Letter to the Editor: Are We There Yet?

Law enforcement officers outside a Safeway store after a gunman targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ari.) opened fire in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/James Palka) Click to view source.

It has been a couple of months since many photographs were taken of the Tucson Shootings. Have we moved so fast as to forget these images so soon? Are we at the point where the lessons learned have already been forgotten? Are we there yet? One photograph is of two men separated by a yellow tape. Stoicism at the forefront of their self-imposed façade. Behind these men is the reflection of simple bystanders viewing the effects of another’s hatred. Below the refection on the pavement are bodies surrounded by the still chaos of paper, clothing, and other belongings rendered unimportant. These bodies are still as a result of one man’s hatred. The day is bright, but will forever be darkened by the tragic event that occurred only hours prior.

This is the aftermath of the Tucson shootings. At 10:10 on the morning of January 8 Jared Laughner shot Gabrielle Giffords in the head at point blank range and then proceeded to open fire on the crowd wounding or killing 18 others. This occurred at a non-violent political meet-and-greet for Giffords outside a Safeway in Tucson. Many people angered by this shooting blame politics. Ignorance and political bigotry have contributed significantly to how divided our nation has become and this tragic event serves as the illustration that brings light to our nation’s division. Have we become so divided, so wrapped up in our own hatred of others that we fail to recognize our own errors?

The implications of our actions toward each other reach far beyond politics and policy. Maybe a lack of tolerance when discussing religion, hurtful gestures toward a stranger, slanderous language, violent actions, or an ignorant attitude. The list goes on. It only takes one person to take too far a single negative thought or action.

All it takes is one person to ruin the life of another. All it takes is one person to hurt your feelings and the feelings of many. All it takes is one person to fertilize the seeds of hatred and bigotry. All it takes is one person to unite a nation through hours of sadness and despair. All it takes is one person to change the world. But what if?

What if all it takes is one person to save a life? All it takes is one person to make you and others happy? All it takes is one person to nurture and embody the values of hope and love? All it takes is one person to bring a nation together through an act of charity and compassion? What if? All it takes is one person to change the world?

Peace. Love. Unity. Respect. In the second image I see people in the background mourning and crying in front of a large memorial outside of Gifford’s office. These eight people, all of different race, gender, color, and creed, stand together. Unity. They pray for reconciliation. Peace. Others across the country take a moment of silence to honor the victims. Respect. They all leave flowers or a note of hope for the victims. Love. In the foreground a kind soul left four words taped to the sides of boxes to remind us of our humanity. It is very apparent from the photograph that the Tucson victims will not be forgotten.

To learn from our mistakes will be the greatest way we can honor the victims of the Tucson shootings. The process starts with us, individually. Replacing words in our vocabulary like arrogance, corruption, and greed with acceptance, compassion, and generosity. We have the ability to substitute the words of war, hatred, segregation, and contempt with peace, love, unity, and respect. We can alter our everyday actions and treat others with kindness and humility. Despite what recent events and actions have shown us about ourselves there is still hope that we can emerge from some of our darkest hours and accept others for their differences.

Why does it take our darkest hour to bring us so close together? Death only leads to despair. Despair, however, is the mother of hope. Without the first we cannot have the second. Can we not birth hope from acts of compassion and integrity rather than deeds of hatred and ignorance? So I ask you: Are we there yet? Have we already forgotten the lessons learned that day? From this atrocity have we come to better understand each other and reach a political armistice? Or have we drawn even closer to becoming our own enemy? The question is there for each of us to ask ourselves. Are we there yet?

Eric Noll

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