Time Out, for a Former Tucsonan

Everyone’s gettin’ into the act, as Jimmy Durante used to say!

In these times, with the tools we have, opinions fly in the wake of even the slightest stir in the universe. The incident last weekend in Tucson happened while I was with two other former Tucsonans–in Las Vegas, where my stepdaughter is a new attorney, having graduated from the University of Arizona Law School last May and having passed the Nevada Bar this past fall.

The three of us (she, her Mom, and I) did what so many others did–our day paused and we stuttered as we read what had happened at the Oracle and Ina Rd Safeway. I shopped there scores of times when I lived on the Northwest side of town.

Violence of any kind is arresting by its nature. We see it played out everywhere we look in the media world, and the real world. But in the real world, most of us know it’s happeneing yet are fortunate enough not to witness it first hand. Or rarely, anyway.

The world was suddenly abuzz in Las Vegas, where so many Arizonans have relocated or where they visit friends and family. Suddenly it seemed like every other person on the street knew “Gabby” or had a story about someone who knows her, or has been impacted by her.

Our new attorney in the family worked for Gabby as a volunteer in college days. Courtney was impressed with the woman, and her positions. She seemed at that time, to us, to be extraordinary–for her willingness to be available to her constituents. What a concept.

She became a Congressperson at the same time as another prominent Tucson area politician. That person promptly went off the local radar and became a “DC animal.” Gabby never did.

Oh, by the way, the Pima County Sheriff rightly commented (in an emotion-packed moment) on the vitriol in public (and private) discourse these days. It is way out of control. Too many of us seem to be very aware of what and who we “hate”–it feels like it’s become a favorite topic of conversation. I guess if you were a public official and got the volume of hate mail and hate calls many of them get, you’d be upset too.

The buzz finally subsided where we were last weekend, as it became apparent that no amount of speculation of Internet scanning for news would produce much new about Gabby’s condition or prospects for recovery. Now we know she apparently has a fighting chance. We also know the gunman appears to be living a life dominated by growing hallucinations and trouble with reality. It happens. Reality is no fun.

The shocking trend, to me, in some many of the public attacks on public (and private) figures is that it turns out later that quite a few people–in a position so do something–knew the person was in trouble and did little or nothing about it except to stay away from that person. This incident had that in common with the shootings last year at Fort Hood, Texas. The shooter, a military mental health specialist, seemed to have a track record of being “troubled” that was passed from hand to hand in the military world–until he exploded.

Maybe when the President ask for us all to reexamine our ability to empathize it was a prompt to be involved more. Stop staring at our phones and PDA’s all day and start looking into one another’s eyes–and listening to one another’s words again. We might notice things that are important–for better or worse.

Let’s start talking more, and texting less–like Gabrille Giffords.

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