter was simply a nut. They crop up from time to time. Nothing more more than that. The left wants to control speech and will use this to promote shutting down talk radio, and other opposition voices.

Thanks for the post and link, Ronni.

To your question, Kimberly, "...I wonder if there can ever be a middle more moderate ground" - yes, and better.

Because it's not about changing someone's mind. It's about changing one's perspective. It's about seeing another person as a human being like yourself and respecting that person.

When you create an environment based on mutual respect, you can hold diametrical beliefs and still be civil toward one another, no matter how adamantly you believe you're right and they're wrong.

Some things just can't meet in a middle ground. On some issues there can be no compromises. But that doesn't preclude common decency or kindness.

I speak from experience. A number of years ago, I became involved in a grass roots movement supporting the Chinese detainees of the Golden Venture imprisoned here in York and elsewhere in the country to secure their due process rights.

This group consisted of liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, a Pagan or two, Buddhists, Pro-lifers and Pro-Choicers. Not only did we tolerate each other, but a core group of us developed a fierce friendship with one another - to the point if someone holding our same views on religion or politics was less than respectful to one of our fellow advocates of a differing religion or political belief, we instantly stepped up to defend that person's right to believe what they believed.

And no one was more careful than my conservative friends to point out to other advocates from different locations, when they presumed everyone's beliefs and motives for being here was the same as theirs, that "we don't all believe the same things."

We were all protective of our uniqueness as a group and as individuals.

I may point out that though there was a wide spectrum of beliefs in our group, the conservatives and Christians outnumbered the liberals and other faiths or no faith. They cherished our differences as much as the most liberal liberal did.

Agreement is not necessary for civility. Not even for lasting friendship to develop.

I've seen it. This was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Was it typical? No. But so what?

It happened, and if it can happen in one place, it can happen in another. I truly believe that.

The reason why we have all this vitriol isn't because of passionately held beliefs. It's not a reflection of our beliefs. It's a reflection of who we are.

All well and good and admirable, but if everyone is armed to the teeth, civility does not help much. I don't care what other people think, actually. I just want strong regulation and enforcement of gun laws that keep guns out of households and off the streets.

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