Three older seniors died Saturday at the Arizona shopping mall where a young disturbed man started shooting with a gun, killing six, including a 9-year-old girl, and injuring more than a dozen others. Some of the dead were simply waiting their turns to ask their congressional representative a question, probably about Medicare or Social Security. (If there is confusion about a benefit, usually it can be straightened out, but sometimes people need extra help, and each congressional office has at least one person who works hard to straighten out constituent problems.)
As I write this, Representative Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life, and six other families are in mourning, including the family of one of her staff members.
It could have been my parents — who are tuned into politics, love to work in elections, and are loyal but always respectful of their elected officials, even if they did not vote for them. It could have been one of your parents, standing there patiently waiting for information about one of their benefits. The victims could have included any one of our parents, children, or grandchildren.
I cannot begin to count the number of times this past fall when I turned to my husband or a good friend during a newscast or media commentary and commented, “Someone will misunderstand that.” It became a mantra of mine. Even Representative Giffords commented on it last March. Sometimes after hearing something especially hateful on the TV or radio, I’d have trouble going to sleep. I understand that many of the comments flying around are really metaphorical, but I also know that there are plenty of people, some of them significantly disturbed, who cannot grasp the difference between metaphor and reality. Finally I stopped listening to the news.
The bottom line? The violence creeps closer and closer to each of us and to members of our families. How on Earth are we ever going to slow this violence down, much less stop it?