Something tragic forces me to speak to an issue other than water today. Earlier this morning, my congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, along with several of her staff and bystanders were shot by a nut-job with a gun as she was meeting with constituents at a grocery store here in Tucson. I didn't know Rep. Giffords personally, but I have supported her in the past and believed she was a good person, who did an excellent job of representing a district that is almost evenly divided among democrats, republicans, and independents. What that means is she knew how to compromise and craft common-sense solutions.
First, I want to express my condolences as well as my thoughts and prayers for those injured and killed, their families, and those who worked with them and knew them for the good people they are. While Rep. Giffords, at this point has a good chance of surviving despite being shot in the head at point blank range, it appears that among those killed were a federal district judge and a 9 year old girl.
Second, I want to note that while a part of me wishes that this were nothing more than another random, senseless acts of violence, the character of the political discourse that has evolved in this country, and especially some of the comments made about Rep. Giffords in the recent election, which she narrowly won over a republican candidate who ran a very negative campaign (supported by a lot of national conservative money that often used language against her that could be construed as advocating violence against those they oppose) makes me think there was more than that involved. In this kind of political climate, common sense tells me that the acts of this individual, while clearly indicative of some degree of mental illness was surely motivated by political belief and may have been nurtured by strong statements against democrats from conservative commentators and bloggers.
It's time to return to more civilized discourse in this country. If this tragedy can help us all realize that political power is not important enough to threaten or incite violence and focus our leaders in on doing what is truly important, then at least something good may come out of this tragedy. But if it only leads to more anger and invective then we will have learned nothing and will be doomed to repeat tragedies like this. I sure hope that's not the case.
Update: A gunman is in custody and it appears that he was a very disturbed young man. While his particular motivations are currently unclear, it's inevitable that the current state of politics will lead many to read a lot into his motivations and actions beyond the seeming prevalence of senseless violence in the world around us. As I said before - if leads to some genuine discussion and redirection of our political discourse, that's great. But if it will only add fuel to the flames, I'd prefer that we just call this more random, senseless violence.