A proper response to Arizona tragedyPublished 10:45pm Friday, January 14, 2011
It may seem macabre that my interest in presidential history has taken me to three assassination sites.
Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the site of the Kennedy assassination, is significant to my generation. We remember where we were when we heard the news, and the sadness we felt that terrible weekend.
Ford’s Theatre in Washington where Lincoln was shot continues to be an active theatre, and my son and I enjoyed a play there in 2002.
And I’ve visited the site of William McKinley’s assassination in Buffalo, NY, though, I must say, the McKinley monument at city hall is much more impressive than the actual assassination site.
The Garfield assassination was at a since-demolished train station in D.C. I don’t know why I’ve not tried to find this before when in Washington, but I will next time.
It struck me that of the four successful assassinations and the two actual presidential shootings, five of these six were Republicans. Kennedy was the lone Democrat.
It would be ludicrous to blame Democrats for the five GOP shootings. I rather suspect a grieving nation blamed psychotic killers like Charles Guiteau and John Wilkes Booth.
It’s been disconcerting to hear some this week blame a political faction for the attempt on the life of Democrat Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona.
Political debate is a good thing. It underscores the difference between our society and repressive ones around the globe. We mustn’t use the Arizona episode to muzzle the vigorous expression of free speech in the press or over the airwaves.
Nor should we restrict town hall meetings where citizens meet and talk to our elected officials. Since our government is one “of, by and for the people” as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, the voice of the people must be heard. And politicians need to be reminded that they serve the electorate, not the other way around.
A better response is three-fold.
We celebrate heroes, like the three by-standers who subdued the shooter at the risk of their own lives.
We pray for the grieving and for the survivors.
In his hospital room, President Ronald Reagan told aide Michael Deaver, “I began to pray for Jim and Tim, (the two other men wounded in 1981), but I realized if I was going to do what was right, I’d have to pray for that boy who shot us, too.”