This January 8th will mark one year since the shootings in Tucson that included the killing of six Arizonans and the attempted assassination of Arizona’s U.S. Representative, Gabrielle Giffords. What have we learned over the past year? What should we have learned?
First, that Representative Giffords is a strong, intelligent, compassionate and persistent individual. She was that way before the shooting that took her away from the work she loved, and she is still the same. While her physical faculties have not completely returned, although she recovered sufficiently to appear in August on the House floor in Washington to make a critical vote, her thinking and wholeness of character are unchanged, complete and intact. What can we learn from that? An individual’s identity is not about physique. It is about the truer nature of man to express dominion over circumstances, to radiate life and love to those in one’s presence and to those who are not. We can be grateful for her enduring example.
Second, we have learned and experienced the strength that comes to a community when it ceases giving conscious attention to feelings of revenge for horrific acts and moves on to healing the society through unselfish acts and thoughtful dialogue. Tucson appears to be living that path of restoration. There are many activities planned for this upcoming weekend in remembrance of the events of January 8, 2011, but those are more in the spirit of honoring than in condemning. Love is unifying; hatred is divisive.
Third, we should have learned that we need to watch what we think, what we say, and how we act toward others. When wrapped in oneself, without regard to those around us, there is an absorption that destroys perspective and balance. While there is no justification for the acts of the shooter on that day, would he have been in that frame of mind if others had been more watchful of his fears and darkness years before it became outrage?
Perhaps, Jesus provides the best example of maintaining love in one’s thought in a way that heals others who might be lost in some abyss of consciousness. There is a recounting in the Bible of the master Christian meeting a man named Legion who was a miscreant and loner, living in the tombs and subject to self-harm. The society around him could not see Legion as having the potential for normality. But the Christ love expressed by Jesus, which is impartial and universal, included Legion. Whatever was enslaving Legion’s thinking dissipated upon his encounter with Jesus’ calm, spiritual view of mankind. He was always watching and rightly susceptible to those in need. Is this, too, a lesson we can learn?