We were sitting by the fire Saturday, switching channels and wondering if the predicted snow and ice would materialize. I got a text first, telling me that a congresswoman had been shot in Arizona. Details were sketchy as they always are in the beginning.
Eventually the story began to unfold, but with a lot of speculation and a number of inaccuracies. That is also pretty typical. Eventually, a few facts unfolded. The congresswoman in question was Gabby Giffords. What a great name. I heard one report that she was dead. Even after it was confirmed that she had survived and was in surgery, some of the talking heads on television continued to refer to her in the past tense. That's pretty tacky but understandable, given the situation.
We learned that the shooting had taken place in suburban Tucson where Giffords was holding a meet the public rally at a Safeway grocery store. You have to admire any member of our government who will go out among his or her constituents in this day and age. We also learned that numerous people had been shot. At least six would die, including a federal judge and 9-year old girl who, ironically, was born on Sept. 11 in 2001.
I immediately Googled Gabby Giffords and found a photograph of an attractive 40-year-old with a bright smile and sparkling eyes. I learned that she was born in Tucson on the day I graduated from high school in 1970. I discovered that she is a graduate of Scripps College and Cornell University and that she began her tenure as an Arizona representative in 2007. I also learned that she is married to an astronaut, Mark Kelly, who has piloted the space shuttle.
Politically, Gabrielle Giffords was a self-prescribed "moderate Democrat" and "former Republican." I am not real sure what that means and it really doesn't matter -- not in the least. I have grown weary of political labels and have been equally disappointed in politicians of all parties and Gabby Giffords' politics had nothing to do with this senseless tragedy.
What we had in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday was a senseless and despicable act by one misguided and troubled young man who decided to draw attention to himself, as so many others have, by opening fire in a public place, indiscriminately spreading murder and mayhem among people he didn't even know. It has happened so many times and in so many places in our country, and every time it does it breaks my heart that we have come to the point in our society that life, to some, has become so insignificant.
But even before the entire story had been uncovered, I noticed that the commentators who were delivering the story seemed to have an agenda of their own. The person I heard reporting Gabby Giffords' "death" reported that she had been involved in a very heated race for her seat during the summer of 2010. He also noted that her office had been ransacked on three occasions by "tea party activists." He was clearly trying to tie the assassination attempts to the political race.
I can only assume that the thugs who ransacked the congresswoman's headquarters have been caught and tried and admitted that they were "tea party activists." Otherwise the commentator would have been guilty of speculation and surely the person reporting prematurely on the death of Gabby Giffords would have more journalistic integrity than that.
And then for a long while conspiracy theories abounded as authorities sought a "45-50 year-old-man" who was "seen in the crowd" and "thought to be connected to the shooter."
Turns out that the person in question -- whose photograph was broadcast to the world -- was simply a cab driver.
I eventually watched a news conference headed up by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and was astounded to hear him editorialize about "the vitriolic rhetoric we hear every day from the people in the radio business and what we see on TV" and he went on to say that "freedom of speech has consequences." I couldn't believe my ears. The sheriff of Pima County, Ariz., even while Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was fighting for her very life, was attempting to grab his 15 minutes of fame by politicizing her attempted murder.
He wasn't through, either. He continued this line of rhetoric throughout the weekend and Monday even attacked Rush Limbaugh personally.
Now that's just sad. Have we stooped so low in this country, has partisan politics become so depraved that we will blame the despicable act of one crazed murderer on talk radio? Surely no one with any real credibility will jump on Dupnik's self-serving bandwagon.
Our focus, as a nation, should be on the victims of this senseless tragedy and our prayers should be raining down upon their families and those who are still struggling to survive and our condemnation should be concentrated on the vile acts that were committed and the solitary person who committed it -- not on a political agenda.
And speaking of the person who committed the vile acts. He is reportedly being represented by the same attorney who represented Timothy McVeigh, Susan Smith, the Unabomber and Eric Robert Rudolph. I wonder if the Pima County sheriff thinks talk radio made Susan Smith drive her children into that lake.