With the tragedy that our country has just witnessed from the shooting at the baseball game in Virginia, it has reminded me of a letter I wrote that was published in the Kansas City Star from when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot while in her district speaking at an event at a grocery store. Thirteen were shot and nine were killed, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child. Much of what I had to say then, I believe, is still pertinent to today.
This letter that I wrote originally ran in the January 12, 2011 edition of the Kansas City Star –
All over America, people spent last weekend in shock over the senseless murder of six people and the wounding of another 13 in Arizona. It was heartbreaking to read quotes from the family of victim 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green that said she was excited about the political process.
Unfortunately, the political process is ill.
In the last election cycle, when I ran for state representative, I received several threats of gun violence on the campaign trail. The most serious involved a municipal elected official in my area. On the day of the primary, I went to a polling location in my district where I stood and greeted individuals as they left the poll after voting. A municipal elected official heard me speaking with another individual about labor issues as he left the poll with his wife. He became very hostile with me and claimed that he would do whatever possible to see that I wasn’t elected after hearing my support for workers.
A police report on his side of the event states: “According to him they argued … until she asked if he was going to hit her. His reply was, ‘No, but can you outrun a nine millimeter?’”
To me, this was a threat and I was concerned enough to go to the police. But I didn’t draw attention to these incidents during the race. My point in sharing this story now is not to rehash the campaign. I want to offer a specific local example of violence in politics. We would like to think that the vitriol is only a part of the national political scene, however, it made its way to Johnson County, Mo.
I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves, Democrats to Republicans, conservatives to liberals, to respect our democracy and political process as well as each other. Our political environment has become more and more hostile. The unseen victims of the current chaos are all of us. Constructive debate is overshadowed by cheap slams and dishonest robo calls.
Not only does it cost us respect for our neighbors, it crowds out the reason needed to solve our collective problems and make coherent decisions about the future.
We can commit to civility. We can be an example of faith in the democracy that has guided us to being the greatest nation on earth. Just as the mother of the young girl who lost her life last weekend pleads, “I just want her memory to live on because she was a face of hope … a face of us coming together as a country to stop the violence and hatred and the evil words.”