Just one week into 2011, America witnessed the juxtaposition of the rawest form of inhumanity and the most inspiring examples of humanity in Tucson, Ariz. It is far too soon to ascertain the full implications of this tragedy on our politics, on our laws and on our national mentality. Only by devoting serious contemplation to Saturday’s shooting can we begin the healing process.
The sickening resolve of Jared Lee Loughner demonstrates the depths to which humanity can sink. Looking at his mug shot, in which he unabashedly leers, it is hard to see anything but evil. How an individual could choose to commit such an abomination is a question above my pay grade, but I find it ironic that his depravity led directly to incredible acts of selflessness and courage. Look to Daniel Hernandez, Gabrielle Giffords’ 20-year-old intern, not a week into his new position. Hernandez’s quick-thinking application of first aid likely saved the congresswoman’s life. Patricia Maisch, 61, threw herself at Loughner, grabbing his gun’s magazine and preventing him from doubling the day’s body count. If there is one airtight conclusion I come away from this travesty with, it is that American heroism is alive and well.
Sadly, many have attempted to manipulate this tragedy to substantiate a preconceived political agenda. Leftist blogger Markos Moulitsas immediately accused the tea party of murder and Rush Limbaugh denounced the left for carrying on a deranged witch-hunt in the aftermath of the shooting, striking further blows to our already deeply shaken national consciousness. Yet it seems reasonable to be believe that the attempted assassination of Giffords was a byproduct of the acrimony of American political rhetoric today. Indeed, if any good comes from this horror, it is the reinvestment of our time in sensible dialogue rather than charged tirades and physical aggression.
In the wake of this killing spree, a number of individuals deserve commendation for their steady leadership. President Obama has shown admirable determination in mobilizing his security team to investigate the shooting. He has effectively reached out to national and local leaders, as well as to the heroes whose bravery prevented a far worse outcome. Some are calling this his “Oklahoma City” moment, in reference to President Clinton’s handling of the 1995 Oklahoma City attack. Just as with Clinton, Obama now faces the challenge of consoling his country and working to prevent such an event from occurring again.
On Monday night, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s State of the State Address tugged at the heartstrings of all viewers. Brewer, normally a fire-breather, was refreshingly nonpartisan. She has earned commendation from Democrats and Republicans alike for the gravity of her response to the attack, going so far as to say Arizona must take a long, hard look in the mirror when it comes to the viciousness of its politics.
Just days into his new position, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has had to deal with a crisis that no congressional leader would wish upon himself. Boehner’s impassioned denunciation of this violence both soothed his anxious colleagues and called for a renewed spirit of bipartisanship. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lauded Boehner’s efforts, particularly his conviction that an attack on one member of their body is an attack on the institution of American democracy.
From the incredible courage of Hernandez and Maisch to the impressive leadership of Obama, Brewer and Boehner, Americans of diverse backgrounds have addressed this crisis in a way that is truly inspiring.
Loughner intended to assassinate Giffords and as many innocent people as possible. Miraculously, Giffords survives, fighting for her life from a hospital bed, alongside a dozen other innocent people whose lives hang in the balance now. Six were not so lucky: Giffords’ bright and energetic staffer Gabe Zimmerman, widely respected District Court Judge John Roll, the fearless Dorwin Stoddard who died protecting his wife, Dot Morris who died in her husband’s arms, 79-year-old Phyllis Schneck and 9-year-old Christina Green. Do not forget to keep them and their loved ones in your prayers.
Sam Dulik is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at [email protected] Quorum Call appears every other Friday.