Not in my neighborhood! The cry of people who don't want a big box store, a school, a shelter for homeless women, a community kitchen. "Not in my neighborhood" a week ago Saturday was for many Tucsonans, myself included, a cry of despair. A gunman loose in my solidly middle class neighborhood, outside Safeway, across the road from where I get my hair cut and my favourite restaurant. It can't be! But it was.
I've been really under the weather since Christmas - bronchitis, flu, the general miseries. That Saturday morning, I stirred myself, took the dog for a short walk and then with the intent of raising my spirits, took myself for a bird walk in Tohono Chul Park. Right around 10 a.m the sirens started, the cacophony grew, I exchanged words with a couple visiting from Canada - "must be a major accident, a fire," I suggested. I left the tranquility of the park, pulled onto Oracle and stopped at the light at Ina - a police car blocked further progress - traffic was stalled, the noise of response vehicles was deafening, a squad car inched past me on the curb. Two helicopters flew overhead and landed, one after the other, on Ina Rd. I got out my car and joined a small group - most were texting, calling someone. "What's going on?". "Gunman, shooting, Gabby Giffords." Not in my neighborhood! But it was in my neighborhood.
It was several hours before I got home. By then NPR was reporting , erroneously as it turned out, that Gabby was dead, six other people had lost their life - that report was true. By now I doubt many people are unaware of what took place that bright, Saturday morning.
I found myself defending Tucson in responding to the many emails I received from acquaintances and family over the next few days. And I found myself questioning Arizona. I question the sanity of elected officials who bow to pressure from the NRA and write into law the "right" to carry a concealed weapon without a license; the "right" to buy assault weapons with only a cursory background check; the blustering old saw, "guns don't kill, criminals kill". No my friends, wrong. Dead wrong. Guns do kill.
I made my home in Tucson 1981. It was really a small town then and even today it retains the characteristics of a series of linked small towns. I love the multi-cultural diversity by virtue of our proximity to the border with Mexico; I love the intertwining of Spanish and English, the wonderful scent of chiles roasting, the cheerful red of ristras hanging from blue painted lintels. I love everything quirky, noisy, eccentric, colorful, over-the-top about my town. I love the independence, the non-conformity, the frontier spirit. But I abhor the vitriol and bigotry that accompanied passage of SB1070. I abhor the efforts to marginalize the value and importance of our Hispanic culture; I abhor the politicians who speak of Second Amendment Rights, and America for Americans!
I am an immigrant. I am an American. I did not take out citizenship until 2003. This past weekend my 13 year old grandson celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. He is an American. Me, his maternal grandmother was born in Ireland. His grandfather is second generation American born of the children of immigrants from Finland. On his father's side he is a third generation child born of a line that immigrated from Poland and Russia. This richness, this diversity is what makes us Americans, gives America it's essence. President Obama was right in calling for civility, in calling for us to live up to the dreams and hopes of children. We owe them and each other that.
Short Shots from MidLife & Beyond: Invisibility - It's comforting to know that that personality doesn't go the way of perky breasts and a freshfaced complexion.