January 13, 2011
Originally posted on BlueOregon.com.
Thank you, Mr. President. In the midst of the chaos and anger, you reminded me how important it is to grieve. That honoring the fallen means not giving into selfish fantasies, but rededicating oneself to being a better citizen. How on earth did I get here? Why did I need this reminder?
Since Saturday’s shooting, I have been wrought with confusion — hobbled by sadness and anger and by a fear realized. All last summer, reports of violent threats and violent displays at political rallies came pouring in — the manifestation of fear of those opposed to health care and other presumed government-intrusion. I remember feeling paralyzed with fear. Will the painful lessons we have learned so many times as a nation again come to bear?
Growing up around my father’s working class Irish Catholic family, the Kennedy assassination just one year after my father and his 7 siblings lost their dad to a brain tumor, had a profound effect on them. And though I wasn’t alive for these events, they in turn, had a profound effect on me — a budding political mind studying our nation’s history. A young President’s life cut short. A civil rights leader next. A brother after. My beloved America, I grew to learn, was also often marred by gun violence.
Then you name them one by one: Jonesboro, Columbine, Thurston High in Springfield, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson. And there are so many more not named here. And we want to know why. Just like with Columbine, we want so desperately for there to be simple answers to the horrific violence that happened in Tucson. I remember being outraged by the attempts to blame Marilyn Manson and goth culture for what happened at Columbine. Just the same, I remember recoiling at the idea that the attacks of 9/11 were because “they” hate our freedom.
And so, I must apologize for my own quick reaction to seek solace in blame for the events in Tucson. But I can’t apologize for my fear. The rhetoric and events of last summer and the fall campaign made me fearful something like this would happen. I am defensive when I hear people like me whose fear got the better of them this weekend being called petty and irresponsible, however I ask only for forgiveness. Forgiveness for letting my own needs trump my duty to honor the fallen. For letting my fear drive my behavior as a citizen. For wanting to rage, when we all just need more healing.
There was a 9 year-old little girl in Tucson who wanted to be the first woman in the major leagues and who was so excited by public service, she went to see her Congresswoman. And there’s a grown woman in Portland (who still loves baseball and public service as much now as she did when she was 9 years-old) who wants that little girl to know that she deserves better from me — from us. So, President Obama, I answer your call to “live up to her expectations.” I too want our democracy to be “as good as she imagined it.”