Monday, January 10, 2011


Note: Miss Sadie came and got me out of my den, saying that something terrible had happened. As I said at the end of my previous post (just before I started hibernating), Miss Sadie would come and get me, "should anything calamitous or thrilling occur." She thought this was "calamitous." I agree. That's why I'm here.

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By now, I think, many, if not most, of you have heard about the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, in Tuscon, Arizona. Ms. Giffords is a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, re-elected in November to a third term. She is considered a moderate. Fourteen other people were shot, six of them killed, including a US Federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Giffords survived surgery yesterday, was responding to doctors simple instructions, and is expected to live, though it will likely be a while before anyone knows how badly her brain has been damaged. (She was shot in the head at close range.) She is in a medically-induced coma, a common treatment for people with severe brain injuries.

Here is a continuing sampling of things I have learned about the situation.

1. Giffords was shot while holding a "Congress on Your Corner" event: an open, public meeting, where people could talk with their political representative. This kind of contact is something in which she strongly believed.

Ironically, in 2009, another person with a gun showed up where Rep Giffords was holding a similar meeting, and dropped his gun.

2. Rep. Giffords voted in favor of US health care bill. When she did so, her office in Tucson was attacked and vandalized.

3. Giffords worked hard to defeat the 2006 Arizona anti-gay marriage initiative.

4. Rep. Giffords was one of 20 Democrats who US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin had identified on a map, showing a cross-hairs/bullseye target. (I have seen the image, and have it on file; Palin has pulled it from her web site.)

When Palin put crosshairs on a map, she urged followers to "reload" and "aim" for Democrats.

Giffords' Republican opponent for the congressional seat held June event, using language such as "Shoot a Fully Automatic M16" to "Get on Target" and "Remove Gabrielle Giffords."

5. The Sheriff in Tuscon has made several stunning comments:
“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”
“Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
He also believes this atmosphere unhinges the unbalanced.
(I have seen that information on television and in print.)

This, in relation to the fact that the alleged shooter is mentally unstable.

6. Christina Green has been identified as the 9-year-old killed in the shooting. Ironically, she was born on 9/11. She was on the student's council at her school and was the only girl on her baseball team. Her life began and ended with tragedy. She is the granddaughter of former major league manager, executive and pitcher Dallas Green. Green managed the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series championship in 1980.

7. With his usual irony, Andy Borowitz latest publications is headlined, "Fox News Warns That Without Angry Rhetoric It Will Have 24 Hours to Fill." Subtitle: "Would Create ‘Giant Hole’ in Program Schedule."

As someone who has worked for over 30 years as a reporter, I know that details in a situation like this can change on a continuing basis. It may be some days before the story becomes clear.

What is clear is the atmosphere, the background, of partisanship and vicious rhetoric, which is more and more evident in the life in the United States. As someone who lives next door to the US, I find this development quite frightening, for my American friends, and for us as neighbours (who tend to copy American habits).

I am well aware of the part of the American psyche which says "guns solve problems," which goes back to 1776, and before. The American gun owners I know are responsible people. But the ethos in which they live makes it possible for irresponsible people to get guns quite easily. In Canada, possession of firearms is much more tightly controlled, particularly in relation to the ownership and transportation of hand guns. People who have legitimate reasons for gun ownership (for hunting, or for predator control in rural areas, or target shooting) don't have problems.

Ironically, a friend of mine, and fellow blogger, said (a few years ago) that he thought the US had about ten years before it tears itself apart. Given the background in which the Giffords' shooting occurred, I'm inclined to still agree with him.

Lord, have mercy.

I don't think I'm going to be able to get back into hibernation for a while. This has been very upsetting.

Special thanks to everyone who has already read and commented. I would encourage you to read those comments. This is, for all of us, a very trying time.


Lori said...

I too, find this all quite frightening yet not that surprising with the times we live in. I fear that we are on this path of destruction and so many are oblivious to it all. If a person speaks up and talks about where we in the US are headed and what the future holds for us, then you are called an alarmest.

Growing up I lived around guns and most people I knew owned guns. And now I live in an area where many own guns for hunting and target shooting also. Growing up there was very little crime. Where I live now we have very little crime. Every single one of my children took gun safety when they were growing up, as did I when I was growing up. So we all have a healthy respect for guns. I don't necessarily believe that guns solve problems but I do have a problem giving all control to a government that many of us living here in the United States do NOT trust. The leaders in my country do not represent me and my family and most of the people that live out in the rural areas, so I cringe when I think people outside of the US assume that all that live here in the United States are like minded.

My prayer is constantly, "Lord have mercy on us."

I enjoyed your thoughts on all of this. :)

Helen said...

Dear Bear,
My heart is heavy this morning ... senseless and so tragic. My oldest nephew lives in Tucson, is a high school principal and has worked with Ms. Gabby numerous times on campaigns. He is devastated! It might be best if you lumber back into your warm, cozy, safe cave.
Take care,

The Blog Fodder said...

Americans claim to live in a democracy, yet they constantly carry on about how they "don't trust" government. Whose fault is that? Democracy is more than making an X every four years and expecting Nirvana.
Liberal democrats in America will be soon in the same boat as liberal democrats in Pakistan. Open your mouth, raise your head and you are dead.

potsoc said...

And our Harper wants to take us that way...and with the help of Western rednecks and Ontario's disgruntled Liberals and Québec sovereignists (Though unwillingly) he may yet succeed.
As you say: God have mercy on us.

Rob-bear said...

Lori: I have no doubt that you and your family members are, and have been, responsible gun owners, as are most Americans. What bothers me is when political factions ratchet up the rhetoric and talk about a "second amendment solution" to the country's problems. That, to me, is crossing a line that ought not be crossed in a civil society.

And don't think of yourself as "alarmist"; think of yourself as a modern-day Paul Revere!

Thanks for your thoughts.

P.S.: I understand the bit about feeling that your government doesn't represent you; I feel the same way about mine.

Rob-bear said...

Helen: I am so sorry to hear of your son's upset (maybe "trauma" would be a better word) about what happened Rep. "Gabby."
Rather than head back to my den, I'm inclined to take John Paul Jones' approach: "I have not yet begun to fight!"

Blog Fodder: Liberal Democrats in the US, and Canada, I fear, will all be walking around with proverbial targets and cross hairs on their clothes.
When only 56% of Canadians bother to show up and vote in a Federal election, we've got a huge "democratic deficiency." And, I fear, the politicians like it that way.

potsoc: Exactement! Communism has never been a real threat, in Canada or the US.
Fascism, on the other hand, has been, and still is.

potsoc said...

I guess you are too young to remember this but from 1929 to 1942 there was a fascist party in Canada. It was based in Montreal and, for a time had an office in Toronto. It was called le parti de l'unité national unity party and was led by Adrien Arcand.
It had a small militia, brown uniforms complete with swatika armband.
They were almost all interned during the war. After the war and to his death Arcand kept defending ultra rightist ideas.

Rosaria Williams said...

This is shaking us up, all right! Crazy how this sort of thing can happen in plain sight.
God saves us!

Rob-bear said...

potsoc: True, Paul; I'm not quite old enough to remember M. Arcand and his brown shirts. But I know my Canadian history well enough to recall that Prime Minister MacKenzie-King thought National Socialism was an excellent political philosophy, though he detested Hitler personally. «Plus ça change, plus c'est la même choise!» Things don't really change much, do they? Sadly.
Thanks for your history update; I appreciate it.

Rob-bear said...

rosaria: I can well understand that these events have sent waves of shock and heartache through many Americans. I remember the deaths of John and Bobby Kennedy; it feels like history repeating itself.
Blessings and Bear hugs in a difficult time!

Nancy said...

This is what you get when handguns and especially automatic weapons are so easily purchased. Add the Sarah Palin rhetoric, Tea Bagger's nasty animosity towards anyone they feel justified in targeting, and let a mental ill young man have access to it all.

Rob-bear said...

Nancy: You're right. So sad, but so very true. Especially when you cannot do a background check on the mental stability of a potential gun purchaser.
As to the Palin/Tea Baggers' rhetoric, this certainly has not had any kind of calming effect on civil discourse. As I have said, it crosses a line.
Thank you for responding, Nancy.

Jean said...

How terrible and shocking. It's not easy for normal people to get and own a gun in the UK but somehow, the criminals and mentally unbalanced still do.

We have had a number of tragedies in the last decade where these people turn their hatred on others who might be politicians or just a classroom full of little children. If they can't get a gun they will use a knife or axe - legislation doesn't stop them.

The Blog Fodder said...

Funny how there is always a mentally ill young man around when you need one.

Natalie said...

No guns.

Tattieweasle said...

Had wanted to post something profound but can only say that firstly thoughts and prayers are with those families and friends who have been involved. Secondly looking at the reasons why there are an increasing number of people all over the world feeling alienated and unrepresented in their own countries. I blame this on a failure of the state to educate, the break down of communities and the speed at which things happen - we can't cope! It's very scary, we need time to stop to collect ourselves to slow down a bit and reconnect with family and friends.

Tess Kincaid said...

My thoughts and heavy heart goes out to the families involved. Tragic.

Unknown said...

Now I understand why you are awake! thank you for the details here bear, I've been scouring the newspapers for some rational reporting.

We have many friends who live in the US and all, without exception, favour (and most have) guns. I can understand it only because I believe gun-ownership is written into the collective psyche in the US.
My kids are living in Miami at present and actually told us the other day that the state's (gun)crime rate has dropped dramatically since they introduced the right for floridians to carry concealed weapons. Apparently there is less of a tendency to pull YOUR gun when you don't know if the other guy is carrying! I shake my silly Canadian head.

Unknown said...

Sad, sad, sad.

Rob-bear said...

Jean: You make a good point. However, it is much more difficult to kill 6 and wound 15 in a crowd of mostly adults, all at one time, with a knife or axe.
Still, determined killers will try.

BF: Indeed.

Natalie: I agree with you, but virtually every American would disagree. It is a cultural and constitutional issue.

Tattie Weasle: This is, indeed, a truly tragic event, particularly because it could likely have been prevented with a more thorough, Canadian-styled background check. Such checks I think could violate the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees Americans "the right to bear arms."
You also got to the heart of the "democratic deficiency" which I mentioned in first response to the Blog Fodder, and about which I have written more fully in a major Canadian newspaper (but I don't think I've posted here).

Rob-bear said...

Tess: Yes; first the families. Then the broader issues.

Jacqueline: Glad to be of help. Thirty yeas of being a journalist does have some uses.
Thank you for your Florida story. Seems they've gone back to the days of the "Wild West"; only Florida is in the east. Hmmmm.
And your Canadian head isn't silly; it's just very different from an American head. Though, frankly, I shake my head, too. {Sigh!}

Rob-bear said...

Gaston Studio: So very true, Jane! So very true.

Amanda Summer said...

Gabrielle Giffords seems like a strong woman, God willing she'll come through this.

yet another senseless tragedy revolving around our culture's obsession with guns.

Natalie said...

Whether they disagree or not, guns are a killing machine and the bible says Thou shalt not kill. As far as I am aware, God is more important than anyone that I have met...American or otherwise.

Unknown said...

All of it makes me ill. Every time I see the shooter's face, I think to myself that we're crumbling. Every time something ELSE happens, I worry about my kids and what this country/world is coming to. I'm scared for the future. I don't understand. And I heard on the news a little while ago that a policeman had pulled the shooter over for speeding not long before everything actually happened. Maybe if that cop had paid a little more attention? picked up on anything funny/strange/not right? I don't know.

Miss Sadie said...

Sadie here, filling in for Bear.

Amanda: Well, Rep. Giffords seems to be holding her own. But you're right; senseless tragedy.

Natalie: In the hands of a soldier, hunter, or anyone else, a gun is a "killing machine."

Erin: Bear has the same fears for his grandchildren. Actually, Bear and his wife had many long talks about whether they should have kids, given the shape of the world in the 1970s. They have a boy and a girl, in their late 30s. But he still worries for them all; I do, too.