Rep. Giffords

On Gabby Giffords

I've had a hard time sitting down this weekend and writing about what happened to Representative Gabby Giffords and the good people in that strip mall parking lot on Saturday morning.   I know Representative Giffords.  To me she has always represented the best of what a Member of Congress could be.  Smart, hard-working, in touch with her complicated district, willing to take a stand even on tough ones like immigration reform and SB1070 (just take a look at the bio on her Congressional website to get a sense of her - remarkable stuff).  It is unimaginable that this thoughtful, respectful, serious elected leader was gunned down on Saturday.  In hearing the news my kids saw their daddy cry for the first time in their lives.  Am still strugging to make sense of it all, and am trying awfully hard not to put anything down in writing until I take a bit more time.  

But I also can't see what happened outside the prism of the extraordinarily contentious politics in Arizona these last few years.   NDN and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars in Arizona over the past decade, working to enfranchise and empower a Latino community that has been steamrolled and scapegoated to a degree far worse than other Latino community of size anywhere in the US.  In this past election cycle, NDN ran a major Spanish language media campaign in AZ, CO and NV, in part driven by the coursening of the debate and dialogue in Arizona (so well captured by the courageous Sheriff Dupnik) and ended up spending more money in the Tucson media market than any other.  As EJ Dionne writes about today, Rep. Giffords has been on the receiving of this extra-ordinary threatening  and contentious brand of politics (her opponent held fundraisers on a shooting range) more than perhaps any politician in the US these past several years.   

As we prepare for the Monday Martin Luther King holiday next week, let us reflect on his message, and in particular our own willingness to combat intolerance in our midst.  There is perhaps no greater founding principle of our nation than tolerance for those not like us.  It certainly predates the revolutionary spirit of the Boston Tea Party so very much in vogue these days, and in many ways is much more appropriate to the moment we are in.

Our nation in growing through profound and historic change right now.  We are leaving the security of a post WWII "American Century" culture, and entering a period of our national story much less certain.  We are have seen vast waves of immigration which is changing who we are.  Technology and media have become both liberating but also disruptive forces, literally reshaping the way we do just about everything in our lives.  Rising powers and greater global competition are remaking the world as we know it, forcing us to re-imagine America's role in a new century.  More must be done by our leaders to talk about these changes, help people understand them, and to craft plans and strategies which maximize our national chance for success.  This next great American project will have to be grounded in the value of tolerance and civil discourse, for we, Americans, have become much more diverse, and success in this new more complicated world of the 21st century will require America to inter-act with, and partner with, a vastly more diverse set of global actors than in the past.  Tolerance of people not like us will become a bedrock value of the emerging American ethic of this new century, or this next great American project will not turn out as we all hope it will.  

But i digress. and will certainly have more to add here in the days ahead.  I end by expressing my deepest and most profound hope for Gabby's recovery, and sympathy for those families who lost loved ones in this terrible, terrible tragedy.

Update - NYTimes has a thoughtful take along similar lines here.

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