It’s with a heavy heart that I write this blog. It’s not funny and it’s not a witty post. Today is a horrible day. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet many civic leaders through my job as a cartoonist and member of the Tucson Citizen Editorial Board. Although, I disagreed with many I was always very gracious for the opportunity I had to meet with them and the ability to question them over the issues concerning our society. One of those civic leaders is Gabrielle Giffords. Gabby, however, stood out from the rest of them. The quality that stuck with me about her was sincerity. Gabby, shot from the hip and was very direct, which is unusual for a politician and extremely courageous in my opinion, most politicians can’t give you a straight answer to save their lives. She was also extremely accessible. Often times she would stay after the edit board meetings and talk with the staff. Many times she joked around with me about the cartoons I drew and the caricatures I made of her. After meeting her once she remembered my name and would always call me out and greet me whenever she ran into me at a restaurant or even jogging around the park. She saw me at the Shanty once and asked if I had landed on my feet after the closing of the print edition of The Citizen. I disagreed with her political views on many aspects and I supported her a lot in others, but she was always willing to take the time and discuss them with me one on one no matter how busy she was. Other times we would just talk about random things, she gave me dating advice and I would ask her if she could ask her husband about what it was like to pee in space. When I finally summed up the courage to take a picture with her she happily obliged with one condition, that she take it arm wrestling me. I was astonished, I thought I would get the usual standing next to me pose, but Gabby’s other outstanding quality is her incredible sense of humor. Godspeed to your recovery, Gabby.
The current political environment in Arizona is partly to blame, as of late it has been fueled by fear and hate. Today, that pot boiled over. Today, we lost many members of our community to that fervor. Today, a woman I looked up to and admired was almost killed, her life hangs by a thread at the moment I write this.
Our legislature has made a political strategy out of targeting people, the Russell Pearces and Jan Brewers in our state have decided to not only make laws espousing fear and hatred, but a whole campaign, a movement was created and it is taking hold of our citizens. People are listening to our leaders, as misguided as their intentions may be or as untrue as their statements are, their constituency is listening. There is a rise in prominence, as of late, of hate groups and demonstrations of fear and no one is taking action and today we experienced the results. I recently saw a truck on the road between Nogales and Tucson with a Swastika on their rear windshield. JT Ready and his Neo-Nazi friends are frequently demonstrating near the capitol in Phoenix and our new President of the Arizona Senate is a close personal friend of that guy! No one is concerned!? He’s making the laws that govern our lives!! The Chicano center at the U of A was also vandalized today. Yet we have people like Sara Palin putting cross hairs on her opponents, knowing full well what that implies. The maniac that shot Gabby and killed the 9 year old girl was afraid and paranoid of his government, this was obvious from his online rants.
So am I blaming the Republicans for today’s tragedy? Yes, in part I am, mostly just the ones in our state. I’m going to take a page out of the Gabrielle Giffords play-book and be very direct. Your recent movement of ”fear the Muslims, don’t give the gays rights, persecute the Mexicans and exploit the poor” has yielded these results. Every election cycle you promote a campaign strategy of fear and hatred to win elections and get voters to the polls, well here’s proof that people are listening. You see, these people, the ones responsible for these tragic acts don’t have to be your constituents to listen to your hate speech, all they need are ears. They could be nonvoting individuals, but if they are listening to the inflammatory “news casts” of Fox “News” or the extreme right wing radio stations that you use as platforms then thats all the motivation they need. It’s rare when fear and hatred yield positive results. Maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy.