My first thought upon hearing the news was terror. One of my dearest friend’s wife (also a dear friend) is active in the local Democratic party and would be very likely to be at the event this morning. He would likely be there too. To make matters worse, the Safeway is across the street from their house. I called him, he’s home sick and she’s at a Democratic party meeting but not at the event. Great relief.
Back to the TV. They report Giffords is dead. I call my wife, who is in Mexico visiting her parents. We talk for 30 seconds. I break down not even realizing that the line has gone dead. I’m sitting there crying into the phone thinking I’m talking to my wife and the phone rings. I realize the line cut out and get a little laugh. I’ve got it back together and we’re talking. She works in the hospital and has experience with the trauma team. Her thoughts are on what’s happening in the hospital so we’re talking about that. TV reports that Gabby is alive…
We moved to Tucson in Oct 2007. I have voted, proudly, for Gabby Giffords for Congress twice, in 2008 and 2010. In 2008 she won easily. 2010 was a real fight. I have not met Gabby. I feel like I know her well. I have emailed her many times. She has answered my emails personally on a few occasions. She once encouraged me to keep up the work we are doing in the lab (I was emailing her about NIH funding). That meant a great deal to me. When I first came to Tucson, one of the first things I learned about the community was our wonderful rep, Gabby Giffords. Another of my colleagues is very active in the party and has met her a couple of times. He thinks the world of her and told me as much when I mentioned my interest in politics. I get Gabby’s emails on Congressional goings-on. They are always information filled and she presents her views on topics in a very clear manner. I have always been proud to have her as a representative. I hope to continue to be represented by her.
… The TV says that Gabby is in surgery and that she has been shot through the head. A few minutes later Dr Peter Rhee comes on in the UMC press conference and says that she is alive and that he is optimistic about her surviving. This is good news. I see Dr. Rhee around the hospital pretty frequently. He’s an intense guy. My clinical colleagues love him. Apparently he’s as good as it gets. In fact, the whole trauma team is. I know this also because my wife did a rotation with the trauma team. It seemed to have been one of the best clinical experiences of her life. Her goal is to work with that team (she’s applying for a position that opened last week). I know Gabby’s in good hands. Despite the tragedy, I’m very proud of the place where I work.
As the day wears on the shock goes away and the anger (if that’s the right word) sets in. This is not the community I thought I was joining when I moved here three years ago. It hasn’t been that community for quite some time. The Pima County Sherif is right, Arizona has become a place of great anger and bigotry. My wife and I want to have a family. This is not, currently, the place where I would like to raise that family. There is great bigotry toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans here. Our child will be a Mexican-American. How can we live here? There are guns everywhere here. The state government has made laws that make owning a gun as easy as buying a stick of chewing gum. People open carry into family restaurants here. Not too long ago we were in a local, neighborhood eatery and some guys walked in carrying their guns like badges of courage. They were, in fact, cowards bent on intimidating their neighbors. At another restaurant we thought we overheard someone calling my wife a wetback. I wanted to confront them but we weren’t sure we heard clearly. I should have said something. The person that ran against Gabby in the 2010 election held all sorts of events at shooting ranges. What type of image is that? And he almost won.
Not too long ago I was driving back from Phoenix, by myself, at night. I turned on AM radio to keep myself awake. There was nothing but right wing hate on. I listened for a while. I was sleepy. I have never heard anything like it before in my life. Most of it was local. Shock-jocks from Phoenix spewing conspiracy and hate. Guns, guns, guns. No taxes, no taxes, no taxes. Obama’s a muslim, Obama’s a socialist, Obama’s a terrorist. I wanted to vomit. I turned it off. I wasn’t that sleepy after all.
I’m a liberal. Always have been. I grew up in conservative Dallas. All my friends there are Republicans (well, not all, but most). We disagree with each other on politics. We get along just fine in real life. I thought that moving to another conservative place would be like living in Dallas again. Its not. There is real hate here. During the 2008 election I was rearranging my Obama for President signs (I was quite proud of my signs) and my neighbor accosted me in my own front yard about evil Obama.
I called my Mom this afternoon to clear my mind. I told her most of this. We’d talked about it before but I don’t think she’d ever realized just how crazy things have become here. I tried to explain to her that unless you live in Arizona its hard to understand just how extreme some of the views here have become. On TV everyone’s talking about Palin and Beck and all the wackjobs on national radio. I’m telling you, it runs much deeper than that here. You can carry guns into bars here. That’s endemic lunacy.
There is a candlelight vigil going on down the street at the hospital. There are a lot of people there. People are also gathered at Gabby’s office but they are across the street because there was a bomb scare. I hope this community pulls together and overcomes this with a real effort to squelch the hate and bigotry.
I don’t know Gabby but she’s a friend of mine. I hope to vote for her in 2012.